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Dr Laura Paterson

Profile summary

Professional biography

Laura L. Paterson

Interim Head of School, Languages and Applied Linguistics; Senior Lecturer in English Language and Applied Linguistics

BA (Hons) English and Linguistics, University of Leeds 2007; MA Linguistics, University of Leeds 2008; MSc Forensic Psychological Studies (Open), The Open University 2022; PhD, Loughborough University 2011

I am a corpus-based sociolinguist and critical discourse analyst interested in how language is used to encode and normalise social structures. Although I have worked across a range of areas of inquiry - pronouns, poverty, social class, and marriage equality, to name just a few - all my work is underpinned by a focus on the relationship between language and discrimination. To that end, I was one of the founding editors of the Journal of Language and Discrimination. 

My first book, British Pronoun Use, Prescription and Processing (Palgrave 2014), analysed the use of epicene (gender-neutral) pronouns in written British English and included a new theory which aims to account for why the pronoun they can be processed as a singular form in the brain. My work on pronouns has continued, with an analysis of changing usage patterns of combined pronouns (Paterson 2020) and, most recently, my editorial work on the Routledge Handbook of Pronouns (2023). This 34-chapter handbook surveys contemporary research on pronouns and contains contributions from scholars all over the world, covering topics such as acquisition, power, politeness, gender, language change, and history. 

I am also particularly interested in the discourses surrounding (UK) poverty. I was part of the language and social class research project, which surveyed public response to the Channel 4 programme Benefits Street (Paterson et al. 2016, 2017, van der Bom et al. 2018). I have also written about media representations of the welfare state in the late 20th century (van der Bom & Paterson 2020) and demonstrated how ideas about poverty can move across sites of discourse in my analysis of public comments left on newspaper articles (Paterson 2020). More recently, I have written a chapter for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Language and Prejudice (est. 2024) which sets out the important role that language plays in shaping broader understandings of poverty in contemporary Britain. In 2019, I published the book Representations of Poverty and Place: Using Geographical Text Analysis to Understand Discourse (co-authored with Gregory, Palgrave 2019), which scaled up a form of Geographical Text Analysis to show how different aspects of poverty (homelessness, unemployment, benefits receipt, etc.) are explicitly associated with geographical place-names. 

As a core member of the Discourses of Marriage Research Group I have also analysed same-sex marriage debates in the UK (van der Bom et al. 2015, Jones et al. 2017, Turner et al. 2018, Paterson & Coffey-Glover 2018), with further work forthcoming (Paterson & McGlashan 2024). I co-organised a two-day seminar on marriage in 2017 joint funded by the British Association of Applied Linguists and Cambridge University Press which led to a special issue of Critical Discourse Studies. The issue is to be reprinted as Approaches to Discourses of Marriage (co-edited with Turner, Routledge 2023). 

Research interests

Selected Publications

Paterson, L.L. Forthcoming. Poverty, welfare, and wealth. In J. Setter, S. Dovchin & V.A. Ramjattan (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Language and Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Paterson, L.L. & I. Gregory. Forthcoming. Corpus Linguistics and Geography: Locating foodbanks in UK media texts using Geographical Text Analysis. In M. Mahlberg & G. Brookes (eds). Bloomsbury Handbook of Corpus Linguistics. London: Bloomsbury.

Paterson, L.L. & M. McGlashan. 2024. ‘Same-sex marriage, gay marriage, or equal marriage? Exclusion or inclusion by premodification in a corpus of 21st century UK press reports’. Journal of Language and Sexuality.  

Paterson, L.L. (ed.) 2023. Routledge Handbook of Pronouns. New York: Routledge.

Paterson, L.L. 2023. The little words that mean a lot. In L.L. Paterson (ed). The Routledge Handbook of Pronouns. New York: Routledge.

Paterson, L.L. & G. Turner (eds). 2023. Approaches to Discourses of Marriage. New York: Routledge.

Paterson, L.L. & G. Turner. 2023. Power, protests, and politics: the discursive construction of marriage. In L.L. Paterson & G. Turner (eds). Approaches to Discourses of Marriage. New York: Routledge.

Paterson, L.L. & I. van der Bom. 2021. Postscript: Reflections on establishing the Journal of Language and Discrimination. Journal of Language and Discrimination 5(1): 78-86.

