Edinburgh Research Explorer

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Vague Language and language teaching Spoken Grammar and language teaching


I began my teaching career in Havana, Cuba, where I taught Business English and ran a TEFL Masters programme for English teachers in the medical schools, for 13 years. I returned to the UK in 1990 and taught English for Academic Purposes and MA TESOL in the University of Sunderland. I now teach on the University of Edinburgh's MSc TESOL and MSc Language Teaching. I have undertaken consultancy in Russia (Cherepovets), mainland China (Beijing, Changchun, Chongqin, Guangzhou, Hefei, Nanjing, Nanning, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Zhejiang) and Hong Kong. I was Meetings Secretary for the British Association for Applied Linguistics 2004-07.


  • University of Birmingham, BA Hons French Language and Literature, Italian
  • Trinity College Licentiate Diploma Teaching of English as a Foreign Language
  • University of Edinburgh, MSc Applied Linguistics
  • University of Edinburgh, PhD in Applied Linguistics: 'MSc common room casual conversations: a lexico-grammatical longitudinal study of a discourse community in formation'


Current Research Interests

I analyse naturally-occurring spoken and written language, using corpus linguistics, and suggest applications to TEFL and teacher training. My main interests are:

  • Vague language (e.g. 'do', 'thing', 'and all that') and its social function
  • Cross-cultural studies of attitudes towards vague language of German, Mandarin and Spanish speakers
  • International student interactions in UK university tutorials

Other interests include:

  • In-group code of academic discourse communities
  • The language of conferences - questions from the floor; abstracts
  • Airport groundstaff spoken grammar and vocabulary

I am keen to supervise research under the headings above. I currently supervise students in the following areas:

  • Professional identity of Chinese English language classroom assistants in Scotland
  • Exploring refugees' identity in relation to learning English and critical intercultural skills


Collaborative Activity

Current projects:

  • Corpus analysis of written feedback given by tutors and classroom teachers to students on school placement, University of Edinburgh 2013.
  • The development of an international network of researchers in vague language hedges, with a view to building intercultural understanding and informing language teaching

Recent projects:

  • ‘Dingsbums and dong dong: vague language across cultures’, University of Edinburgh 2013.
  • A TEMPUS staff exchange project with Karlsruhe Education University, Germany.
  • Second-language Competency for Technicians in Industry (Lang2Tech) Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation, European Commission 2012-14.
  • The organisation, with Dr Brona Murphy, of the 2010 Inter-Varietal Corpus Studies (IVACS) Conference, The University of Edinburgh, 18-19 June 2010
  • The organisation of the Annual 2009 Inter-Varietal Corpus Studies (IVACS) Symposium, held at Moray House, The University of Edinburgh
  • The organisation of a seminar of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) and Cambridge University Press entitled 'Academic Language Corpora and Education' (ALCE), The University of Edinburgh
  • Scottish Council for Research in Education: 'Institutional Support for Overseas Students'
  • European Commission Leonardo Languages Competences: 'ELSY: Devising a Multi-media Airport Syllabus for Young People who are Unemployed and Under-qualified'
  • European Commission Leonardo Mobility: 'English for Tourism and Catering'
  • European Commission Leonardo Mobility: 'Airport English'
  • The University of Edinburgh Development Trust fund. 'Conference abstracts'
  • The University of Edinburgh RAE Enhancement fund. 'Chinese students' needs in the UK'


Research outputs

  1. A thematic linguistic analysis of TESOL students’ commitment to intercultural communication values

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. German, Spanish and Mandarin speakers metapragmatic awareness of vague language compared

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Dingsbums und so: Beliefs about German vague language

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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