Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics

Past projects


Past projects overview

Past research projects
Project Principal Investigator Awarding body / Award Period
Coronavirus Discourses: Linguistic Evidence For Effective Public Health Messaging

Svenja Adolphs

AHRC, £365,126 04/01/2021– 03/07/2022
Generation Z: Communication and campaigns to support and protect young people during Covid-19 Louise MullanyLucy Jones UKRI, £14,361 01/01/2021– 31/03/2021
Adaptive Phrasebook for language learners in museums and galleries Svenja Adolphs; Steve Benford (Comp Sci); Dawn Knight (Cardiff) UoN Interdisciplinary Research Clusters Initiative Funding, £1,412 01/04/2020– 31/07/2021
From Human Data to Personal Experience Derek McAuley (School of Comp Sci)
Co-I: Svenja Adolphs
EPSRC, £4,062,954 01/07/2015 - 01/07/2021
CaSMA: Citizen-centric approaches to Social Media Analysis Derek McAuley (School of Comp Sci)
Co-I: Svenja Adolphs
ESRC, £404,439 01/02/2014 - 01/02/2016
ExTRA-PPOLATE (Explainable Therapy Related Annotations: Patient & Practitioner Oriented Learning Assisting Trust & Engagement) Andrews (School of Medicine). Co-I: Daniel Hunt. EPSRC, £49,516.01 01/01/2020– 01/06/2020
Language and LBGT identity Lucy Jones BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, £7.17k 01/10/2018– 30/09/2020

Marginalised families online: Exploring the role of digital media for parents in diverse family groups

Mackenzie, ERC
BA, £240,232.33 03/03/2018– 02/03/2021

Linguistic Profiling for Professionals

Louise Mullany RDF, £482,000 2016 – 2019
Perspectives on Urban Childhoods in Africa Helen Buckler British Academy, £2,000 01/04/2018– 30/11/2019
Developmental Linguistics in the Global South Helen Buckler
British Academy, £2,000 01/04/2018– 30/11/2019
Linguistic patterns in first and second language acquisition: does input matter? Kathy Conklin
Leverhulme International Fellowship, £37.46k 01/09/2018– 30/06/2019
Language, Gender and Leadership Network Louise Mullany. Co-I: M. Lumala, (Moi University, Kenya) AHRC GCRF, £48.70k 1/10/2017–  1/04/2019
Evaluating misogyny hate crime Louise Mullany and Trickett (NTU Law School)  Police and Crime Commissioner Award, £5.6k 2017 – 2018
Developing an Empirically-based Rank List of Vocabulary Knowledge Norbert Schmitt British Council, £26,160,  01/10/2016– 30/09/2018
Health Communication Transforming Patient Adherence through Digital Communication Louise Mullany ESRC IAA, £21,513 2016 – 2017
L2 reading and reading-while-listening in multi-modal learning conditions: An eye-tracking study’ Kathy Conklin British Council, £9,748 01/10/2015– 30/09/2017 
CaSMa: Citizen-centered approaches to social media analysis Derek McAuley (Comp Sci). Co-Is: Thomas Rodden (Comp Sci); Claire O'Malley (Psychology); Svenja Adolphs. ESRC, £400k 2014 – 2016
Simulated assessments of General Practitioners' consultations in a multicultural society: a linguistic analysis Sarah Atkins ESRC, £116,749 21/10/2013– 20/04/2016
CLiC Dickens: Characterisation in the representation of speech and body language from a corpus linguistic perspective Peter Stockwell with Mahlberg, (Birmingham) AHRC, £200k  01/10/2013– 30/09/2015
Archives, Audiences and Industrial Heritage Svenja Adolphs (with Comp Sci and Geography). AHRC Creative Economy Knowledge Exchange, £200,555 Jan 2013 – Dec 2013
Exploiting Corpus Research for English Language Teaching Ronald Carter and Svenja Adolphs. ESRC, £86,801 01/01/2011– 31/12/2011
From Corpus to Classroom - EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Secondment to Industry Partner Ronald Carter and Svenja Adolphs. EPSRC, £38,736 01/07/2010– 31/10/2011
DReSS II. From Digital Record to Population Observatory  Andrew Crabtree (Comp Sci). Co-Is: Thomas Rodden (Comp Sci); Chris Greenhalgh (Comp Sci); Steve Benford (Comp Sci); Ronald Carter; Svenja Adolphs. ESRC, £718,363 Oct 2008 –  Sep 2011
Health Communication and the Internet: An analysis of adolescent language use on the Teenage Health Freak website Svenja Adolphs and Louise Mullany ESRC, £75,839 01/07/2009– 30/06/2010
Second Language Speech Fluency and Multi-Word Units Svenja Adolphs. Co-I: T. Rodden (Computer Science). EPSRC, £71,037 01/09/2005 - 28/02/2009
DReSS I: Understanding New Forms of Digital Record Ronald Carter and Svenja Adolphs ESRC, £649,407 2005 – 2008
Gender Processing in monolinguals and bilinguals Kathy Conklin British Academy, £72,036 01/05/2006– 30/04/2008
New form of digital record for e-Social Science 3 Ronald Carter ESRC, £95,157 01/04/2005– 31/03/2008

