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Our expertise

We conduct socially engaged and interdisciplinary research, deploying cutting-edge linguistic methods to address complex and real-world issues.

These include migration, multilingualism, language acquisition, literacies, pedagogies and policies, intercultural contact, digital communication, linguistic landscapes, health communication, corporate discourse and surveillance.

Language analysis, acquisition and bi/multilingualism

This area includes grammar, lexicon, phonetic systems, child bilingualism, psycholinguistics and second language acquisition. We cover a range of different languages, including French, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin and L1/L2 English pairings which also include Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish and languages from Africa and India. 

This research is led by Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller, Professor Jane Setter, Professor Parvaneh Tavakoli, and Dr Fraibet Aveledo

Academic literacies and language pedagogies

Our research into academic literacies and language pedagogies includes academic writing, student transitions through college stages, English Language Teaching, English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)/task-based learning and fluency. This research is led by Professor Clare Furneaux, Professor Parvaneh Tavakoli and Dr Erhan Aslan.

Language and social life

Our research into language and social life includes corpus analysis of formulaic language, code-switching, sociolinguistic variation, intercultural communication, discourse analysis of power and gender, political discourse analysis and digital media discourse. The research is led by Professor Rodney Jones.

Language users, policies and politics

This research focuses on the impact of political processes on language users in areas such as migration; diversity and inclusion; language testing and assessment; teacher development; English language curriculum design and internationalisation within higher education institutes (HEIs); Staff working in this area include Dr Tony Capstick and Dr Michael Daller. .
Every day it is more important for professionals in the modern world to understand how language is used in different contexts, such as education, migration, politics, digital media and health. We are exploring theories of language in the contemporary world and applying this knowledge to the solution of real-world problems at work, at play, in relationships, in the media, in education, in health, in politics.
Professor Rodney Jones, Head of the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics

Research collaborations

We also contribute via strong links to other areas of linguistic research within and beyond the university through the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism, including the Institute of Education (IoE), CLS, the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI) and the Department of Languages and Cultures

Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)

With help from our students, CeLM conducts, coordinates, and disseminates world-leading research on literacy and multilingualism.

Its work focuses on language and literacy in diverse linguistic mono- and multilingual contexts, including learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL).

CeLM investigates the development of language and literacy skills, both in typically developing children and those with special educational needs such as dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders and specific language impairment.

Language Studies Working Papers (LSWP)

The LSWP brings together contributions from staff and students in various schools across the University of Reading, in order to reflect a variety of perspectives on language-related research.

It covers areas such as academic literacy, discourse and sociolinguistics, phonetics and phonology, child language development and second language skills and processing.

More about the LSWP

Research that makes an impact

We are delighted to report that research by colleagues in the Department contributed to excellent results in several Research Excellence Framework (REF) units.

100% of our research in modern languages and linguistics is of international standing (REF 2021, combining 4*, 3* and 2* submissions – Modern Languages and Linguistics).

Our student research community

Our postgraduate research students range from recent graduates just beginning their careers to established industry professionals.

The Department offers a range of groups and activities for staff and research students to meet and share research work in their particular field, including the Applied Linguistics Circle, Language Studies Working Papers and annual Language Studies PhD Conference.

Our projects

Find out about some of our recent research projects

Language and migration

Dr Tony Capstick, Lecturer of TESOL/Applied Linguistics, is leading research on language education and the political contexts in which that occurs. Much research has been carried out on the outcomes of migration, whereas Tony has been more interested in what happens in the country of origin as well as the destination. His research focuses on grassroots migration working with families that use local languages and non-standard varieties of English.

Language in prison

Our links with HMP Huntercombe has given students the opportunity to perform research within a prison environment. Students' role as linguists was to help prisoners understand complex documentation given to them  and provide the resources they needed to respond to the Home Office Immigration Enforcement (HOIE).



COVID-19 and Chinese students

Professor Rodney Jones and Dr Sylvia Jaworska are conducting research, using British Academy funding, which aims to understand the communication challenges of Chinese university students studying in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.The project will use principles from research in intercultural communication, health communication and media literacies to examine how Chinese students access and evaluate information, negotiate intercultural differences, and cope with COVID-19-related stigma, and how these processes affect their attitudes towards studying in the UK.