Paterson, L.L. 2020. Non-sexist language policy and the rise (and fall?) of combined pronouns in British and American written English. Journal of English Linguistics (special issue) 48(3): 258-281.

Paterson, L.L. 2020. Electronic supplement analysis of multiple texts: Exploring discourses of UK poverty in below the line comments. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 25(1): 62-88.

Paterson, L.L. 2020. Mapping austerity: Geographical Text Analysis of UK place-names in the Guardian and the Telegraph. In T. Greibel, S. Evert, and P. Heinrich (eds). Texts and Images of Austerity in Britain. Corpus-Assisted Analyses. London: Routledge. pp 65-58. 

van der Bom, I. & L.L. Paterson. 2020. Revisiting the Welfare State Through the Decades: An Examination of the Welfare State in The Times newspaper from 1940-2009. In E.M. Gomez-Jimenez & M. Toolan (eds). The Discursive Construction of Inequality in the British Media: CADS Approaches. London: Bloomsbury. pp 49–68.

Gregory, I. & L.L. Paterson. 2020. English Language and Spatial Humanities: Representations of poverty in Historical Newspapers. In S. Adolphs and D. Knight (eds). The Routledge Handbook of English Language and Digital Humanities. London: Routledge. pp 418-439.

Paterson, L.L. & G. Turner. 2020. Introduction: Approaches to Discourses of Marriage. Critical Discourse Studies (special issue) 17(2): 133-137.

Paterson, L.L. & I. Gregory. 2019. Represenations of Poverty and Place: Using Geographical Text Analysis to understand Discourse. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Paterson, L.L. & L. Coffey-Glover. 2018. Discourses of marriage across same-sex marriage debates in the UK press 2011-2014. Journal of Language and Sexuality 7(2): 175-204.

Paterson, L.L. 2018. “You can just give those documents to myself’: Untriggered reflexive pronouns in 21st century spoken British English. In V. Brezina, R. Love & K. Aijmer. 2018. Sociolinguistic Variation in Contemporary British English: Exploration of the Spoken BNC2014. New York: Routledge. pp 235-255.

van der Bom, I., L.L. Paterson, K. Grainger & D. Peplow. 2018. ‘It’s not the fact that they claim benefits but their useless, lazy, drug taking lifestyles we despise’: Analysing audience responses to #BenefitsStreet using live tweets. Discourse, Context & Media 21: 36-45.

Turner, G., S. Mills, I. van der Bom, L. Coffey-Glover, L.L. Paterson & L. Jones. 2017. Opposition as victimhood in media debates about same-sex marriage. Discourse & Society 29(2): 180-197.

Paterson, L.L., D. Peplow & K. Grainger. 2017. Does money talk equal class talk? Audience responses to poverty porn in relation to money and debt. In A. Mooney & E. Sifaki (eds). The Language of Money and Debt: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Basingstoke: Palgrave. pp 205-232.

Gregoriou, C. & L.L. Paterson. 2017. “Reservoir of rage swamps Wall St”: The linguistic construction and evaluation of Occupy in international print media. Journal of Language, Aggression and Conflict 5(1): 57-80.

Jones, L., S. Mills, L.L. Paterson, G. Turner & L. Coffey-Glover. 2017. Identity and naming practices in marriage and civil partnerships. Gender & Language.

Handforth, R., L.L. Paterson, L. Coffey-Glover & S. Mills. 2017. Reading between Blurred Lines: The complexity of interpretation. Discourse, Context & Media 20: 103-115.

Paterson, L.L., L. Coffey-Glover & D. Peplow. 2016. Negotiating stance within discourses of class: Reactions to Benefits Street. Discourse & Society 27(2): 195-214.

van der Bom, I., L. Coffey-Glover, L. Jones, S. Mills & L.L. Paterson. 2015. Implicit homophobic argument structure: Equal marriage discourse in the Moral Maze. Journal of Language and Sexuality 4(1): 102-137.

Paterson, L.L. 2014. British Pronoun Use, Prescription, and Processing: Linguistic and Social Influences Affecting he and they. London: Palgrave.

Paterson, L.L. 2011. Book Review: The Bishop’s Grammar: Robert Lowth and the Rise of Prescriptivism. Linguist list [linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-2940.html].

Paterson, L.L. 2011. Epicene pronouns in UK national newspapers: A diachronic study. ICAME 36: 171-186.

