Professor Marc Alexander
- Professor of English Linguistics (English Language and Linguistics)
I work primarily on the study of words and meaning in English, usually with approaches from the digital humanities. Generally this focuses on lexicology, semantics, and stylistics (words, meaning, and their effect) through both cognitive-linguistic and digital standpoints.
Many of my research interests centre around the analysis of language using the Historical Thesaurus of English, and I am the third Director of the Thesaurus, following Professor Michael Samuels and Professor Christian Kay. I have been part of the Thesaurus team for over a decade, helping to produce the 2009 Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, carrying out research on its database, and editing its second edition (in progress).
I was Principal Investigator of the collaborative AHRC/ESRC-funded SAMUELS project (Semantic Annotation and Markup for Enhancing Lexical Searches, 2014-15) project, which used Thesaurus data to annotate words in text with their disambiguated meanings in order to open up new ways of digitally analysing language, and was also a co-investigator on the three-year AHRC-funded Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus project (2012-2015, Principal Investigator Dr Wendy Anderson). I am currently part of the Glasgow branch of the AHRC-funded Linguistic DNA of Modern Thought project (2015-18, Principal Investigator Professor Susan Fitzmaurice), which aims to analyse the development of key terms throughout the Early Modern period through looking at the rate of change of new lexical items in the language.
My other research interests centre around meaning, rhetoric, and reader manipulation in written texts. I created the Hansard Corpus 1803-2003 and have worked with Hansard editors in the House of Lords on the analysis of parliamentary discourse and style. In addition to the discourse of Parliament, I also work on legal English and the linguistics of statutory and consitutional interpretation. As part of this, I was previously an international fellow of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies in Monticello, Virginia. I am presently developing an analysis of the discourse of power across two centuries of Hansard, and some work on the semantic interpretation of UK statute law.
I am also Director of STELLA, which is the UK's only dedicated computer laboratory for teaching English studies and a key site of pioneering work in computer-assisted learning and experimental digital research in language and literature for the past 30 years. In addition, I have also been part of the JISC-funded Enroller (2009-2011) and Parliamentary Discourse (2011-2012) interdisciplinary digital humanities projects (the former as part of HATII, both projects in conjunction with the Glasgow National eScience Centre and under the leadership of the previous STELLA Director Jean Anderson). Finally, I have also been part of psycholinguistic research related to the nature of narrative reading as a collaborator with the AHRC-funded Stylistics, Text Analysis and Cognitive Science project (Directors Dr Catherine Emmott and Professor Anthony J. Sanford). I also have published on the cognitive and persuasive rhetoric of detective fiction (particularly Agatha Christie), which applies the study of persuasion to condensed, self-contained, manipulative texts.
Alexander, M. (2016) The metaphorical understanding of power and authority. In: Anderson, W., Bramwell, E. and Hough, C. (eds.) Mapping English Metaphor Through Time. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 191-207. ISBN 9780198744573
Alexander, M., Dallachy, F., Piao, S., Baron, A., and Rayson, P. (2015) Metaphor, popular science, and semantic tagging: Distant reading with the Historical Thesaurus of English. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, (doi:10.1093/llc/fqv045)
Alexander, M., and Kay, C. (2014) The Spread of RED in the Historical Thesaurus of English. In: Anderson, W., Biggam, C. P., Hough, C. and Kay, C. (eds.) Colour Studies: A Broad Spectrum. John Benjamins: Amsterdam, pp. 126-139. ISBN 9789027212191 (doi:10.1075/z.191.08ale)
Alexander, M., and Struan, A. (2013) 'In countries so unciviliz'd as those?': the language of incivility and the British experience of the world. In: Farr, M., Guegan, X. and Guégan, X. (eds.) The British Abroad Since the Eighteenth Century, Volume 2: Experiencing Imperialism. Series: Britain and the world. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke. ISBN 9781137304179
Emmott, C., and Alexander, M. (2010) Detective fiction, plot construction, and reader manipulation: rhetorical control and cognitive misdirection in Agatha Christie's Sparkling Cyanide. In: McIntyre, D. and Busse, B. (eds.) Language and Style: In Honour of Mick Short. Palgrave Macmillan: Houndmills, Basingstoke, pp. 328-346. ISBN 9780230231566
The research project grants I have been involved in since 2011 include the following:
