Applied Linguistics Research Group

The work of the Applied Linguistics Research Group encompasses a wide range of research interests. We place emphasis on multidisciplinarity, empirically-driven theory advancement, and the impact of these advancements in applied contexts such as foreign language pedagogy, cultural integration, lifelong learning, and technologically-driven learning environments and interventions. We conduct research in bilingual cognition, corpus linguistics, cross-cultural communication, discourse analysis, first and second language acquisition, health and professional communication, language teaching methodology, models of language learning, multilingualism, and writing systems.

We employ a range of diverse and innovative methodological approaches, using paradigms from experimental psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, micro-ethnography, and corpus-based analysis.

The expertise of our staff is utilised in a number of research centres within the University, such as the Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT), iLAB:learn, and the Centre for Research in Linguistics and Language Sciences (CRiLLS).

You can find out more details about the work we do, including new publications, funding, engagement activities and impact, presentations and keynote lectures by downloading our research newsletter. To view the work of individual group members please visit our staff pages.

We work within these current research clusters:


Adam Brandt

My research involves the micro-analysis of video recorded, real world interaction (i.e. activities which would have taken place even if they were not being researched). I am interested in language  in use and social conduct in a wide range of settings. As such, my research approach is heavily informed by ethnomethodology, and the related analytic methods of conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis.

My approach to the study of intercultural communication is informed by these ethnomethodological principles, and particularly by the work of Aug Nishizaka, who was the first to demonstrate that (and how) ‘interculturality’ is something which can be seen to emerge from social conduct, rather than something which determines social conduct.

The research contexts I am particularly interested in are those in which social identities - such as nationality, ethnicity or gender - are relevant to the institutional goal of the settings, or are treated as relevant by the people involved in the interaction. At present, this includes (1) interactions involving students in multilingual, international universities (2) TV political talk shows, (3) haggling in international market places, and (4) online voice-based chat rooms.

I am happy to consider supervising any potential postgraduate research projects which are related to the above.

Further details of these can be located at my page:

Recent publications include:

Brandt, A. & K. Mortensen (2015) Conversation analysis. In: Zhu Hua (ed.) Research Methods in Intercultural Communication. London: Routledge.

Greer, T., A. Brandt and Y. Ogawa, (2014) Identity in intercultural interaction: How categories do things. In: R. Chartrand, M. Grogan, M. Porter, & G. Brooks (Eds), The 2013 JALT Pan-SIG Conference Proceedings (pp. 155-164). Nagoya: JALT. Available from:

Brandt, A. and C. Jenks (2011) “Is it okay to eat a dog in Korea…like China?” Assumptions of national food-eating practices in intercultural interaction. Language and Intercultural Communication, 11 (1), 41-58.

Brandt, A. (2009) Culture in interaction: What micro-analysis of real life interactions can contribute to the study of intercultural communication. BAAL/CUP Applied Linguistics Seminar Programme 2009: Key Themes in Intercultural Communication Pedagogy, Seminar Proceedings. University of Sheffield: BAAL.

Alan Firth

Much of my research investigates spoken interaction in ‘international’ and ‘multilingual’ settings, with a particular focus on how people learn - that is, how they learn to adapt to new situations, tasks, professional work mandates, as well as adapt to or accommodate people with pragmatic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds different to their own. I’ve published books and articles on English as a ‘Lingua Franca’, on communication in international Commodity Negotiations, Second Language Use and Learning in workplace settings, interaction in Online Chatrooms, Family Courts, Software Helplines, and Debt Recovery. I work with video- and audio-recordings of naturally-occurring (‘real-life’) interactions and apply the methodologies of micro-ethnography and Conversation Analysis in attempts to understand what’s going on in interaction. I view ‘culture’ from interpretive perspectives and try to apply theories and ideas from Globalisation and Post-Structuralism. I welcome PhD proposals that engage with any of my research interests.

