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Nicola McLelland

Professor of German and History of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts



I studied German and French at the University of Sydney, Australia. After two years on a scholarship in Bonn, Germany, I gained my PhD from the University of Sydney in medieval German literature. An MPhil in Linguistics at the University of Cambridge sparked my interest in the history of people's ideas and beliefs about language and how to use it. My first post was at Trinity College, Dublin; I've been in the German department at Nottingham since 2005.

I've never stopped learning languages. In addition to French and German, I have made good headway with Latin, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, and, most recently, Chinese.

Expertise Summary

My research explores the history of people's ideas about languages, how to learn them and how to use them, especially the history of describing and prescribing German grammar. Together with Richard Smith (Warwick) I established an AHRC-funded research network on the History of Language Learning and Teaching (HoLLT) in Britain and beyond (2012-2014), which continues as the HoLLT network. My most recent book, German Through English Eyes, was published in 2015, based on research supported by an AHRC Fellowship. I am currently working on a history of language teaching and learning in England, supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, to be published by Routledge.

Other research interests include German medieval literature (the subject of my PhD), German sociolinguistics, language standardization, codeswitching, language and gender, and linguistic purism.


Professional Service: I have been a member of the AHRC Peer Review College since 2010. I am a member of the Philological Society's Council, am Chair of the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas, and am lead editor of Language & History,as well as serving on the editorial board of a number of other journals.

Teaching Summary

I teach German linguistics across the board, from the early history of the Germanic languages to current developments in German speech and grammar, as well as German sociolinguistics, including such… read more

Research Summary

My main areas of research is the history of ideas about language, especially the history of grammar and foreign language education, and issues in language standardization and variation. I am Deputy… read more

Recent Publications

For a podcast about questions of correct language, part of the MEITS project (, see here:, "What's good and bad about the language(s) we use - and who even cares about correctness anyway?"

My plenary lecture on "The history of language learning and teaching in the history of linguistics" at ICHOLS XIV (Paris, August 2017) can be viewed here:

For a feature article about our research in the history of teaching and learning languages in Britain, see here:

For a review in Times Higher Education of my book, German Through English Eyes, see here:

For an accessible introduction to the history of teaching and learning German, see here:

In May 2014 I was on BBC Nottingham talking about the learning of European languages in the UK:

I have talked about the words Deutsch, Achtung and Standard as part of Nottingham's Words of the World project:: and

For a paper which I gave to the University of Newcastle School of Modern Languages about the history of German language learning in the UK, see

For a (very brief) appearance on Radio 4's Making History to discuss Germans visiting Britain as part of the Grand Tour in the eighteenth century, as reflected in language teaching materials, see

I teach German linguistics across the board, from the early history of the Germanic languages to current developments in German speech and grammar, as well as German sociolinguistics, including such questions as how Germans have felt over the centuries about borrowings from other languages (currently mainly English!).

I also enjoy teaching German language at all levels.

Postgraduate supervision: I currently supervise students working on projects in the history of language teaching and in various aspects of sociolinguistics and historical sociolinguistics, working on German, Latin, French, Spanish and Ukrainian.

I welcome enquireis about supervising undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations in any of the areas listed above, or any of the areas mentioned in my research summary.

Current Research

My main areas of research is the history of ideas about language, especially the history of grammar and foreign language education, and issues in language standardization and variation. I am Deputy Director and strand leader on the project Multilingualism - Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS) funded by the AHRC under the Open World Research Initiative (July 2016 to June 2020). For more information about the research strand at Nottingham, see here.

I recently completed a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to write a book on the history of language learning in Britain (to appear in 2017 with Routledge). In 2011 I worked on a part- AHRC-funded project "German Through English Eyes", writing the history of textbooks of German for English speakers. The project documented textbooks of German from 1500 to 2000, and investigates the representation of the German language to generations of British school pupils in these works, as well as the representation of the cultures of the German-speaking countries; and representations of the tumultuous history of Germany over the past century or so. The resulting book German Through English Eyes appeared in 2015 (reviewed here)

Together with Dr Richard Smith (Warwick), I established a research network (AHRC-funded 2012-14) on the history of language learning and teaching the UK, . Papers from the first workshop of this network are now available on open access, as a special issue of the journal Language & History. The network continues as under the aegis of the International Association of Applied Linguistics. We are currently editing a three-volume set of papers on the history of language learning and teaching to be published in the Legenda series (Maney/ MHRA).

My other research interests include sociolinguistics, language standardization and variation, codeswitching, language and gender, linguistic purism, and language and soft power, and medieval German literature (the subject of my PhD).

