Dr Nick Smith

Associate Professor

School/Department: Education, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 229 7525


Address: 21 University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK


My main academic interest is in applied linguistics, especially the use of computer corpora - i.e. large, principled collections of written/spoken texts - to explore variation and change in the English language. Much of this research has been on variation across different registers, and changes in grammatical usage and style in 20th- and 21st-century standard British and American English (as in, for example, the co-authored Change in Contemporary English, Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Other research and teaching areas include regional and social variation in English (including dialects, World Englishes and register variation), and longer-range historical change (e.g., historical pragmatics, grammar/semantics, and spelling variation). I also have a keen interest in areas of corpus linguistics methodology such as corpus design, automatic and manual forms of linguistic categorization (annotation), and ways of exploiting corpora for language learning and teaching.


Since around 2000 I’ve been involved in a series of funded projects (AHRC, British Academy, Leverhulme) designed to improve understanding of recent grammatical and stylistic change in standard British and American English. In collaboration with colleagues at Lancaster, Freiburg and Zürich, I have been investigating changing patterns of grammatical usage, comparing developments in British and American English, and discussing possible factors underlying the changes identified. The work has entailed annotation and analysis of corpora, and creation of new corpora from the early twentieth century. These activities, and previous work on the British National Corpus, have involved research in corpus methods, particularly ways of enhancing the design and annotation of corpora to support investigations of language in use. Two increasing areas of interest are: a) spoken corpus data, e.g. radio and other broadcast programmes, looking at contemporary language change from register-based and sociolinguistic perspectives; and b) exploiting corpus findings in English language learning/teaching.

I have recently completed two terms as a member of the Board of ICAME, the umbrella organisation of an international conference series on corpus linguistics methodology and findings relating to English. I am also a member of the international consortium developing the ARCHER corpus project. This corpus is a major resource for studying regional differences and historical change in British and American English from 1600 to the present day. My main involvement is in enhancing the grammatical annotation of the corpus. I have made similar contributions to the NECTE and FRED-S corpora of English dialects.


Smith, N. (2020). Conversationalization and democratization in a radio chat show: A grammar-led investigation. Language Sciences. In: Hiltunen, T., Loureiro-Porto, L. (eds.), New Perspectives on Democratization: Evidence from English(es). Language Sciences 79.

Smith, N. and Waters, C. (2019). Variation and change in a specialized register: A comparison of random and sociolinguistic sampling outcomes in Desert Island Discs. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 24.2: 169-201.

Smith, N. and Waters, C. (2018). From broadcast archive to language corpus: Designing and investigating a sociohistorical corpus from Desert Island Discs. ICAME Journal 42.1: 167-89.

Broccias, C. and N. Smith. (2010). Same time, across time: Simultaneity clauses from Late Modern to Present-Day English. English Language and Linguistics 14(3): 347-371.

Celle, A. and N. Smith. (2010). Beyond aspect: Will be -ing and shall be -ing. Special issue: Future time reference in English. English Language and Linguistics 14(2): 239–269.

Leech, G., M. Hundt, C. Mair and N. Smith. (2009). Change in Contemporary English: A Grammatical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hoffmann, S., S. Evert, N. Smith, D. Lee and Y. Berglund-Prytz. (2008). Corpus Linguistics with BNCweb - a Practical Guide. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Smith, N., S. Hoffmann and P. Rayson. (2008). Corpus tools and methods, today and tomorrow: Incorporating linguists’ manual annotations. Literary and Linguistic Computing 23(2): 163-180.



I am interested in supervising students whose interests include any of the following areas related to my research and teaching:

  • Corpus linguistics;
  • English grammar and lexicogrammar/phraseology/collococation;
  • Language change in English;
  • Using corpora for language learning/teaching;
  • Spoken, written and new media language, particularly linguistic studies of register and broadcast talk;
  • Regional and social variation in English, including British and American English, World Englishes, and regional English dialects

Doctoral students I am currently supervising include:

  • David Clayton (metadiscourse)
  • Fatimah Alsaiari (English language newspaper editorials)
  • James Young (syntax in EAP/ESP)
  • Arnaud Lotte (grammar in EFL coursebooks)
  • Ahmed Hakami (attitudes to varieties of Saudi Arabic)
  • Noof Al Harrasi (acquisition of tense by Arab learners of English)

My most recent doctoral completions are Jenny Kemp (corpus approaches to legal discourse/EAP), Maryam Al-Attar (advertising discourse: a multimodal approach), Keith Barrs (corpus study of English loanwords in Japanese) and Adnan Mkehlif (grammatical collocations and language learning).


I convene the following modules for MA Applied Linguistics and TESOL/ MA TESOL:

  • Language in Society: ED7714 (Campus) and ED7525 (Distance)
  • Discourse Analysis: ED7715 (Campus) and ED7526 (Distance)
  • Corpus Linguistics and Language Learning/Teaching: ED7706 (Campus) and ED7574 (Distance)

I also teach on:

  • Grammar Awareness (ED7712)
  • Research Methods for Dissertation
  • FutureLearn MOOC: An Introduction to Applied Linguistics and TESOL (University of Leicester); running twice per year, 2016 to present

Press and media

  • Manchester Evening News, May 27, 2011 – on accents and Cheryl Cole’s departure from The X-Factor USA
  • XFM Breakfast Show, April, 2008 – on how words become obsolete
  • XFM Breakfast Show, January, 2008 – on swearing
  • Radio Lancashire and Bay Radio, September 2005 – on current change in English


  • Elected member of the Board of ICAME, 2014 to 2022 (two terms)


  • University of Leicester Superstar Nomination for Best Supervisor (2020)
  • University of Leicester Teaching Superstar Award (2014)
  • Co-authored book Corpus Linguistics with BNCweb - a Practical Guide shortlisted for the BAAL Book Prize 2009
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