A sample of my publications:

Firth, A. (forthcoming). Talk International: English as a Second Language at Work. Oxford University Press

Firth, A. (forthcoming) The talking (and learning) organization: Using Conversation Analysis to effect organizational change. Journal of Business Communication
Firth A. (2013) Conversation Analysis and Lingua Franca. In: Chapelle, C.A, ed. Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Emmison, E. & Firth, A. (2013) Requesting and Receiving Advice in Helpline Discourse. In: Limberg, H., Locher, M., ed. The Discourse of Advice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Jenks, C., Firth, A. & Trinder, E. (2012) When disputants dispute: Arguments and antagonism in child-contact mediation. Text and Talk ISSN: 1860-7349
Jenks, C. & Firth, A. (2012) On the pragmatic and interactional character of multi- participant synchronous voice-based computer- mediated communication. In: Herring, S., Stein, D., Virtanen, T, ed. Handbook of the Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication. Berlin; New York: Mouton.

Alina Schartner

My research interests focus, broadly, on intergroup communication and the social psychology of language and communication. I am particularly interested in:

  • Cross-cultural adjustment and adaptation
  • Cross-cultural sojourner experiences (e.g. international students, immigrants)
  • Intercultural competence and intercultural training
  • The internationalisation of higher education and its impact on cross-cultural communication 

Current research projects:

  • Development of an international research network investigating approaches to higher education internationalisation with partners in Thailand, Japan, China, South Africa and Brazil.
  • Development of a pan-European research network on sustainable and principled higher education internationalisation.
  • Co-investigator on a project investigating attitudes and beliefs regarding ‘non-native’ varieties of English.
  • Co-investigator on a project investigating retrospectives of the international student experience.

Recent publications include:

  • Schartner A. (2014). 'You cannot talk with all of the strangers in a pub.' A longitudinal case study of international postgraduate students' social ties at a British University. Higher Education, DOI: DOI 10.1007/s10734-014-9771-8.
  • Young T.J., & Schartner A. (2014). The effects of cross-cultural communication education on international students’ adjustment and adaptation. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35(6): 547-62.
  • Wright C., & Schartner A. (2013). ‘I can’t...I won’t?’ International students at the threshold of social interaction. Journal of Research in International Education, 12(2): 113-28.
  • Young T.J., Sercombe P.G., Sachdev I., Naeb R., & Schartner A. (2013). Success factors for international postgraduate students' adjustment: Exploring the roles of intercultural competence, language proficiency, social contact and social support. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(2): 151-71.

Peter Sercombe

My background is in sociolinguistics, an area I continue to focus on in my research. I prefer to work from, or with, a grounded theory kind of orientation, using an ethnographic approach. I orient towards interpretive analyses, preferring to work with naturally occurring data. I am especially interested in concepts, such as 'markedness' and 'endangerment', particularly (but not only) when linked to Austronesian languages. I am attracted to PhD project proposals that would like to engage in (qualitatively-oriented) research about: 'Intercultural communication' (in particular, where issues of power might be seen as salient); 'Processes of language and cultural 'change' (including, language and cultural 'borrowing'; and code-switching); and 'Language description and endangerment' (where sociocultural aspects of context are incorporated for their relevance). 
A sample of my publications:

Sercombe, P. G. & Tupas, R. (eds) (2014). Language, Education and Nation-building: Assimilation and Shift in Southeast Asia. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 9781137455529

Sercombe, P. G. (2014) Brunei  Darussalam: Issues of language, identity and education. In P.G. Sercombe & R. Tupas (eds). Language, Education and Nation-building: Assimilation and Shift in Southeast Asia. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 22-44.

Tupas, R. & Sercombe, P.G. (2014) Language, education and nation-building in Southeast Asia: An introduction. In P.G. Sercombe & R. Tupas (eds). Language, Education and Nation-building: Assimilation and Shift in Southeast Asia. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 1-21.

Khin Khin Aye & Sercombe, P.G. (2014). Language, education and nation-building in Myanmar. In P.G. Sercombe & R. Tupas (eds). Language, Education and Nation-building: Assimilation and Shift in Southeast Asia. Basingstoke: Palgrave,, pp. 148-164.