Past Research

I have previously worked on the history of German grammar-writing and linguistic reflection from the Middle Ages to the present day. My monograph on the major 17th-century language theorist J.G. Schottelius appeared in 2011. The research was funded in part by two fellowships from the Humboldt Foundation and from the Irish Humanities and Social Sciences Research Council.

Future Research

I welcome collaborations with colleagues in the UK and beyond in any of the above areas, especially the history of foreign language teaching and language standardization in Europe and beyond.

  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2018. Deutsch als Fremdsprache und die deutsch-englische Lexikographie bis 1900. In: STEFAN ENGELBERG, HEIDRUN KÄMPER and PETRA STORJOHANN, eds., Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft um 2020 Vol. 2: Lexik: Theorie und Empirie. Institut Deutsche Sprache. tbc (In Press.)
  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2018. Mining Foreign Language Teaching Manuals for the History of Pragmatics Journal of Historical Pragmatics. 19(1), tbc (In Press.)
  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2018. The history of language learning and teaching in Britain The Language Learning Journal. 46(1), 6-16
  • RICHARD SMITH and NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2018. Histories of language learning and teaching in Europe: (special issue, with introduction by the editors) The Language Learning Journal. 46(1), 1-5
  • HENRIKE LÄHNEMANN, NICOLA MCLELLAND and NINE MIEDEMA, eds., 2017. Lehren, Lernen und Bilden in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters narr/francke/attempto.
  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2017. From Phonetics to Phonograph: Teaching Spoken German in the 1930s. In: ANDERS AHLQVIST and PAMELA O'NEILL, eds., Germano-Celtica, a Festschrift for Brian Taylor University of Sydney Celtic Studies Foundation. tbc (In Press.)
  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2016. German global soft power, 1700-1920. In: KARENE SANCHEZ-SUMMERER and WILLEM FRIJHOFF, eds., Linguistics and Cultural Foreign Policies of European States 18th-20th centuries Amsterdam University Press. 45-68
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2015. German Through English Eyes.: A History of Language Teaching and Learning in Britain, 1500-2000 Harrassowitz.
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2015. Teach Yourself Chinese - how? The history of Chinese self-instruction manuals for English speakers, 1900-2010 Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association. 50(2), 109-152
  • ANDERSEN, ELIZABETH, BAUSCHKE, RICARDA, MCLELLAND, NICOLA and REUVEKAMP, SILVIA, eds., 2015. Literarischer Stil. Mittelalterliche Dichtung zwischen Konvention und Innovation.
  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2015. German as a Foreign Language in Britain - The history of German of a ‘useful’ language since 1600 Angermion Yearbook for Anglo-German Literary Criticism, Intellectual History and Cultural Transfers. 8(1), 1-34
  • 2014. French and German in Competition in British Schools, 1850-1945 Documents pour l'histoire du français langue étrangère ou seconde: Special issue:, ed. Marcus Reinfried: French, English and German: three languages in competition between 1850 and 1945. 52, 125-151
  • NICOLA MCLELLAND, 2014. Language description, prescription and usage in seventeenth-century German. In: RUTTEN, GIJSBERT and VOSTERS, RIK, eds., Norms and Usage in Language History, 1600–1900. A sociolinguistic and comparative perspective Benjamins. 251-276
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2013. Du bon usage dans la tradition allemande 1200-2000. In: AYRES-BENNETT, WENDY, ed., Le Bon Usage Paris: ENS. (In Press.)
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2013. Law and language: Schottelius’s treatise Von Unterschiedlichen Rechten in Teutschland Wolfenbüttler Barocker Nachrichten. 39, 85-105
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2013. Mittelhochdeutsch in DaF-Lehrwerken für englischsprachige Lerner des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts. In: MIEDEMA, NINE and SIEBER, ANDREA, eds., Zurück zum Mittelalter. Neue Perspektiven für den Deutschunterricht. Lang. 173-194 (In Press.)
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2012. From humanist history to linguistic theory: the case of the Germanic rootword. In: LANGER, NILS, DAVIES, STEFFAN and VANDENBUSSCHE, WIM, eds., Language and History - Linguistics and Historiography Frankfurt: Lang. 89-109
  • MCLELLAND, N., 2012. Germanic virtues in linguistic discourse in Germany (1500-1945). In: LEE, C. and MCLELLAND, N., eds., Germania remembered, 1500-2009: commemorating and inventing a Germanic past ACMRS (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies). 75-97
  • LEE, CHRISTINA and MCLELLAND, NICOLA, eds., 2012. Germania Remembered 1500-2009: Commemorating and Inventing a Germanic Past Tuscon, AZ: MRTS.
  • MCLELLAND, N., 2012. Rules for the neighbours: prescriptions of the German language for British learners. In: PERCY, C. and DAVIDSON, M.C., eds., The languages of nation: attitudes and norms Multilingual Matters. 245-270