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Further information on selected projects

The past projects listed below are sorted by primary research area. 

Discourse analysis and sociolinguistics

  • Narrative and identity: A linguistic analysis of gender dysphoric patients’ autobiographies

Dr Lucy Jones, Professor Lucy Mullany (Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics) alongside Dr Angela Zottola, Professor Alison Pilnick, Professor Jon Arcelus and Dr Walter Pierre Bouman

This collaborative project, funded by Research Priority Area Fund (Languages, Texts and Societies and Health Humanities), involved the digitisation of autobiographical stories produced by patients at the Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health as part of their initial assessment process. Angela Zottola was Research Fellow on this project between 2018-19, and was using corpus linguistic methods to identify and analyse key patterns within the autobiographies.

  • L2 reading and reading-while-listening in multi-modal learning conditions: An eye-tracking study

Professor Kathy Conklin, University of Nottingham (UK),  Dr Ana Pellicer-Sánchez, University College London (UK),  Dr Michael Rodgers, Carleton University (Canada),  Dr Elsa Tragant, University of Barcelona (Spain),  Dr Raquel Serrano, University of Barcelona (Spain),  Dr Angels Llanes, University of Lleida (Spain)

The project investigated how adult and young learners process the different sources of input in multi-modal situations, i.e. reading and reading while listening with pictures. It used eye-movement data to explore the potential relationship between processing behaviour and reading comprehension.

  • Simulating medical talk

Dr Sarah Atkins and Dr Malgorzata Chalupnik

This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and addressed a topic in medical education from the analytic perspective of sociolinguistics. A close linguistic analysis of video data from simulated patient surgeries allowed us to address potential communicative differences or difficulties between candidates. This had implications for further understanding contemporary clinical examinations and the training of postgraduate doctors.

  • Crowd Sourcing: a Toolkit-based Approach

Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs, Dr Dawn Knight and Dr Catherine Smith

We propose a software toolkit – initially comprising cloud-hosted services with web APIs and web and mobile clients – to support a range of crowd-sourcing activities based on the provision of information. As well as supporting essentially stand-alone activities, this toolkit will have the option of linking to the Personal Container(s) being developed within the Horizon Hub, which are a software infrastructure for managing and utilizing an individual’s personal data. The link to personal containers allows crowd-sourcing of already-collected data (such as information from my personal journey logs, store transactions or medical history). Initial areas of application include: journey data; personal and community history; and contextually-appropriate use of spoken English for non-native speakers. As well as technical challenges of ease of use, scalability, privacy-preservation and filtering, work on crowd-sourcing also unavoidably opens up questions of motivation, reward, intellectual property, safety and policy.