Paterson, L.L. 2010. Grammar and the English National Curriculum. Language and Education 24(6): 473-484.

Teaching interests

I would be interested in supervising postgraduate students in the following areas:

  • Corpus Linguistics
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Representations of marginalised groups
  • UK poverty
  • Language, Gender, and Identity
  • Linguistic discrimination

Impact and engagement

Spencer, K & J. Mansaray. 2021. Mila Jam: Trans singer says a 'revolution' is happening in the face of a 'pushback' against pronouns. Sky News 31 October 2021. 

Harmsen, Peter. 2021. Effekten af intetkøn [The effect of no gender] Weekendavidsen 22 October 2021. 

Which Poverty and Place: Why how we label different areas matters. OpenLearn 10 March 2021. Online. Available at: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/linguistics/which-poverty-and-place-why-how-we-label-different-areas-matters.

New Books Podcast (New Books Network), 17 November 2020.

Science, speech, and self-esteem. 2019. Women’s Health Live, London, 4 May 2019

Discourse and the media. 2018. Presented at the public seminar series Critical discourse and resistance: How language promotes inequality, Serenity Café, Edinburgh, 18 May 2018.

Paterson, L.L. & G. Turner. 2018. BAAL/Cambridge University Press Seminar: Discourses of Marriage. BAAL News 112: 18-19.

Jones, L. & L.L. Paterson. 2016. Surname strategies: The results! Discourses of Marriage Blog. Available at: http://discoursesofmarriage.blogspot.com/2016/02/surname-strategies-results.html. 

Paterson, LL. 2015. Implied sexism in UK Deed Pool procedures. Discourses of Marriage Blog. Available at: http://discoursesofmarriage.blogspot.com/2015/04/implied-sexism-in-uk-deed-poll.html.

Newcastle Noir Festival. 2015. Presented workshops on stylistics and crime fiction for budding crime authors alongside C. Gregoriou.

Paterson, L.L. 2015. Does it matter what pronoun you use? ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) blog. Available at: http://cass.lancs.ac.uk/does-it-matter-what-pronoun-you-use/.

Harding, E. 2015. To boldly use ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ with a singular antecedent. TCANZ Blog. Online. Available at: http://blog.tcanz.org.nz/to-boldly-use-they-instead-of-he-with-a-singular-antecedent/. 

Saner, E. 2014. RBS: The bank that likes to say Mx. Guardian 17 November 2014. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2014/nov/17/rbs-bank-that-likes-to-say-mx. Quoted as expert on gender-neutral pronouns. 

 

Publications

Same-sex marriage, gay marriage, or equal marriage? Category construction in a corpus of 21st century newspaper texts (2024)
Paterson, Laura L and McGlashan, Mark
Journal of Language and Sexuality, 13(2)


Postscript: Reflections on establishing the Journal of Language and Discrimination (2021-04-27)
van der Bom, Isabelle and Paterson, Laura L.
Journal of Language and Discrimination, 5(1) (pp. 78-86)


[Book review] Dennis Baron, What's your pronoun? Beyond he & she (2021-04)
Paterson, Laura L
Language in Society, 50(2) (pp. 314-317)


Non-sexist Language Policy and the Rise (and Fall?) of Combined Pronouns in British and American Written English (2020-09-01)
Paterson, Laura L.
Journal of English Linguistics, 48(3) (pp. 258-281)


Electronic supplement analysis of multiple texts: Exploring discourses of UK poverty in Below the Line comments (2020-04-16)
Paterson, Laura L.
International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 25(1) (pp. 62-88)


Approaches to discourses of marriage (2020)
Paterson, Laura L. and Turner, Georgina
Critical Discourse Studies, 17(2) (pp. 133-137)


[Book Review] Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University: Feminist Flights, Fights, and Failures edited by Yvette Taylor and Kinneret Lahad (2018) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 368pp (2019)
Paterson, Laura L
Gender and Language, 13(3) (pp. 1-6)


Discourses of marriage in same-sex marriage debates in the UK press 2011-2014 (2018-10-31)
Paterson, Laura L. and Coffey-Glover, Laura
Journal of Language and Sexuality, 7(2) (pp. 175-204)


‘It’s not the fact they claim benefits but their useless, lazy, drug taking lifestyles we despise’: Analysing audience responses to Benefits Street using live tweets (2018-03-31)
van der Bom, Isabelle; Paterson, Laura L; Peplow, David and Grainger, Karen
Discourse, Context & Media, 21 (pp. 36-45)


Opposition as victimhood in newspaper debates about same-sex marriage (2018-03-01)
Turner, Georgina; Mills, Sara; van der Bom, Isabelle; Coffey-Glover, Laura; Paterson, Laura L and Jones, Lucy
Discourse and Society, 29(2) (pp. 180-197)


Reading between Blurred Lines: The complexity of interpretation (2017-12)
Handforth, Rachel; Paterson, Laura L.; Coffey-Glover, Laura and Mills, Sara
Discourse, Context & Media, 20 (pp. 103-115)


“Reservoir of rage swamps Wall St” The linguistic construction and evaluation of Occupy in international print media (2017-08)
Gregoriou, Christiana and Paterson, Laura L.
Journal of Language, Aggression and Conflict, 5(1) (pp. 57-80)


Identity and naming practices in British marriage and civil partnerships (2017)
Jones, Lucy; Mills, Sara; Paterson, Laura L.; Turner, Georgina and Coffey-Glover, Laura
Gender and Language, 11(3) (pp. 309-335)


Negotiating stance within discourses of class: Reactions to Benefits Street (2016-03-01)
Paterson, Laura L.; Coffey-Glover, Laura and Peplow, David
Discourse & Society, 27(2) (pp. 195-214)


Implicit homophobic argument structure: Equal-marriage discourse in The Moral Maze (2015-01-31)
van der Bom, Isabelle; Coffey-Glover, Laura; Jones, Lucy; Mills, Sara and Paterson, Laura L.
Journal of Language and Sexuality, 4(1) (pp. 102-137)


Representations of Poverty and Place: Using Geographical Text Analysis to Understand Discourse. (2018-11-26)
Paterson, Laura L. and Gregory, Ian N.
ISBN : 978-3-319-93503-4 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : Basingstoke


British Pronoun Use, Prescription, and Processing: Linguistic and Social Influences Affecting 'They' and 'He' (2014-07-25)
Paterson, Laura L
ISBN : 9781137332738 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan


The little words that mean a lot (2024)
Paterson, Laura L.
In: Paterson, Laura L. ed. The Routledge Handbook of Pronouns (pp. 1-4)
Publisher : Routledge


Mapping Austerity: Geographical Text Analysis of UK Place-Names in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph (2020-08-19)
Paterson, Laura L.
In: Greibel, T.; Evert, S. and Heinrich, P. eds. Multimodal Approaches to Media Discourses Reconstructing the Age of Austerity in the United Kingdom (pp. 65-87)
ISBN : 9780367332891 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Revisiting the welfare state through the decades: Investigating the discursive construction of the welfare state in the Times from 1940-2009 (2020-07-23)
van der Bom, Isabelle and Paterson, Laura L.
In: Gomez-Jimenez, Eva M. and Toolan, Michael eds. The Discursive Construction of Economic Inequality: CADS Approaches to the British Media (pp. 49-68)
Publisher : Bloomsbury


English Language and History: Geographical Representations of Poverty in Historical Newspapers (2020-05-05)
Gregory, Ian N. and Paterson, Laura L.
In: Adolphs, Svenja and Knight, Dawn eds. The Routledge Handbook of English Language and Digital Humanities. (pp. 418-439)
ISBN : 9781138901766 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


“You can just give those documents to myself’: Untriggered reflexive pronouns in 21st century spoken British English (2018-05-01)
Paterson, Laura
In: Brezina, Vaclav; Love, Robbie and Aijmer, Karin eds. Corpus Approaches to Contemporary British Speech. Sociolinguistic Studies of the Spoken (BNC2014)
ISBN : 9781138287273 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Does Money Talk Equate to Class Talk? Audience Responses to Poverty Porn in Relation to Money and Debt (2017-07-01)
Paterson, Laura L.; Peplow, David and Grainger, Karen
In: Mooney, Annabelle and Sifaki, Evi eds. The Language of Money and Debt: A Multidisciplinary Approach (pp. 205-231)
ISBN : 978-3-319-57568-1 | Publisher : Palgrave


The Routledge Handbook of Pronouns (2024)
Paterson, Laura L.
Paterson, Laura L ed.
Publisher : Routledge