Dr Marc Alexander

  • Senior Lecturer in English Language (English Language)
  • Adviser of Studies (Arts College Academic and Student Administration)

telephone: 01413306501
email: Marc.Alexander@glasgow.ac.uk

Research interests

I work mainly on digital humanities and the study of meaning in English, with a focus on lexicology, semantics, and stylistics through the application of cognitive and corpus linguistics.

My research interests primarily centre around the digital and cognitive 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 the past ten years, helping to produce the 2009 Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary and carrying out research on its database. I lead the Glasgow part 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. 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 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 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 25 years. I have been an international fellow of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies in Monticello, Virginia, and I created the Hansard Corpus 1803-2003. 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 linguistic persuasion and the nature of narrative reading as a collaborator with the AHRC-funded Stylistics, Text Analysis and Cognitive Science project (2002-2009, Directors Dr Catherine Emmott and Professor Anthony J. Sanford).

Beyond these projects, my current research interests centre around semantics in the digital humanities, and in particular the computational analysis of meaning in legal, political and scientific contexts. When not working on the above, I am presently developing an analysis of political and legal issues of interpretation in the UK Hansard (1803-2003), a study of the expression of power in the history of English, and the semantic interpretation of statute law.

Selected publications

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: The British Abroad Since the Eighteenth Century, Volume 2. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137304179

Alexander, M. (2011) The various forms of civilization arranged in chronological strata: manipulating the HTOED. In: Adams, M. and Imartino, G. (eds.) Cunning Passages, Contrived Corridors: Unexpected Essays in the History of Lexicography. Series: Lexicography worldwide (11). Polimetrica Press: Monza, Italy. ISBN 9788876992070

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

Alexander, M. (2009) Rhetorical structure and reader manipulation in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Miscelanea: A Journal of English and American Philology, 39, pp. 13-27.


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 would be pleased to supervise 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 semantics of English
  • The study of language and persuasion
  • Cognitive stylistics/poetics, particularly applied to popular fiction



In 2014-15, I convene both level 2 English Language courses (ENGLANG2004 and ENGLANG2005) and the Honours paper ENGLANG4007, Digital Humanities for Language and Literature (open to all students in the School of Critical Studies). I teach the Structure of Modern English for ENGLANG1001, Analysing Conversation for ENGLANG1003, English Words: History, Structure, and Meaning for ENGLANG2004, Language, Persuasion, and Authority for ENGLANG2005, Corpus Linguistics, Semantic Prosody, Distant Reading, Authorship and Stylometry, Natural Language Processing, and Copyright Law for ENGLANG4007, and Dictionaries, Semantic Space, Semantics and the Law, Conceptual Blending, and Linguistic Conceptualisation and Construal for ENGLANG4017 (Semantics of English). At postgraduate level, I convene and teach the School of Critical Studies PGT Research Training Course and the PGR Research Skills Seminars.

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. I have previously convened Level 1 English Language (ENGLANG1001, ENGLANG1002, and ENGLANG1003), ENGLANG4001 Culture and English Language Teaching, ENGLANG4015 Pragmatics and Spoken Discourse, ENGLANG4019 Written Text and Narrative, andthe College of Social Sciences Research Training Course.

Additional information

I am an elected member of Senate and a Senate Assessor for Student Conduct. I sit on the Senate Appeals Committee, the School of Critical Studies Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee, the College of Arts Ethics Committee, and the University Web Committee, and am an Adviser of Studies for the College of Arts, in addition to some other administrative roles. In 2015 I am the pro tem College of Arts Ethics Chair. 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, the Head of HATII.