For further details see the Crowd sourcing paper produced for the  Digital Futures 2010 conference (held in Nottingham).

  • DReSS II (Understanding Digital Records for eSocial Science)

Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and Dr Dawn Knight

The ESRC funded DReSS II inter-disciplinary project involves staff from the School of Computer Science and CRAL at the University of Nottingham. The project builds on developments made as part of  DReSS I, seeking to allow for the collection and collation of a wider range of heterogeneous datasets for linguistic research, with the aim of facilitating the investigation of the interface between multiple modes of communication in everyday life.

Further details are available on the DReSS II project website.

  • Towards Pervasive Media

Professor Ron Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and staff in Computer Science Professor Steve Benford PI

This grant is led by Steve Benford in the School of Computer Science and IT and involves a number of colleagues from the Arts and Humanities (including Prof Adolphs and Prof Carter from CRAL). Here is a summary of the project taken from the original application: 'The integration of the Internet with social computing and now with mobile and ubiquitous computing is transforming our creative industries, from games to journalism, driving the emergence of new forms of converged pervasive media in which the public contributes as well as consumes content, are available 'anytime and anywhere', and are ever more deeply interwoven into our daily lives. However, reaping the potential benefits of pervasive media for our economy and society requires a fundamental shift in our understanding of how such media are designed, produced and experienced; something that is not currently available within the disciplines of Computer Science and Engineering whose focus is primarily on the underlying technologies. This understanding can however, be found in the Arts and Humanities which for many years have been developing theories and methods relevant to the study of the established media of text, drama, film and television alongside deep understandings of the human experience of place, history and identity that can inform future pervasive media experiences. In short, there is a rich vein of research right across the Arts and Humanities that might fundamentally transform our approach to designing and studying pervasive media in Science and Engineering if only we could bridge the gap between these disciplines.

Building upon initial networking within Nottingham's newly formed Pervasive Media Group, we wish to undertake a series of activities to help establish a new cross-disciplinary community of researchers from across Computer Science, Engineering and the Arts and Humanities who can collectively address the challenges of the new pervasive media from very different, but complementary, perspectives. Initial activities (troubadour studies, artist residencies and makefests) serve to catalyse new collaborations and facilitate early ideas generation, while subsequent activities (feasibility projects) will explore the feasibility of emerging ideas and produce proposals for future full-scale funding. We will disseminate the results of the feasibility studies to potential academic and industry partners through a final showcase event and also gather and communicate our reflections on this new style of cross-disciplinary working though a 'crossing cultures' workshop.'

  • Health Communication and the Internet: An Analysis of Adolescent Language Use on the Teenage Health Freak Website

Professor Svenja Adolphs, Associate Professor Louise Mullany and Dr Catherine Smith

The research explores the integration of corpus-linguistic and sociolinguistic approaches for the analysis of a unique, 2-million word longitudinal corpus of messages posted to the ‘Teenage Health Freak’ website. Drawing on the corpus linguistic and sociolinguistic expertise the descriptive advantages afforded by the tools of corpus linguistics are used to inform sociolinguistic observations of adolescent language innovation and change on the specific topic of health care. Keywords and key phrases used by adolescent advice-seekers, with associated meanings and patterns of use over a period of 6 years, are extracted from the corpus and then analysed to highlight emergent trends in adolescent sociolinguistic style and register. As well as the academic value of this combined methodological innovation, the findings of the analysis will be made available to health care providers and users of health care services in the form of a practical, encyclopaedic resource, thus contributing to the continuous professional development of user groups in the NHS, as well as being a resource for parents, teachers and adolescents themselves.

Further details are available on the Teenage Health Freak project website.

DReSS I (Understanding Digital Records for eSocial Science)

Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and Dr Dawn Knight

‘Understanding New Forms of Digital Record’ was a 3-year research ‘node’ project that was also funded by the ESRC as part of the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS). Digital Records was an inter-disciplinary project, utilising the expertise of Computer Scientists, Psychologists and Linguists.

