School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Staff Profiles

Dr Peter Sercombe

Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics



My academic background is in Applied Linguistics and Language Education. I have taught mainly in Brunei, Malaysia, Turkey and the UK. Following work as head of English in a rural secondary school in Borneo (under the auspices of Voluntary Services Overseas), I was appointed as a teacher-trainer with the Malaysian Ministry of Education, during the transition from English to Malay-medium education in the early 1980s. I later joined the Applied Linguistics Department at the University in Brunei, where I built on my interest in sociolinguistics and Austronesian languages, particularly Iban (a widely spoken language throughout Malaysian Borneo) and Penan (a hunter-gatherer language of East Malaysia, that is currently under threat, for a range of reasons).


Research Interests:
Sociolinguistics, with particular interest in code-switching, language maintenance & change among minority groups; cultural adaptation; and, intercultural communication.

Other Expertise:
Knowledge of Austronesian Languages, in particular: Malay, Penan and Iban.

Current Work:
Research into the changing nature of religious beliefs among Bornean hunter-gatherers.
Research into the changing nature of Iban society, with a current transition to a predominantly monetary economy and the sociocultural effects of this.
Co-PI on project studying: Language as key to perceptual diversity: an interdisciplinary approach to the senses, sponsored by: Swedish Foundation for Humanities & Social Sciences @ 1.2 million Euros):

Postgraduate Supervision:
I am currently first supervisor of 15 PhD students, among whom research is being conducted into culture in language teaching, cultural influences on communication strategies, writing strategies, politeness and language and gender. I am particularly interested in students who are interested in pursuing research in sociolinguistics (especially in the field of language contact and/or language endangerment) and in intercultural communication.

Esteem Indicators:
Editor, 'The Linguistics Journal'

Consultant (translation [Penan to English] and content validity),
BBC Tribes, Series 3, ‘The Penan, Hunters & Gatherers of Borneo’

Language Consultant: Quest Unlimited Media Productions: ‘Tawai: Indigenous Peoples of the World’ [Translation: Penan to English]; 

Consultant to British Council: Development of materials for a course, 'Intercultural Fluency'

External examiner of Birkbeck College, University of London's MA in Communication, MA in Intercultural Communication and Postgraduate Certificate in International Field Leadership (2011-2014)

External examiner of Sheffield University's MA in Applied Linguistics with TESOL (from 2011-2015) 

Reviewer for Journal of 'Current Issues in Language Planning' (Multilingual Matters), Special Issue on 'Language Planning and Minority Languages'

Reviewer for:
AHRC project applications
ESRC project applications
FNRS project applications

I have conducted PhD viva examinations at the following universities: Aberdeen, Bedfordshire, Birkbeck College (University of London), the British University (Dubai), Exeter, Huddersfield, King's College (University of London), Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle, Nottingham (Ningbo, China), Southampton, and Sunderland.

ASEAS (2011): Field Trip Study Grant to study Research into the changing nature of Iban society (£2,400).
Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research (2012): Grant to collect and study oral literature among the Eastern Penan of Central Borneo (US $10,000).
Swedish RIKSBANKENS Foundation (2015): Grant to study: 'Language and Perception among Hunter-Gatherers' (1.25 million Euros)



Postgraduate Teaching

I lead the modules 'Language and Cross-cultural Communication' and 'Sociolinguistics', have previously taught 'Language Awareness',  as well as contributing to the module, 'Research Methods'.