UCL Institute of Mental Health

Dr Zsofia Demjen

Dr Zsofia Demjen

Associate Professor

IOE - Culture, Communication & Media

UCL Institute of Education

Joined UCL
1st Dec 2016

Research summary

I work at the intersections of language, mind and health(care), exploring (experiences of) mental/physical illness, healthcare, and medical research through linguistic analysis. My approach is data-driven and discourse analytic, focusing on any aspect of language that stands out in a given context. I've worked specifically on metaphor, im/politeness, personal pronouns, negation, narratives and humour, investigating, among others:

  • what characterises vaccination discussions on online platforms 
  • how the phenomenology of hallucinations differs from the straight-forwardly auditory perception of voices that others can also hear;
  • how voices that others cannot hear exercise power and control over voice-hearers;
  • how humour can help people cope with cancer;
  • metaphorical framings of the experience of cancer;
  • what language characterises ethical documents in clinical trials
  • how the ideologies of the UK hospice movement influence what health professionals consider a ‘good death’

I often use corpus methods, which allow me to examine large quantities of language data quickly and systematically and to support findings quantitatively. 

I am currently Co-investigator on the £1m ESRC-funded research project 'Questioning Vaccination Discourse: A corpus-based study (Quo VaDis)'. The interdisciplinary Quo VaDis project team aims to uncover and explore people's concerns around vaccinations by looking at how people actually talk or write about vaccination in different contexts. We want to better understand the range of pro-vaccination, anti-vaccination, and undecided views through language because how such controversial topics are talked about reflect and shape beliefs and attitudes, and potentially behaviour. 

I am also Co-investigator on a small-scale MRC-NIHR TMRP project examining how language-related patient eligibility decisions are made during recruitment to clinical trials.

PhD Supervision: 

I am interested in supervising students in the following areas:

  • Applied linguistic approaches to experiences of illness, health and wellbeing, especially cancer, mental illness, COPD, and vaccinations
  • Linguistic approaches to non/fictional illness narratives
  • Interactions in healthcare contexts (online or offline)
  • Metaphor in discourses of health and illness

Teaching summary

I convene Language at Work: Communication in Professional, Institutional and Cultural Contexts (CCME0100), and co-convene Dissertation Applied Linguistics and TESOL (CCME0053).

I am Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.