Professor Marc Alexander
- Professor of English Linguistics (English Language & Linguistics)
I work primarily on the study of words, meaning, and effect in English, usually using the Historical Thesaurus of English, cognitive linguistics, or approaches from the digital humanities.
I am the third Director of the Historical Thesaurus of English, 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 first edition of the Thesaurus, published as the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, carrying out research on its database, and editing its second edition (in progress). The Thesaurus in 2019 was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education for over fifty years of research into the history of English meanings.
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 produced new versions of the Hansard Corpus and of EEBO. In 2019 I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize (2020-2023) for a large-scale digital analysis of lexicalization and the evolution of meaning in the Thesaurus database.
I was also a co-investigator on the three-year AHRC-funded Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus project (2012-2015, Principal Investigator Professor Wendy Anderson) and part of the Glasgow branch of the AHRC-funded Linguistic DNA of Modern Thought project with Dr Fraser Dallachy (2015-18, Principal Investigator Professor Susan Fitzmaurice of the University of Sheffield), which aimed to analyse the linguistic and conceptual changes evident in the Early Modern period of English and which characterised the development of modernity.
My other research interests centre around meaning, rhetoric, and reader manipulation in written texts and corpora. 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 and the evolution of Hansard itself. I was part of the Hansard at Huddersfield project (2018-19, Principal Investigator Professor Lesley Jeffries, University of Huddersfield), and some of my Philip Leverhulme Prize projects use the Hansard Corpus. 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 the late 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. 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. and Guégan, X. (eds.) The British Abroad Since the Eighteenth Century, Volume 2: Experiencing Imperialism. Series: Britain and the world. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, pp. 232-249. ISBN 9781137304179 (doi:10.1057/9781137304186_13)
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. , 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. (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 (doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744573.003.0012)
Emmott, C. and Alexander, M. (2018) Reliability, unreliability, reader manipulation and plot reversals: strategies for constructing and challenging the credibility of characters in Agatha Christie's detective fiction. In: Page, R., Busse, B. and Nørgaard, N. (eds.) Rethinking Language, Text and Context: Interdisciplinary Research in Stylistics in Honor of Michael Toolan. Series: Routledge studies in rhetoric and stylistics. Routledge: London, pp. 177-190. ISBN 9780815395768
The research project grants I have held in since 2011 include the following:
- 2020-2023: Philip Leverhulme Prize. (£100,000, Leverhulme Trust)
- 2018-2019: 21st Century Reading: Text and Data Mining Skills for Scotland, PIs Robin Smith (National Library of Scotland) and Professor Marc Alexander. (£7,000, Royal Society of Edinburgh)
- 2018-2019: Hansard at Huddersfield, PI Professor Lesley Jeffries (University of Huddersfield), Co-Is Professor Marc Alexander and Dr Alex von Lunen (Huddersfield). (£80,510, AHRC grant AH/R007136/1)
- 2015-2018: The Linguistic DNA of Modern Thought, PI Professor Susan Fitzmaurice (University of Sheffield), Co-Is Professor Marc Alexander, Michael Pidd (Sheffield), and Dr Justyna Robinson (Sussex). RAs Dr Fraser Dallachy (Glasgow), Dr Iona Hine (Sheffield), and Dr Seth Mehl (Sheffield). (£751,206, AHRC grant AH/M00614X/1)
- 2014-2015: Semantic Annotation and Mark-Up for Enhancing Lexical Searches (SAMUELS), PI Dr Marc Alexander, 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 Dr Marc Alexander, Professor Carole Hough and Professor 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 Dr Marc Alexander 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 discuss supervising further research degrees within the following areas:
- Projects drawing on the Historical Thesaurus of English
- English semantics and/or lexicology
- Corpus linguistics 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
- Stylistics, particularly applied to linguistic persuasion, popular fiction or heathcare narratives
- The cognitive linguistics of English, including metaphor and conceptual blending
Generally, each year I convene my Honours course The Language of Laws (ENGLANG4060) and teach on this course and a range of other Honours and Postgraduate courses across the subject (including Semantics and Pragmatics (ENGLANG4052 and 5108), Semantics: Advanced Concepts (ENGLANG5083), Corpus Linguistics (ENGLANG4032 and 5094), History of English (ENGLANG4037 and 5097), and Lexicology and the Historical Thesaurus of English (ENGLANG5115), some of which I also convene).
At pre-Honours I teach ten weeks of English Words: History, Structure, and Meaning in English Language & Linguistics 2A; five weeks of Conversation Analysis in English Language & Linguistics 2B; six weeks of The Structure of Modern English and some of the ten weeks of Language, Persuasion, and Authority in English Language 1A. I have previously been Highly Commended for the Student Representative Council's prize for the best teacher in the College of Arts.
I have previously taught most of the components of modern English language and linguistics at a variety of levels, particularly in the areas of historical linguistics, lexicology, text analysis, semantics, pragmatics, legal language, spoken discourse studies, corpus linguistics, forensic linguistics, and modern English grammar. At pre-Honours this has included the Structure of Modern English, Stylistics, Analysing Conversation, Varieties of English, English Words: History, Structure, and Meaning, and Language, Persuasion, and Authority lecture series. 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; Semantic Change, History of Lexicography, and Lexicology for History of English; Discourse Markers, Pragmatic Theory, Conversation Analysis, Language and the Courtroom, and Media Discourse for Pragmatics and Spoken Discourse; and Dictionaries, Semantic Space, Semantics and the Law, Conceptual Blending, and Linguistic Conceptualisation and Construal for Semantics of English.
I have previously run Level 1 and Level 2 English Language & Linguistics, Digital Humanities for Language and Literature, Culture and English Language Teaching, Pragmatics and Spoken Discourse, Written Text and Narrative, Semantics and Pragmatics, Corpus Linguistics, Language of Laws, and the School of Critical Studies and College of Social Sciences PGT Research Training Courses.
I am an elected member of the University Senate. I convene the University's Academic Regulations Committee, and am a Senate Assessor for Student Conduct. I sit on the Senate Business Committee, the University Academic Standards Committee, the Education Policy and Strategy Committee, and hold some other administrative roles. I was previously Head of English Language & Linguistics (2016-2019) and Deputy Head of the School of Critical Studies.
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 Professor Lorna Hughes.
Externally, I sit on the Advisory Board of the Oxford English Dictionary, am a trustee of the Glasgow Educational and Marshall Trust, and am a trustee and the Chair of the Board of Governors of Dictionaries of the Scots Language, the national dictionary of Scotland.