Further details are available on the DReSS I project website.

  • Headtalk

Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and Dr Dawn Knight

HeadTalk was a 12 month interdisciplinary demonstrator project involving Applied Linguists and Computer Vision experts based at the University of Nottingham. This project, funded by the ESRC’s National Centre for e-Social Science, focused upon the development and exploitation of computer vision techniques that are able to annotate video streams and mark-up gesture-in-talk, allowing for detailed empirical explorations of markers of active listenership (backchannels) in discourse. It focused specifically upon exploring the existence, functions and roles of a sub-group of backchannels; head nods, in dyadic conversation.

Further details are available on the Headtalk project website.

A Network for Arts and Humanities Research and Business Development

Professor Ronald Carter

This project is concerned with the formation and development of an AHRC National Network for HEI staff engaged in research and business roles, specifically linked to the arts and humanities research base. Alongside the formation of the Network the project research will develop a new profile focused upon the nature and delivery of academic/external research engagement.

  • Discourses of Cleanliness in Health and Agriculture

Dr Brigitte Nerlich

The purpose of this project is to find answers to the following questions: How are the problems of infectious disease control framed in policy and practitioner narratives? To what extent does this reveal a shared agenda for action? And what are the implications for improving preparedness for zoonoses?

  • Language and Gender in Professional Communication

Associate Professor Louise Mullany

Dr Louise Mullany conducts research into the interplay between language and gender in professional communication. This research has included examinations of the interactional strategies women and men use in the workplace, as well as investigating the representations and evaluations of colleagues based on their gendered behaviour. This research has been published in numerous articles, and a monograph entitled Gendered discourse in the professional workplace published in 2007 by  Macmillan. For more publications in this area visit Louise Mullany's website.

  • CANCODE (The Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English)

Professor Ronald Carter and Professor Svenja Adolphs

The Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English (CANCODE) is a five million word corpus of spoken interaction led by Professor Mike McCarthy and Professor Ronald Carter. The corpus was collected in the 1990s as part of a collaborative project between The University of Nottingham and Cambridge University Press.

For further information please see the CANCODE project website and contact

  • CANBEC (Cambridge and Nottingham Business English Corpus)

Professor Ronald Carter

The Cambridge and Nottingham Business English Corpus (CANBEC) was collected between 2001 and 2003 and is a one million word extension to the CANCODE corpus, consisting of spoken interaction recorded in a variety of business meeting settings, and directed by Professor Mike McCarthy and Professor Ronald Carter.
  • The Nottingham Health Communication Corpus

Dr Kevin Harvey

The Nottingham Health Communication Corpus (NHCC) currently consists of over half a million words of transcribed interactions between health professionals and patients. The corpus is a key resource that informs interdisciplinary research of the Health Language Research Group at Nottingham involving key staff from the School of Nursing, Sociology and Social Policy, Pharmacy and CRAL.

For further details please contact


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  • Linguistic patterns in first and second language acquisition: Does input matter?

Professor Kathy Conklin

A major focus of this Leverhulme International Fellowship was on formulaic language. For example, English speakers say that things go together like “bread and butter” not “butter and bread”. While linguistic patterns such as these account for up to half of spoken discourse, they are a relatively under-researched phenomenon. The project investigated how input in a second language relates to adults’ acquisition and processing of formulaic sequences. 

  • Bilingual Access to Interlingual Homographs

Professor Kathy Conklin

Because over half of the world's population speaks more than one language, research on bilingual lexical (word) representation and processing is essential. Crucially, we need to gain an understanding of when and how word representations from a first language (L1) influence processing in a second language (L2). Investigations of whether lexical activation is interactive (whether words from the two languages influence each other) have studied interlingual homographs (e.g., coin meaning “piece of money” in English and “corner” in French) presented in isolation or word pair contexts. Findings from such studies indicate that bilinguals activate both meanings of interlingual homographs when reading a word like coin. This supports an interactive view of language processing. My research extends this literature by examining the activation of interlingual homographs presented in sentence contexts. Thus far results demonstrate that both meanings of interlingual homographs are available while reading sentences in one language and investigates how factors such as sentence context, word frequency, and proficiency flexibly influence access to lexical representations in both of a bilingual's languages.

