UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Prof Robyn Carston

Prof Robyn Carston

Professor of Linguistics


Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1983

Research summary

My research focuses on pragmatics and on its interfaces with semantics (linguistic meaning) and with other cognitive systems, in particular, the 'theory of mind' system. The pragmatic account that I mostly work with has been developed within Relevance Theory, a framework which incorporates many of the key insights of Grice's philosophically-based pragmatics, while also being responsive to the findings of current empirical research within cognitive science (on language comprehension processes, evolutionary psychology, children's communicative development, cognitive architecture). Much of my past work has been an attempt to understand the extent to which what we communicate by uttering a sentence is determinable from the linguistic meaning of the sentence. In my view, context-sensitive pragmatic processes play an essential role in the recovery of a speaker's intended meaning, not only in inferring the implicatures of an utterance, but also in driving its explicitly communicated content. My two main current projects are: (a) Pragmatic routes to the understanding of metaphor and related non-literal uses of language; (b)  The nature of lexical meaning and its relation to the concepts we express or communicate.

Teaching summary

I currently teach the module 'Issues in Pragmatics', and coordinate and teach on the MA Linguistics with specialization in Pragmatics.


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1986
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 1980
Victoria University of Wellington
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1976
University of Canterbury
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1975