Sercombe, P. G., Young, T., Ming Dong & Lin Lin (2014). The adoption of non-heritage names among Chinese mainlanders. Names: A Journal of Onomastics 62(2): 65-75.

Sercombe, P. G. Boutin, M & Clynes, A. (eds). (in press). Advances in Linguistic and Cultural Research in Borneo. Maine, USA: Borneo Research Council. ISBN 192990018X

Rachelle Vessey

Rachelle Vessey's work focuses on cross-cultural language ideologies (i.e. explicit or implicit beliefs about and attitudes towards languages). To date, her research has predominantly examined the similarities and differences in representations of the English and French languages, and in particular the Canadian context. More generally, she uses corpus linguistics and (critical) discourse analysis to study language ideologies with relation to identity, nationalism, language policy, and news and social media; recently, she has also started working on World Englishes and superdiversity. Rachelle would be interested in supervising research students focusing on one or more of these areas.

Publications include:

Vessey R. Language ideologies in social media: the case of Pastagate. Journal of Language and Politics. Forthcoming.
Vessey R. Language policy and the media. In C. M. Cotter and D. Perrin (Eds), Handbook of Language and Media. London: Routledge. Forthcoming.
Vessey R. Borrowed words, mock language and nationalism in Canada. Language and Intercultural Communication 2014, 14(2), 176-190.
Vessey R. Challenges in cross-linguistic corpus-assisted discourse studies. Corpora 2013, 8(1), 1-26.
Vessey R. Too much French? Not enough French?: The Vancouver Olympics and a very Canadian language ideological debate. Multilingua 2013, 32(5), 657-680.

Tony Young

Tony Young's research is linked thematically and conceptually to intergroup and intercultural communications theory. He was elected founding convenor of the British Association for Applied Linguistics Special Interest Group on Intercultural Communication in 2011. He may be interested in supervising research work related to intercultural aspects of the 'internationalising' university; to intercultural aspects of language learning and teaching; or to cultural and intercultural perspectives of dementia care or the experience of living with dementia: he has published in all of these areas.

Young TJ, Schartner A (2014). The effects of cross-cultural communication education on international students' adjustment and adaptation. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 2014, 35(6), 547-562.

Young TJ, Handford M, Schartner A (2014). The internationalizing university: an intercultural endeavour? Invited Symposium for the 14th International Conference on Language and Social Psychology. University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

Young TJ, Schartner A (2014) . Sojourner Adjustment, Adaptation and Performance and the Study of Inter/Cross-Cultural Communication. Annual Seminar of the British Association for Applied Linguistics Special Interest Group in Intercultural Communication. Edinburgh University: British Association for Applied Linguistics.

Young TJ, Sercombe PG, Sachdev I, Naeb R, Schartner A. (2013) Success factors for international postgraduate students' adjustment: exploring the roles of intercultural competence, language proficiency, social contact and social support. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(2), 151-171.

Holliday A, Killick D, Montgomery C, Sercombe PG, Young TJ. (2012). Exploring 'international' student transition through transcultural interaction: perspectives in and from the UK. Invited symposium on Higher Education Across Borders: Transcultural Interaction and Linguistic Diversity, Roskilde University, Denmark.

Young TJ. (2012) Invited plenary address on 'Interactional and intercultural competence and the Clinical Skills Assessment'. Northern Deanery GP Trainers' Annual Conference, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria.

Sercombe PG, Young T. (2011) Culture and cognition in the study of intercultural communication. In: Cook, V; Bassetti, B, ed. Language and Bilingual Cognition. New York: Psychology Press, pp.529-542.

Young TJ, Manthorp C. (2011). Culture, Communication and Dementia. International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. 2011, Paris, France.

Young TJ, Sachdev I. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence: exploring English language teachers' beliefs and practices. Language Awareness, 20(2), 81-98.