Food labeling

Professor Rodney Jones and Dr Sylvia Jaworska are conducting research, using funding from the European Institution for Innovation and Technology, which aims to develop a 'prosumerist' digital toolkit — informed by research in linguistics, information design, nutritional science and behavioural economics — to gather information that will help manufacturers and marketeers communicate more effectively about the health benefits of food and help consumers make more informed choices. An English prototype of the toolkit was released at the end of 2019. In 2020 the toolkit will be made available in German, French and Polish.

Covid-19, migration and multilingualism

Dr Tony Capstick brings together refugee and migrant researchers enabling them to carry out research in their own communities about COVID-19. The research focuses on how migrants and refugees draw on their current networks to read, write and share information about the COVID-19 coronavirus and how they are adapting their teaching and professional lives to the move online.

The aim of the project is to identify how people use their existing language resources to do this and how they go about extending these resources by using translation, mediators and brokers when they share information.



Conflict in the Linguistic Landscape

This study, led by Dr Christiana Themistocleous, using British Academy funding, explores the significance of language in enhancing social cohesion, collaboration and trust in conflict-ridden borderline communities.

The island of Cyprus and Nicosia, its capital, have been divided by a UN-controlled buffer zone since the Greek/Turkish-Cypriot war in 1974. The conflict resulted in the decline of multilingualism in Greek and Turkish.

This study investigates the linguistic landscape of Nicosia by exploring the languages displayed on written public signs near the Greek-/Turkish-Cypriot dividing line. It also investigates how people who live, work and shop in this divided city experience and evaluate multilingualism in Greek and Turkish.

Validating international language tests

Professor Parvaneh Tavakoli’s research focuses on international tests of English language. Currently, using funding from Educational Testing Services, she is working on a project investigating the relationship between instruction and score gains in TOEFL ITP tests at a university context. 

The longitudinal project examines the extent to which test scores reflect anticipated changes in underlying language ability as a function of learning and instruction. The findings will have significant implications for a range of users at university and policymaking levels, offering valuable evidence for a specific use of test scores in monitoring progress.

In previous projects funded by the British Council and International Study and Language Institute, she has examined the validity of Aptis and TEEP tests of speaking leading to changes in rating descriptors and/or rater training materials.

Professor Tavakoli is also part of a large project funded by the British Council exploring the effects of digitally mediated instruction on teaching in English-medium universities.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP)

UROP provides exciting opportunities for undergraduates to work with staff on research projects across the University, contributing directly to the creation of knowledge and strengthening the link between teaching and research.

UROP placements last for six weeks over the summer break of Year 2 and are open to all students. If they wish, students can also participate in the annual British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

Current projects

Our PhD students are currently involved in a range of projects across English Language and Linguistics. 

View our current PhD research projects.

Visiting scholars

We welcome applications from academic staff and PhD students from other universities who wish to spend a period of one month to a year at Reading to complete their language-related research projects or to participate in our Mentoring in University Learning and Teaching (MULT) scheme.

Our visitors will have full access to the extensive research and library resources at the University, attend postgraduate modules and research seminars, and present their research to the Department.

They will also receive supervision from an experienced member of staff with similar research interests and expertise. As a visiting scholar or PhD student, you are usually charged a fee. Those who complete the MULT scheme will be issued a certificate of achievement.

Applied Linguistics Research Circle Weekly Talks

The University of Reading Applied Linguistics Research Circle Weekly Talks feature a range of scholars from world-renowned professors to postgraduate students sharing their work in progress. These weekly talks are open to all students and staff as well as interested parties from outside of University. They offer a great chance to discuss and debate contemporary issues with leading figures in the field.

Past speakers have included Professor Li Wei, Professor Bonny Norton, Professor Ben Rampton, Professor Jack C. Richards, Professor John Flowerdew, and Professor Jennifer Jenkins.

View schedule for the talks


Our staff

Our staff are experts in their fields, giving you a wealth of knowledge, expertise and support at your fingertips. 


Research stories

Our staff and PhD students develop exciting and diverse projects that span disciplines and the globe.

Our blog

Check our blog for the latest publications, conference papers and other research activities by staff in the Department of English Language & Applied Linguistics: