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Professor Billy Clark

Professor of English Language and Linguistics

Department: Humanities

Professor Billy Clark leads research in linguistics at Northumbria University. His research interests include aspects of linguistic semantics, pragmatics, prosodic meaning, stylistics, multimodal meaning and semantic change (all of which share a focus on aspects of linguistic and non-linguistic meaning). 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 Definite Article for AQA (an awarding body offering GCSE, AS and A Level qualifications), a website which offers research digests and other resources for teachers.

Campus Address

Office: Lipman 418

0191 227 4816


  • PhD in Linguistics, University College London
  • PG Diploma in Linguistics, University College London
  • MA (Hons) English Language and Literature, University of Aberdeen

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

  • Relevance theory
  • Pragmatic stylistics
  • Prosodic meaning
  • Multimodal communication
  • Semantic change

Teaching Interests

  • Linguistic semantics and pragmatics
  • Stylistics
  • Linguistic theory
  • Philosophy of language
  • Research methods

Selected publications

Clark, Billy. 2017. Drawing things together: concluding remarks. In Depraetere, Ilse and Raf Salkie (eds.) Drawing a Line: Perspectives on the semantics-pragmatic interface. Springer, Berlin: 343-354.

Clark, Billy. 2016. Relevance theory and language change. Lingua 175-176: 139-153.

Clark, Billy. 2016. Pragmatics. In Marcello Giovanelli and Dan Clayton (eds.) Knowing About Language: Linguistics and the Secondary English Classroom. Routledge, London: 64-76. (This collection is one of four which were nominated for the UK Literacy Association’s Academic Book Award 2017).

Clark, Billy. 2015. ‘What do you want me to tell?’ The inferential texture of Alice Munro’s Postcard. Études de Stylistique Anglaise, volume 8: 99-120.

Forceville, Charles and Billy Clark. 2014. Do pictures have explicatures? Linguagem em (Dis)curso 14.3: 451-472.

Chapman, Siobhan and Billy Clark (eds.) 2014. Pragmatic Literary Stylistics. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Clark, Billy. 2014. Before, during and after Chekhov: Inference, literary interpretation and literary value. In Chapman, S. and Billy Clark (eds.) Pragmatic Literary Stylistics. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke: 55-69.

Clark, Billy. 2014. Pragmatics and inference. In Stockwell, P. and S. Whiteley (eds.) Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 300-314.

Clark, Billy. 2014. Stylistics and relevance theory. In Burke, M. (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics. Routledge, London: 155-174.

Clark, Billy. 2013. Relevance Theory. Cambridge University Press

Clark, Billy. 2013. Procedures and prosody: understanding weak communication. In Liedtke, Frank and Cornelia Schulze, (eds.) Beyond Words: Content, contexts and inference. Mouton Series in Pragmatics. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin: 151-182.

Clark, Billy. 2012. The Relevance of Tones: Prosodic meanings in utterance interpretation and in relevance theory. The Linguistic Review 29.4: 643-661.

Clark, Billy. 2012. Beginning with One More Thing: Pragmatics and editorial intervention in the work of Raymond Carver. Journal of Literary Semantics 41.2: 155-174.

Clark, Billy and Nicola Owtram. 2012. Imagined inference: teaching writers to think like readers. In Burke, M., Czabo, S., Week, L. and J. Berkowitz (eds.) Current Trends in Pedagogical Stylistics. Continuum, London: 126-141.

Clark, Billy. 2011. Recent developments in relevance theory. In Grundy, P. and D. Archer (eds.) The Pragmatics Reader. Routledge, London: 129-137.

Partners and collaborators

  • AQA awarding body: Partners in producing ‘The Definite Article’, a website offering research digests and other resources for English teachers
  • Haringey Sixth Form College: Partners in producing ‘Haringey Unchained’, a student-produced creative writing magazine and website, 2017-2018

Funding Awards and Prizes

‘University English and New A Level Specifications’, 2018

British Academy/Leverhulme Trust small grant supporting a project in collaboration with Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University) and Marcello Giovanelli (Aston University) which investigates responses to new A Level English specifications by English departments in UK Higher Education Institutions.

‘Lang-Lit from A to BA: Student backgrounds and first year content’, 2012-2013

Higher Education Academy commissioned report in collaboration with Dr. Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University) and Marcello Giovanelli (University of Nottingham). Building on the below project, this report explores matters affecting the retention and progression of students taking ‘lang-lit’ programmes at university.

‘Lang-Lit’ from A to BA: Integrating language and literature at school and at university’, 2011-2012

Higher Education Academy funded workshop and report in collaboration with Dr. Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University). This workshop and the subsequent report investigated the relationship between ‘Lang/Lit’ work at school and in higher education, and the transition between the two.

Nominated for ‘Academic Staff Member of the Year’ in Student-Led Teaching Awards, 2017.

Current and recent projects


Integrating English

With Dr. Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University) and Dr. Marcello Giovanelli (Aston University), This project advocated a view of English as a broad, inclusive subject covering a wide range of activities which are united by an interest in texts (understood broadly)



An online journal publishing work by current and recent undergraduate students across areas of English studies


The Definite Article

An online resource for the AQA awarding body offering research digests and other resources for English teachers


UK Linguistics Olympiad

I am a committee member for this group runs a competition every year where students compete to solve linguistics puzzles. Selected winners enter the International Linguistics Olympiad and usually perform very well. The UK team were the most successful in the 2017 competition.


Media appearances

‘Speaking To Yourself’: Billy talks to host Michael Rosen in this episode of the BBC’s language programme ‘Word of Mouth’:

‘Mainstreet PEI’: Billy talks to Karen Mair on this CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio show about his talk at the APLA (Atlantic Provinces Linguistics Association) conference on Raymond Carver and how his work was edited by Gordon Lish

Professional activity

  • Member of AHRC Peer Review College
  • Member of editorial board of English Language and Linguistics, Journal of Linguistics, Journal of Pragmatics, Topics in Linguistics
  • Research evaluator for ‘VQR’ (‘Valutazione della Qualità della Ricerca’), second Italian research assessment exercise carried out by the Italian national agency Anvur (‘Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca’). 2016.

Memberships and Affiliations

  • International Pragmatics Association (IPrA)
  • International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE)
  • Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB)
  • Modern Language Association (MLA) (chair of the forum on Linguistics and Literature)
  • National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE)
  • Philological Society (PhilSoc)
  • Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA)

Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised students working on a wide range of areas in linguistics, semantics and pragmatics. I am always happy to hear about new projects in these areas.


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