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Languages and Applied Linguistics

An image to illustrate studying languages and applied linguistics with The Open University.

The Language and Literacies Research Cluster is located in the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET). Researchers in language and literacies view language as a powerful social and cultural phenomenon and adopt a range of socially oriented approaches towards the study of language across the lifespan. A wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches are used, including cognitive stylistics, complexity theory, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, multimodality, linguistic ethnography, metaphor theory, literary theory and criticism, semiotics, systemic functional linguistics, sociocultural theory, social network theory and sociolinguistics.

These approaches are used to explore language in many contexts such as language education, teaching and learning across the curriculum, social work, medical humanities, conflict resolution, language policy, digitally mediated communication, social media, language and globalisation.

Our work covers a range of exciting research areas with particular foci as follows:

  • Academic and professional literacies, including digital literacy development of teachers
  • English in a global context: the role, status and use of English around the world in the era of globalisation including the use of English as a language for international development, and English and the language of social media
  • Language and creativity
  • Metaphor and empathy
  • Literary reading and interpretation
  • Children’s informal language and literacy practices
  • Language, literacy and learning in a digital world
  • Multimodal meaning making, including in early years and inclusive education, as well as foreign and second languages
  • Foreign- and second-language learning and teaching in a range of contexts, including independent learning, the application of new technologies, culture and language learning; learner autonomy, motivation and strategies
  • Language as a social semiotic tool for teaching and learning
  • Language and literacy in health and social care settings.

Key facts

  • You will have the opportunity to work with leading researchers in their fields
  • We have 10 PhD and 36 EdD students studying with us, forming a strong research student community
  • Students participate in a wide range of academic and social events

The MRes provides an excellent foundation for PhD studies.


Specialist software for language data analysis, including access to several large corpora, is available.

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Mrs Anne Foward
+44 (0)1908 655364

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.


Research publications by Open University staff are available through Open Research Online (ORO), the university's repository of research publications and other research outputs. ORO can be searched or browsed by staff name or subject.

The following list, generated from ORO, provides a flavour of the most recently published work in Languages and Applied Linguistics