I am a lexicographer, corpus linguist, and onomastician. For ten years (1990–2000) I was chief editor of current English Dictionaries at Oxford University Press. More recently, I have held research posts and taught linguistics and lexicology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in Britain, America, and the Czech Republic. I am currently a visiting professor at two institutions: the Bristol Centre for Linguistics (BCL, University of the West of England), and the Research Institute of Information and Language Processing (RIILP, University of Wolverhampton). I am a frequent invited plenary speaker at international conferences on lexicography, corpus linguistics, figurative language, and onomastics.
My main research interests are:
- Corpus analysis of collocations and clause semantics in English
I have developed a procedure called Corpus Pattern Analysis (CPA), which is the foundation of The Pattern Dictionary of English Verbs (http://pdev.org.uk; work in progress). The basic aim is to explore the relationship between word meaning and patterns of word use (words in context). Verb meanings are mapped onto phraseological patterns, rather than just being listed for verbs in isolation. Associated with this is a theory of meaning in language use called The Theory of Norms and Exploitations (TNE), the topic of a book by me that was published by MIT Press in 2013.
This work is associated with an AHRC-funded research project called DVC (Disambiguation of Verbs by Collocation), currently in work at RIILP. This practical work has involved re-evaluating numerous received theoretical assumptions about words and meanings. The Theory of Norms and Exploitations is founded in empirical analysis of large samples of corpus evidence. The fundamental issues addressed by this theory are: 1) the relationship between word meaning and word use; 2) the role of collocations and valency in making meanings; 3) the nature of linguistic creativity.
- Figurative language
I am writing a book on Similes and Comparisons for publication by Oxford University Press. Related to this is a planned book on Semantic Resonance.
I am the editor-in-chief of the Dictionary of American Family Names (Oxford University Press, 2003) and lead researcher at BCL on the AHRC-funded project, “Family Names of the UK” (2010–; due for publication in 2016), This explores the linguistic and social origins, geographical distribution, and history of family names in Britain and Ireland.