Professor Jonathan Culpeper


County South
Lancaster University
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 1524 592443
Location: C43


PaSTY - Pragmatics and Stylistics Research Group
UCREL - University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language

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 Interests

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)

Research Interests


Most of my current work belongs to the field of pragmatics. Within present-day pragmatics, I have a particular research interest in linguistic politeness, focusing on the social dynamics of interaction. My work has concentrated on the opposite of politeness: impoliteness.  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 forward this research, resulted in my monograph, Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offence (2011, CUP). Glimpses of my work can be seen in my impoliteness website. I am pursuing various avenues of research that are impoliteness-related. A major future area will relate to 'hate speech', as this is the subproject I am engaged in under the auspices of the CASS research centre.

Following on from the last mentioned item, one important strand of my research is centred on historical pragmatics, an area which seeks to apply the theories of pragmatics to historical texts and language change. My main output in this area is the monograph Early Modern English dialogues: Spoken interaction as writing (with Prof. Merja Kytö, Uppsala University ) (2010; CUP). This book investigates historical 'spoken' face-to-face interaction, as recorded in speech-related material (e.g. trial proceedings). It is based on a large corpus of historical dialogues which I developed with Prof. Merja Kytö (see details below). Topic areas include: pragmatic markers, interjections, lexical repetitions, certain grammatical aspects (e.g. the conjunction 'and'), and certain sociolinguistic areas (e.g. gender). I also have an active interest in historical (im)politeness. I recently collaborated with Daniel Kádár, and we co-edited Historical (Im)Politeness Research (2010;Peter Lang).

My most recent major project in the area of pragmatics is on the pragmatics of English. I collaborated with Michael Haugh to produce Pragmatics and the English Language (2014, Palgrave). This book is innovative in at least two respects: (1) it develops what we call ‘integrative pragmatics', that is, it shows how there is a rich pathway to be followed between micro and macro approaches to pragmatic, and (2) instead of assuming a universal pragmatics whilst actually only writing about English, it is a pragmatics of English.

I am an editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pragmatics, a job I share with Neal Norrick.


My particular interest here has been cognitive stylistics, one of the most distinctive and most recent developments in stylistics, combining insights from linguistics and cognitive psychology. My research in this area has culminated in Language and Characterisation: People in Plays and other Texts (2001; Longman), a book which attempts to describe how readers understand characters in fictional texts. The main focus of this book on play-texts (particularly Shakespeare) reflects another research interest in stylistics: the language of drama. 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), and(with Elena Semino) a collection, Cognitive Stylistics: Language and Cognition in Text Analysis (2002; John Benjamins), which was designed to define the field of cognitive stylistics. Recently, I have returned to my Shakespearean interests and edited (with Mireille Ravassat) Stylistics and Shakespeare: Transdisciplinary Approaches (2011; Continuum). I am planning further work on Shakespeare, deploying the corpus-based methodology.

My most recent major project in this area was a collaboration with David Hoover and Kieran O'Halloran to produce (2014) Digital Literary Studies: Corpus Approaches to Poetry, Prose, and Drama (2014; Routledge

History of English

I have published numerous papers in the area of historical corpus linguistics, often with a historical pragmatics slant. Corpus Linguistics has had a dramatic impact on the nature of historical language studies in the 1990s. Many corpora of historical texts have been constructed, but these have focussed on literary or scholarly texts, which is 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 Prof. Merja Kytö in the construction of a corpus of speech-related Early Modern English texts.The Corpus of English Dialogues 1560-1760 stands at approximately 1.2 million words and contains the following text-types (drawn with reliable sources): trial proceedings, witness depositions, play-texts, dialogue in prose fiction, didactic dialogues (including language teaching textbooks).The corpus is available to the academic community for free (via the Oxford Text Archive or the ICAME disk). This corpus is the basis of the monograph on Early Modern English dialogues referred to above.

I have produced the second edition of my textbook History of English (2nd edn., 2005; Routledge). The first edition was successful, so Routledge tells me. However, I am much happier with the second edition. Here I am deeply indebted to all those around the world who took the trouble to provide feedback on the first edition. I am contemplating a third edition.


I maintain interests in a variety of other areas, especially areas relating to the study of the English Language. 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) (2008; 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.

My CV can be found here.

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