- 2015-2018: The Linguistic DNA of Modern Thought, PI Professor Susan Fitzmaurice (University of Sheffield), Co-Is myself, Michael Pidd (Sheffield), and Dr Justyna Robinson (Sussex). RAs Dr Fraser Dallachy (Glasgow), and two others to be appointed (Sheffield). (£751,206, AHRC grant AH/M00614X/1)
- 2014-2015: Semantic Annotation and Mark-Up for Enhancing Lexical Searches (SAMUELS), PI myself, Co-Is Jean Anderson (University of Glasgow), Professor Dawn Archer (University of Central Lancashire), Dr Alistair Baron (Lancaster University), Professor Jonathan Hope (University of Strathclyde), Professor Lesley Jeffries (University of Huddersfield), Professor Christian Kay (University of Glasgow), Dr Paul Rayson (Lancaster University), Dr Brian Walker (University of Huddersfield), and Professor Mark Davies (Brigham Young, USA). RAs Dr Fraser Dallachy (Glasgow), Dr Scott Piao (Lancaster), Dr Jane Demmen (Huddersfield), Bethan Malory (UCLAN), and Steven Wattam (Lancaster). Technician Brian Aitken (Glasgow). Collaborating partner: Oxford University Press and the Oxford English Dictionary. (£406,352, AHRC grant AH/L010062/1)
- 2012-2015: Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus, PI Dr Wendy Anderson, Co-Is myself, Prof Carole Hough and Prof Christian Kay. RA Dr Ellen Bramwell. (£387,702, AHRC grant AH/I02266X/1)
- 2011: Parliamentary Discourse. (£82,324, JISC eContent 2011, Strand A, with Jean Anderson)
- 2011: “The Language and the Sentiments of their Times”: Teaching the Language of Historical Text. PIs myself and Dr Andrew Struan, University of Virginia. (£3,599, HEA History Subject Centre)
- 2011: Scots Words and Place-names, PIs Prof Carole Hough and Jean Anderson. (£79,524, JISC eContent 2011, Strand B)
I currently supervise seven research students.
I would be pleased to supervise further research in any of my areas of expertise:
- Projects drawing on the Historical Thesaurus of English
- English semantics and/or lexicology
- Corpus and computational approaches to meaning
- The stylistic analysis of legal and political texts from Early Modern times to the present, including the interpretation of statute and case law
- The cognitive linguistics of English
- The study of language and persuasion
- Metaphor and conceptual blending in English
- Cognitive stylistics/poetics, particularly applied to popular fiction
In 2016-17, I convene the Honours courses History of English (ENGLANG4037) and Semantics and Pragmatics (ENGLANG4052). I teach on these courses, and also teach English Words: History, Structure, and Meaning in English Language 2A (ENGLANG2004) and part of Contemporary Issues in Semantics (ENGLANG4031).
I have previously taught most of the components of modern English language and linguistics at a variety of levels, particularly in the areas of text analysis, semantics and pragmatics, spoken discourse studies, corpus linguistics, diachronic lexicology, forensic linguistics, and modern English grammar.
At pre-Honours this has included the Structure of Modern English component for ENGLANG1001, Analysing Conversation and Varieties of English for ENGLANG1003, English Words: History, Structure, and Meaning for ENGLANG2004, and Language, Persuasion, and Authority for ENGLANG2004/5.
At Honours, I have taught Corpus Linguistics, Semantic Prosody, Distant Reading, Authorship and Stylometry, Natural Language Processing, and Copyright Law for Digital Humanities for Language and Literature (ENGLANG4007), Semantic Change and Lexicology for History of English (ENGLANG4003), Discourse Markers, Pragmatic Theory, Conversation Analysis, Language and the Courtroom, and Media Discourse for Pragmatics and Spoken Discourse (ENGLANG4015), and Dictionaries, Semantic Space, Semantics and the Law, Conceptual Blending, and Linguistic Conceptualisation and Construal for ENGLANG4017 (Semantics of English).
With regards to course administration, I have previously convened Level 1 and Level 2 English Language (ENGLANG1001, ENGLANG1002, ENGLANG1003, ENGLANG2004, ENGLANG2005), ENGLANG4007, Digital Humanities for Language and Literature (open to all students in the School of Critical Studies), ENGLANG4001 Culture and English Language Teaching, ENGLANG4015 Pragmatics and Spoken Discourse, ENGLANG4019 Written Text and Narrative, the School of Critical Studies PGT Research Training Course, their PGR Research Skills Seminars, and the College of Social Sciences Research Training Course.
I am Head of English Language and Linguistics from 2016-2018.
I am an elected member of the University Senate and the Council of Senate. I convene the University's Academic Regulations Committee, and am a Senate Assessor for Student Conduct. I sit on the Council of Senate Business Committee, the University's Academic Standards Committee, and the School of Critical Studies Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee, in addition to some other administrative roles. I convene the STELLA and Historical Thesaurus Prize Committees and the Historical Thesaurus Scholarship Committee. I also jointly convene the University's Digital Humanities Network with Ann Gow.