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Jonathan Culpeper supervises 9 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Professor Jonathan Culpeper

Head of Department, Professor

Jonathan Culpeper

County South



Tel: +44 1524 592443

Research overview

My work work spans pragmatics, English language (especially historical aspects) and stylistics. Within pragmatics, I am particularly interested in interpersonal pragmatics and (im)politeness. Historical pragmatics brings together pragmatics with my interests in historical linguistics, the history of English in particular. Within English language, I am particularly interested in Early Modern English. Within stylistics, I am particularly interested in cognitive stylistics, plays and Shakespeare. Methodologically, I have particular interests in corpus-based methods. 

PhD supervision

Pragmatics (particularly involving sociopragmatics, politeness theory, speech act theory, corpus-based pragmatics); History of English (specifically Early Modern English) (particularly involving historical pragmatics, historical sociolinguistics, historical corpus linguistics); Stylistics (particularly involving the stylistics of drama, corpus stylistics); the language of Shakespeare.

Research Interests


Much of my work belongs to the field of pragmatics. I worked with Michael Haugh to produce Pragmatics and the English Language (2014, Palgrave). That was the result of years of research and teaching, plus the fruits of working with one of my favourite pragmatics collaborators. 

With Alison Mackey and Naoko Taguchi, in 2018, I published Second Language Pragmatics: From Theory to Research (Routledge). This was a particularly enjoyable and productive collaboration, as we bring together differing yet complementary expertise.

I have a particular research interest in linguistic (im)politeness, focusing on the social dynamics of interaction. With Michael Haugh and Daniel Kadar, I  finished the huge volume: The Palgrave Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness (2017, Palgrave). 

My article Towards an Anatomy of Impoliteness (1996, Journal of Pragmatics), outlining a framework for analyzing highly confrontational interaction, is my most cited publication to-date. A three-year ESRC Fellowship, designed to push this research forward, resulted in my monograph, Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offence (2011, CUP). Glimpses of that work can be seen in my impoliteness website. I am still pursuing various avenues of impoliteness-related research. My current focus is on (im)politeness reciprocity.

Historical pragmatics, an area which seeks to apply the theories of pragmatics to historical texts and language change, is an important strand of my pragmatics research. An significant output in this area is my monograph Early Modern English dialogues: Spoken interaction as writing (with Merja Kytö, Uppsala University) (2010; CUP). This is based on a large corpus of historical dialogues which I developed with Merja Kytö (see details below). My latest work using this corpus investigated early modern affirmatives

History of English

I have continually published in the area of English historical linguistics, often with a historical pragmatics focus, and often underpinned by corpus methods. Many historical corpora are dominated by literary or scholarly texts (a peculiar situation given the acknowledged importance of spoken interaction in language change). With grants from the British Academy and the AHRB, I collaborated with Merja Kytö in the construction of a highly specialized corpus of speech-related Early Modern English texts. The Corpus of English Dialogues 1560-1760 is available to the academic community for free (you need to register to use it).

I have produced the third edition of my textbook History of English (3rd edn., 2015; Routledge). I am deeply indebted to all those around the world who took the trouble to provide feedback on previous editions.


An early interest of mine was cognitive stylistics, combining insights from linguistics and cognitive psychology. Elena Semino and I produced the collection, Cognitive Stylistics: Language and Cognition in Text Analysis (2002; John Benjamins), with the specific aim of lending definition to the field of cognitive stylistics. One research strand in this area involves language and characterisation, and culminated in Language and Characterisation: People in Plays and other Texts (2001; Longman).

Within stylistics, I maintain an interest in fictional dialogue, especially play-texts. I have co-edited (with Mick Short and Peter Verdonk) a collection of papers on the language of drama, Studying Drama: From Text to Context (1998; Routledge).

Corpus-approaches (corpus stylistics) have been deployed here. I collaborated with David Hoover and Kieran O’Halloran to produce Digital Literary Studies: Corpus Approaches to Poetry, Prose, and Drama (2014; Routledge). People seem to have been particularly interested in my work on "keywords" and characters (this is the paper that sparked this interest).


Shakespeare has been an enduring research line in my work since my PhD.  It brings together many of the strands of my research. I edited (with Mireille Ravassat) Stylistics and Shakespeare: Transdisciplinary Approaches (2011; Continuum), which aimed to show what modern approaches and methods could do for the study of Shakespeare's language.

More substantially, in May 2016 I began the Encyclopedia of Shakespeare's Language Project, a £1 million project funded by the AHRC. The essential aim of the project is to bring corpus methods to the study of Shakespeare's language, providing a systematic description of his words and language patterns, and showing how they compare with those of his contemporaries. A special issue of the journal Language and Literature, gives a flavour of the project's work.

I led the creation of a four-week MOOC Shakespeare's Language: Revealing Meanings and Exploring Myths, which is available for anybody to follow for free. 

The Encyclopedia of Shakespeare's Language Project is culminating in the The Arden Encyclopedia of Shakespeare’s Language. Volumes 1 and 2 are appearing in July 2023, and constitute a dictionary of Shakespeare's language. This is the first comprehensive dictionary of Shakespeare's language since Alexander Schmidt's 'lexicon' of the early 1870s and the first corpus-based dictionary.

English Langauge / Linguistics generally

I led the team that produced the huge (718 paged!) textbook English Language: Description, Variation and Context (with P. Kerswill, R. Wodak, F. Katamba and T. McEnery) (2009; Palgrave). It contains 39 chapters, covering structural, sociolinguistic, functional, interactional, contextual, etc. aspects of the English language. A distinctive feature of the book is that all contributors and editors are (or in two cases were) based here in Lancaster. In 2018, I finished a second and much improved edition of this book.

In 2022, I led a similar project to the one above, but this time for linguistics. This resulted in Introducing Linguistics (with B. Malory, C. Nance, D. Van Olmen, D. Atanasova, S. Kirkham, A. Casaponsa). 

My CV can be found here.

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