Cognitive Linguistics research strand at Bristol Centre for Linguistics (BCL)

Current and recent projects under the Cognitive Linguistics strand of BCL's research.

Whorfian Hypothesis

Dr Minna Kirjavainen-Morgan is interested in the question as to whether or not the language(s) a speaker speaks has an effect on their cognitive processes (such as memory, perception, categorization). In collaboration with Professor Yuriko Kite (Kansai University, Osaka, Japan), Kirjavainen-Morgan has recently completed a study investigating if the presence (English) or absence (Japanese) of systematic plural marking (e.g. a dog vs. dogs) affects English and Japanese speakers’ recall of having seen 1 or 2 entities in photos presented to them.

With Dr Anna Piasecki and a team of colleagues from Education and Psychology at UWE Bristol, Warsaw and Helsinki Universities, Kirjavainen-Morgan is leading a project funded by the Vice Chancellor’s Interdisciplinary Challenge Fund into the effect of gender marking on (pro)nouns on perceptions and recall of gender information from photos seen.

Metaphor studies

Professor Jonathan Charteris-Black has pioneered an approach to our understanding of metaphors called Critical Metaphor Analysis. The method has been followed by a number of scholars in the field. In his own work, he has applied the approach to political language (and see more in Critical Linguistics), narratives of illness, and religious discourse in his monograph, Fire Metaphors: Discourses of Awe and Authority.


Dr Anna Piasecki carries out research on the role which speaking more than one language plays in how language is accessed, processed and stored in the mind. These are interests which are shared by Dr Minna Kirjavainen-Morgan. Piasecki has carried out projects on the influence which writing and sound systems have in bilingual learning.

Dr Jeanette Sakel’s work on language contact – i.e. how languages influence one another in multilingual societies – is widely cited and sheds light on the sorts of borrowings which can occur between languages.

Filled pauses

Dr Minna Kirjavainen-Morgan and Beeching, along with former postdoctoral research assistant, Dr Ludivine Crible (now University of Edinburgh), have explored the phenomenon of filled pauses (e.g. um, uh, er, and erm) in both adult and child language. By conducting experiments and carrying out analyses on real-language use, their research aims to on whether filled pauses are linguistic items (or just noise with basically no meaning or structure). If they are linguistic items, the research looks to answer the question of whether they are lexical or grammatical items. English Language and Linguistics students at UWE Bristol have supported the data collection for this project. Kirjavainen-Morgan is conducting further research into the acquisition of filled pauses by young children.

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