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2011. Sehen und Nicht-Sehen am Beispiel von Harmann von Aue’s Iwein.. In: BAUSCHE, RICARDA, COXON, SEBASTIAN and JONES, MARTIN H., eds., Sehen und Sichtbarkeit in der Literatur des deutschen Mittelalters Tübingen: Niemeyer. 161-176
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2011. Lessons from literary theory: applying the notion of transtextuality (Genette, 1982) to early modern German grammars. In: HASSLER, GERDA, ed., History of lingusitics 2008 Amsterdam: Benjamins. 187-200
  • MCLELLAND, N., 2011. J.G. Schottelius's Ausführliche Arbeit von der Teutschen Haubtsprache (1663) and its place in early modern European vernacular language study Wiley-Blackwell.
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2011. Research traditions up to and including the 18th century. In: KORTMANN, BERND and VAN DER AUWERA, JOHAN, eds., Berlin: de Gruyter. 791-804
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2010. Justus Georgius Schottelius (1612-1676) and European linguistic thought Historiographia Linguistica. 37(1), 1-30
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2009. Linguistic Purism, Protectionism and Nationalism in the Germanic Languages Journal of Germanic Linguistics. 93-112
  • BRABER, NATALIE and MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2009. Modal particles in Dutch and German: clustering and combining Journal of Germanic Linguistics. 21(2), 93-112
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2009. Understanding German grammar takes centuries.... In: LANGER, NILS, HORAN, GERALDINE and WATTS, SHEILA, eds., Landmarks in the history of the German language Frankfurt: Lang. 57-84
  • MCLELLAND, NICOLA, 2008. Justus-Georg Schottelius and his influence on European vernacular grammatography outside Germany Germanistik in Ireland. 3, 71-84
  • MCLELLAND, N., 2008. Approaches to the semantics and syntax of the adverb in German foreign language grammars Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft. 18(1), 37-58
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2007. ÄDoch mein Mann m?chte doch mal wissen.Ã… A discourse analysis of 19th C emigrant womenÃs private correspondence.. In: Language History From Below. Linguistic Variation in the Germanic Languages Berlin : Mouton de Gruyer.
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2007. Seht ir dort jene hohe lin? (Frauendienst [1185: 2]) Der unerreichbare Innenraum in Ulrichs von Liechtenstein Frauendienst (ca. 1255).. In: , ed., Innenr?ume in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters Tübingen : Niemeyer.
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., SCHIEWER, H.-J. and SCHMITT, S., eds., 2007. Humanismus in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2006. Letters, sounds and shapes: reflections on the sounds of German in early modern linguistic awareness Transactions of the Philological Society. 104(2), 229-258
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2006. Reformation, Northern European.. In: BROWN, K., ed., Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics 2nd ed. Amsterdam : Elsevier. 464-468
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2005. Authority and audience in seventeenth-century German grammatical texts Modern Language Review. 100(4), 1025-1042
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2005. German as a second language for adults in the seventeenth century? Jacob Br?cker's Deutsche Grammatic (1620).. In: MCLELLAND, N.J. and LINN, A.R., eds., Flores Grammaticae: essays in Memory of Vivien Law 171-185
  • MCLELLAND, N.J. and LINN, A.R., eds., 2005. Flores Grammaticae: essays in memory of Vivien Law Münster : Nodus.
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2004. A historical study of codeswitching in writing: German and Latin in Schottelius' Ausführliche Arbeit von der Teutschen HaubtSprache (1663) International Journal of Bilingualism. 8(4), 499-523
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2004. Dialogue & German language learning in the Renaissance.. In: HEITSCH, D. and VALLéE, J-F., eds., Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue Toronto : University of Toronto Press. 206-225
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2003. Niederdeutsch und Hochdeutsch in der satirischen Flugschrift 'Hans Pumbsack' (Rostock 1627). Niederdeutsches Jahrbuch.. 126, 107-32
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2003. Schottelius, the notion of Teutsch and sleight of hand.. In: JONES, W.J., KELLY, W.A. and SHAW, F., eds., 'Vir ingenio mirandus'. Studies presented to John Flood Göppingen : Kümmerle. 835-854
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2002. Schottelius, language, nature and art: buildings and banyans Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft. 12, 65-92
  • LINN, AR and MCLELLAND, N, eds., 2002. Standardization: studies from the Germanic languages Amsterdam : J. Benjamins Publishing Co..
  • MCLELLAND, N.J., 2001. Albertus (1573) and Olinger (1574): Creating the first grammars of German Historiographia Linguistica. VOL 28(PART 1/2), 7-38
  • MCLELLAND, N, 2000. Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's Lanzelet: narrative style and entertainment Cambridge : D.S. Brewer.

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