  • Bilingual Activation of Language Specific Gender Information

Professor Kathy Conklin

Additional studies investigate the conditions under which gender information from Dutch word representations influences processing in English during the natural task of listening to sentences in a short discourse. Eye movements of Dutch-English bilinguals are monitored to investigate when language-specific grammatical gender information from L1 influences processing in L2. Participants view a scene with a cartoon character and an inanimate object, which has a grammatical gender in Dutch (e.g., tractor is masculine), while listening to sentences in English. If bilinguals automatically activate Dutch gender information associated with these objects when hearing English sentences, then in cases where the cartoon character and object have the same gender the subsequent pronoun will be ambiguous. For example in, The tractor will be driven by Donald. He is in the other field., “he” can refer to either the tractor or Donald for Dutch speakers. For English monolingual speakers “he” can only refer to the animate noun Donald. Experiments investigate how more vs. less language overlap, intonation, and proficiency influence the activation of L1 while processing in L2 and L1.


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Second language acquisition and language teaching and learning

  • Exploiting corpus research for English Language Teaching applications

Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs, Dr Catherine Smith, Dr Ron Martinez

There are currently 120,000 Chinese students in Europe - two-thirds of them in the UK. International students whose first language is not English encounter many difficulties when attempting to use language in real life situations. Although there is some reference to 'real' English in English Language Teaching materials used in China, the lack of existing research to develop context-sensitive descriptions of language-in-use mean that many English Language Teaching materials are often limited in providing the kind of language competencies required to interact in the host culture.

Building on previous ESRC-funded research in this area, this research tests a concept demonstrator for a multi-modal ELT resource for teaching academic English in different contexts and subjects. The aim is to develop a high quality product in collaboration with commercial partners aimed at improving listening skills of Chinese-speaking students who intend to join or are on postgraduate courses in English-speaking universities. Materials will be developed in different formats and will be trialled initially via web-based delivery and through mobile learning environments. The end-user data will be analysed with a view to establishing key usability issues in terms of content and navigation as well as the strategy for commercial delivery of the material.

Further details are available on the Exploiting Corpus research for ELT applications project website.

  • The Acquisition of Multiword Units

This ESRC funded project set out to study the acquisition of multi-word structures. The study investigated the acquisition of L2 multi-word structures over a period of 16 months, with corpus data used as a baseline. A key aspect of the project was to set up an integrated interdisciplinary framework that allows us to explore combinations of affective, cognitive and strategic variables facilitate or inhibit lexical growth. Participants in this study were international students studying at Nottingham University; for such students the study has acute relevance because their academic achievement is often severely hampered by limitations in their stylistic and phraseological competence, caused by a restricted repertoire of genre specific multi-word structures. The project ran over two years and was completed in July 2003.

  • TOEFL Tests Development (ETS)

Professor Ronald Carter

Another project currently underway is part of the development of the next generation of TOEFL tests and has been commissioned by the Educational Testing Service.
  • Second Language Speech Fluency and Multi-word Units

Professor Svenja Adolphs and Professor Tom Rodden

This is a collaborative, EPSRC funded project directed by Professor Svenja Adolphs at CRAL and Professor Tom Rodden at the Mixed Reality Laboratory (MRL) at Nottingham. The research combines theory and methodology from the areas of psycholinguistics and computational linguistics within a demonstrator project of multiword units in an existing native speaker and non-native speaker corpus of English, investigating the placement of pauses within and around such units. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the way in which different types of automatically extracted multi-word units are stored by native and non-native speakers. Further details are available on the SLSF project website.

