The Survey of English Usage
Quarterly Newsletter
December 2009

This newsletter is part of a series of quarterly newsletters from the Survey of English Usage, intended to keep the academic community and other interested parties informed about research in the Survey. The newsletter will be sent out in March, June, September and December. The March issue is the Survey’s Annual report.

New appointments

We are very pleased to welcome two new members of staff to the Survey.

Daniel Clayton is a secondary school English teacher who has joined us on the Teaching English Grammar in Schools Project. Among other activities, Dan has written course books for Nelson Thornes and was a team leader and trainer for the AQA Examinations Board, and he has a blog on English grammar aimed at school teachers. He will work closely with Sean Wallis on this Knowledge Transfer Project, which starts in February.

Dr Jillian Bowie joins the Survey on the Changing Verb Phrase in Present-day English Project. Jill previously worked for Rodney Huddleston as a research assistant on the Cambridge Grammar of English. She will also take up her post in February.


Both the British component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-GB) and the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English (DCPSE) are now available on the UCL student and staff managed computer system.


During the Spring Term the following research seminars will take place in Room 233 Foster Court.

Wed 10 February
  Dr Billy Clark (Middlesex)
Concepts and procedures: combining and composing meanings in utterance interpretation


Within relevance theory, a distinction has been made between conceptual and procedural meaning (including by Blakemore 1987, 2002; Sperber and Wilson 1986; Wilson and Sperber 1993). Expressions with conceptual meanings lead interpreters to access elements of conceptual representations. Expressions with procedural meanings guide the processes of constructing and manipulating conceptual representations. A number of questions about this distinction continue to be discussed. This talk explores two of them:

  1. How do the various kinds of meaning interact in the interpretation of specific utterances?
  2. Can procedural meanings ever be seen as compositional?

The data come mainly from English and include examples such as:

  1. You've got an idea
  2. Have you got an idea?

As well as the encoded meanings of lexical items and declarative or non-declarative syntax, it considers the effects of prosody and procedural expressions such as wow, so and then.

Wed 17 March 4pm
Dr Louise Sylvester (Westminster)

The Lexis of Medieval Cloth and Clothing: projects and research questions


In 2006 work began on the AHRC-funded project the Lexis of Cloth and Clothing in Britain c700-1450 at the universities of Manchester and Westminster. The aim is to collect the terms for garments, textiles, and processes of production and trade across all the languages in use in medieval Britain. Research on the multilingual situation of Britain in the late medieval period has started to suggest, however, that a paradigm in which languages such as Middle English and Anglo-Norman are seen as distinct may be anachronistic when applied to the British Isles in the medieval period, arguing for the need to find new ways of thinking about, and classifying, the vocabulary that we are collecting. The difficulties associated with distinguishing between borrowing and codeswitching come into play here. One theory suggests that it is possible to account for patterns of codeswitching by examining the levels of the lexicon in which lexical switches occur. This seems to present possibilities through the examination of linguistic varieties employed at the various levels in lexical corpora such as the data of the Lexis of Cloth and Clothing project and the Historical Thesaurus of English. This paper examines some of the preliminary results and implications of such an investigation.

All welcome! Drinks afterwards.

Bas Aarts

December 2009

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