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Personal profile


Professor Billy Clark leads research in linguistics at Northumbria University. His research interests are all concerned with aspects of meaning and communicative interaction, often from the perspective of relevance theory. He has applied ideas from relevance theory in considering the meanings of lexical, syntactic and prosodic forms, phatic communication, multimodal communication, and semantic change. His work on stylistics explores the role of pragmatic inference and other processes in the production, interpretation and evaluation of literary and non-literary texts (as well as on questions about what can count as 'literary'). He is currently working on projects which explore the role of pragmatics in the construction and attribution of identities and the application of ideas from pragmatics in understanding the practice and teaching of writing.

He has been involved in several projects which focus on the relationships between activities at school and at university, including the United Kingdom Linguistics Olympiad and the Integrating English project. With the Integrating English team, he runs the LangLitLab , which offers research digests and other resources for teachers, and Mesh, a journal publishing work by current and recent undergraduate students of English. He has also offered consultancy and CPD sessions for GCSE and A Level awarding bodies.

Before joining Northumbria, Billy worked and taught at Middlesex University, Goldsmiths' College, the University of Oxford, and University College London. He has been a visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge, University College London and the University of Lille. He is currently involved in teaching at all levels from Foundation Year to PhD. He has also worked with students in secondary schools, including delivering a residential course on linguistics for AS and A Level Students for the Villiers Park Educational Trust.


Research interests

My research interests include aspects of:

  • linguistic semantics
  • pragmatics
  • prosodic meaning
  • stylistics
  • multimodal meaning
  • semantic change
  • linguistics applied in speaking and writing

These interests are connected by a focus on aspects of linguistic and non-linguistic meaning.

Much of my research involves exploring and applying ideas from relevance theory. My textbook Relevance Theory was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013 and an introduction to pragmatics, Pragmatics: The Basics, by Routledge in 2021. I have co-edited three collections and published a number of chapters and articles on aspects of semantics and pragmatics, and on pragmatic stylistics, a field which has grown considerably in recent years.

I have been a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and several journal editorial boards. I have acted as reviewer for several other research councils and publishers. I am currently a member of editorial boards for the book series Cambridge Elements in Pragmatics and for the Journal of Linguistics, Journal of Literary Semantics, Journal of Pragmatics and Topics in Linguistics. 



Education/Academic qualification

Linguistics, PhD, Relevance theory and the semantics of non-declarative sentences, University College London

30 Sept 198630 Jun 1991

Award Date: 30 Jun 1991

Linguistics, PGDip, University College London

23 Sept 198530 Jun 1986

Award Date: 30 Jun 1986

English, MA (Hons), English Language and Literature, University of Aberdeen

23 Sept 198130 Jun 1985

Award Date: 30 Jun 1985


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Pragmatics: The Basics

    Clark, B., 24 Aug 2021, Abingdon on Thames: Taylor & Francis. 216 p. (The Basics)

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

    Open Access
    30 Downloads (Pure)
  • Linguists in Schools

    Clark, B., 7 Feb 2023, Communicating Linguistics: Language, Community and Public Engagement. Price, H. & McIntyre, D. (eds.). 1st ed. London: Taylor & Francis, p. 93-106 14 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    Open Access
  • Pragmatics and Literature

    Chapman, S. (ed.) & Clark, B., 15 Dec 2019, Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (Linguistic Approaches to Literature; vol. 35)

    Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

  • A relevance-focused production heuristic

    Park, K. H. & Clark, B., 1 Jan 2022, In: Journal of Pragmatics. 187, p. 176-185 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    32 Downloads (Pure)