  • Longitudinal Survey of Language Attitudes and Language Learning Motivation in Hungary

Professor Zoltàn Dörnyei

Over 13 years Zoltàn Dörnyei lead a large-scale survey project in Hungary that is aimed at assessing young Hungarian teenagers' attitudes towards five target languages (English, German, French, Italian and Russian) and their motivation to learn these languages. The team has already administered three phases of the survey - in 1993, 1999 and 2004 - involving over 13,000 participants, making this the largest ever L2 motivation survey, and of the repeated-measures design has allowed them to track any ongoing changes in the language disposition of the population. Several publications have been written to describe various aspects of the project and Zoltàn and his Hungarian Research Associates completed a comprehensive summary of the results: Dörnyei, Z., Csizér, K., & Németh, N. (2006). Motivational dynamics, language attitudes and language globalisation: A Hungarian perspective. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

  • The Psychology of Second Language Acquisition

Professor Zoltàn Dörnyei

Zoltàn Dörnyei has been working on a major monograph for Oxford University Press to summarise the most important interfaces of psychological and applied linguistic research on second language acquisition. This volume will accompany his book on “The Psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition” (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005) by focusing on the various learning and acculturation processes that take place over the sustained period of mastering a second language. Zoltàn's aim is to show that future research will need to adopt an interdisciplinary approach involving a number of different psychological/psycholinguistic and linguistic areas to be able to provide a more accurate description of the complex processes that characterise second language acquisition.

  • Mental Processing of Multi-Word Units

Professor Norbert Schmitt

This project follows up on the 2003 ESRC funded project, in particular, the speeded reading experiment. The project refines this methodology by timing how it takes native speakers to read idioms in context. The idioms are presented in both idiomatic (on the other hand = conversely) and literal (on the other hand = physically on the opposite hand) contexts, as well as in a jumbled order in which the component words cannot be interpreted as the idiom (the hand on the poster attracted attention). Participants will timed when reading these three variables, which should indicate whether there is a processing advantage of idioms over creative language, and whether there is an advantage or idiomatic interpretations over literal ones. This study is being carried out by Norbert Schmitt in conjunction with Geoffrey Underwood from the School of Psychology.

  • The Percentage of Vocabulary Coverage Required for Effective Reading

Professor Norbert Schmitt

Previous research has suggested that the percentage of known vocabulary required to read effectively is somewhere between 95% and 98%. However, this research has suffered from quite blunt measurements of both vocabulary size and reading comprehension. Norbert Schmitt is combining his vocabulary expertise with the reading specialism of Bill Grabe from the University of Northern Arizona to approach this question in a more rigorous way. Participants will be individually tested for how much vocabulary they know in two reading passages, and an extensive comprehension test will measure their intake from the passages. The result will be a much more detailed description of the relationship between vocabulary size and reading ability.

  • A Vocabulary Research Manual

Professor Norbert Schmitt

There has been a steadily increasing amount of research into vocabulary acquisition and use, but much of this research has been compromised by basic problems in research methodology. Norbert Schmitt is writing a research manual for researchers and postgraduate students which outlines the key requirements for rigorous lexical research, including the selection of appropriate target vocabulary, how to avoid the confounding issues like frequency effects, and how to write valid and reliable lexical testing instruments. The book is contracted with Palgrave Press in a series edited by Chris Candlin and David Hall and should appear in 2007.


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CLiC Dickens

Professor Michaela Mahlberg, Professor Peter Stockwell and Dr Johan de Joode

The  CLiC Dickens project demonstrates through corpus stylistics how computer-assisted methods can be used to study literary texts and lead to new insights into how readers perceive fictional characters. As part of the project we develop a new corpus tool, CLiC (Corpus Linguistics in Cheshire), designed specifically for the analysis of literary texts.



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Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics

The University of Nottingham

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