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Department of Linguistics

Language in Social Life

The Language in Social Life research group formally established in 1994, is located within the Department of Linguistics. Our research is dedicated to the study of language across many social contexts using a variety of theoretical approaches.

Our research experts look at language from the point of view of its place in our everyday life from the the casual interactions with family and friends through to the language of the work place. As part of understanding this complex multimodal interaction, researchers are interested not only in the crafted texts both spoken and written, but also in the seemingly less crafted incidental interactions.

Most importantly, the research group is focused on the issues that concern our community. To do this, the research group has a dual research orientation to:

  • building descriptions of living social contexts and the discourse patterns that realise knowledge and interaction in these contexts
  • developing theoretical and methodological tools for modelling discourse that are based on extensive, accumulating information about how language functions within and between these living social contexts.

A distinctive feature of the research group's work is the development of computational tools for the analysis and description of natural language corpora. These tools are for both low-level pattern searching, which can be completely automated, and high-level linguistic analysis. Using these tools to study real language data is crucial to the linguistic research practised at the research group.

The research group contributes to the teaching programs in the Department of Linguistics and research group staff and members teach in linguistic programs from first year to PhD supervision.

The research group undertakes consultancy work, including the analysis of contexts of interaction and the development of materials for training manuals and communication tools. The research group is also interested in communicating linguistic research to a general audience.

Latest research Projects


Some of our previous work are listed below. 

Featured Publications 

  • Jones, A. (2009). Business discourse as a site of inherent struggle. In Ahmar Mahboob & Caroline Lipovsky (Eds.), Studies in Applied Linguistics and Language Learning. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Knox, J. S., Patpong, P., & Piriyasilpa, Y. (2010). ข่าวหน้าหนึ่ง (Khao naa nung): A multimodal analysis of Thai-language newspaper pages. In M. Bednarek & J. R. Martin (Eds.), New discourse on language: Functional perspectives on multimodality, identity, and affiliation. London: Continuum.
  • Knox, J. S. (2009). Online newspapers: Evolving genres, evolving theory. In C. Coffin, T. Lillis & K. O'Halloran (Eds.), Applied Linguistics methods: A reader (pp. 33-51). London: Routledge.
  • Knox, J. S. (2009). Visual minimalism in hard news: Thumbnail faces on the smh online home page. Social Semiotics, 19(2), 165-189.
  • Knox, J. S. (2009). Punctuating the home page: Image as language in an online newspaper. Discourse and Communication, 3(2), 145-172.
  • Hall, D. R., & Knox, J. S. (2009). Issues in the education of TESOL teachers by distance education Distance Education, 31(1), 63 - 85
  • Butt, D and Lukin, A. 2009. Stylistic analysis and arguments against randomness. Continuum Companion to Systemic Functional Linguistics. Edited by M.A.K. Halliday and Jonathan Webster. London and New York: Continuum.
  • Moore, S. H. & Bounchan, S. (2010). English in Cambodia: Changes and Challenges. World Englishes 29(1), 116-128.
  • Moore, S. H. & Bounchan, S. (2009). Teaching, Testing and Researching: 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' dimensions of ELT? CamTESOL Selected Papers Vol. 2, 2006, 9-14.


Anuual report

Seminars presentations

  • Gestalt therapy - by Sally Brooks,
  • Instance and Pattern: register and the management and integration of multiple analyses across corpora - By Dr Brad Smith
    Latent patterns in the grammar of identifying processes in English, and the potential of patterns as neuroscientific evidence - by A/Professor David Butt
    MODALITY and EVIDENTIALITY in Japanese seen through Systemic Functional theory - by Ayako Ochi
  • Depicting the enemy:  A study of the representation of the illegal armed groups in the internal conflict in the Colombian press - by Alexandra García - PhD candidate
  • A view of pragmatics in a social semiotic perspective- by Ruqaiya Hasan
  • A systemic functional description of Chinese nominal groups: exploring experiential and interpersonal resources - Jing Fang
  • Genre and multimodality analysis: the design of hotel homepages - Amy Suen, PhD candidate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Multimodality in Òkó Folktale Discourse and its Sociosemiotic Purposes - Ernest S Akerejola


Contact us

Associate Professor David Butt
Phone: +61 2 9850 8793
C5A, Level 5
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