School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Dr Heike Pichler

Senior Lecturer in Variationist Sociolinguistics


I am a variationist linguist specialising in discourse-pragmatic and morpho-syntactic variation and change.


Internal roles

Postgraduate Director, taught programmes

Chair of the PG Board of Studies & PG Committee

Chair of the PGT Board of Examiners


Previous internal roles: PGR Director (linguistics) (2013-15), Degree Programme Director IPhD in linguistics/English language (2013-15), Ethics convenor (SELLL) (2013-16), Visiting speaker co-ordinator (linguistics) (2013-14), CRiLLS executive member (2012-15), Schools liaison officer (2012-13)


External roles

member of the ESRC Peer Review College (2015-19)

member of the Northern Bridge studentship committee (2018)

editorial board member of Ampersand (2017-)

founding chair of the Discourse-Pragmatic Variation & Change steering committee (2012-2018)


Previous external roles: Committee member Linguistics Association of Great Britain (membership secretary) (2010-2015), External PhD thesis examiner (UCD, Ireland) (2016), Editor of Ampersand (sociolinguistics & pragmatics) (2014-16), member of the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnerships Peer Review College (2016)


Recent leadership training

2014-15: Faculty Futures (Newcastle University)

2012-13: Principal Investigator (Newcastle University)


Research interests 

I am a variationist linguist, specialising in the study of discourse-pragmatic and morpho-syntactic variation and change in contemporary varieties of English. My work is firmly grounded in the Labovian variationist paradigm and combines quantitative with qualitative research methods to provide principled and accountable explanations for observed patterns of variation and change in synchronic dialect data.

Recent and current work

My monograph on The Structure of Discourse-Pragmatic Variation (John Benjamins, 2013) demonstrates the theoretical insights that can be gained into the structure of synchronic language variation and the interactional mechanisms creating it by subjecting discourse-pragmatic variables to systematic variationist analysis. My edited volume on Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change in English: New Methods and Insights (Cambridge University Press, 2016) features twelve chapters by leading scholars in the field which: introduce new methods for analysing discourse-pragmatic features such as like, innit, you get me, at the end of the day; and provide new empirical and theoretical insights to broaden and deepen our understanding of how these forms vary and change

In other recent work I have explored patterns of variation in the formal encoding of discourse-pragmatic variables; social variation patterns in discourse collocations; the suitability of synchronic dialect data for tracing the grammaticalization of discourse-pragmatic features; and methods for studying variation and change in discourse-pragmatics. The main variables I have studied include: I don't know, I don't think, negative-polarity tag questions (including innit), and general extenders such as and (all) that (kind of stuff), and stuff (like that), or something (like that). My current research focus is on clarifying the sociolinguistic mechanisms of discourse-pragmatic innovations in multi-ethnic communities, and on identifying clinically relevant patterns of discourse-pragmatic variation in health communication.

To help develop and promote the analysis of variation and change on the level of discourse-pragmatics, I have founded the Discourse-Pragmatic Variation & Change (DiPVaC) research network.  

Postgraduate supervision  

I welcome enquiries from students interested in conducting research in any of the following areas:   

  • variationist sociolinguistics
  • variation and change in varieties of English and other languages (social, regional, ethnic, historical)
  • grammaticalization
  • discourse markers/pragmatic particles  
  • language variation in health communication



SEMESTER 1 (2018-19) 

SEL2091: Sociolinguistics and sociology of language 

SEL8163: Sociolinguistics of language and society 

SEL3372: Language & ethnicity in twenty-first century Britain (module leader)

SEL8639: Ethno-linguistic variation and change (module leader)

SEMESTER 2 (2018-19)

SEL1032: Language variation & change - dealing with data

AGE2000: Ageing generations education