Professor Hilary Nesi

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Professor Hilary Nesi

Professor in English Language

My Research Vision

I am interested in all aspects of language use in social contexts, across time, space, and discourse communities. My investigations into the design and use of academic corpora and corpus-informed lexical reference tools are motivated by a desire to improve the effectiveness of scholarly communication, and to support international students and scholars.


Hilary Nesi is Professor in English Language at Coventry University. Her research activities largely concern corpus development and analysis, the discourse of English for academic purposes (EAP), and the design and use of dictionaries and reference tools for academic contexts. She publishes, presents papers, and supervises PhD students in all these areas.  She was one of the developers of the business correspondence component of the JISC-funded BT e-Archive, and was principal investigator for the project to create the BASE corpus of British Academic Spoken English, and for the project to create the BAWE corpus: 'An Investigation of Genres of Assessed Writing in British Higher Education'. She is currently leading the development of the Engineering Lecture Corpus (ELC). Hilary also writes EAP  teaching and learning materials: she led the development team for the EASE academic speaking and listening series, and the ESRC-funded ‘Writing for a Purpose’ project on the British Council ‘Learn English’ website.

Selected Outputs

Selected Projects

  • An investigation of genres of assessed writing in British Higher Education. This project created the BAWE corpus and identified the different written genres university students are required to produce. BAWE will remain a record of British university student writing at the turn of the century, and may be compared with corpora compiled in the future to investigate diachronic change in academic language use.
  • Writing for a purpose: materials to improve the quality of discipline-specific student work. This project followed on from 'An Investigation of Genres of Assessed Writing in British Higher Education', a three-year study which identified and described the linguistic and organizational features of successful student assignments. It drew on the knowledge gained from the original study to build a substantial bank of online materials, designed with the discipline-specific learning needs of novice academic writers in mind. The materials are hosted and maintained on the popular British Council 'Learn English' website.
  • A study of lecturing styles in Malaysia and the UK. The project aimed to identify and describe typical lecture discourse features, compare English-medium lecturing styles in Malaysia and the UK, and explore the current role of English-medium instruction in Malaysian HE. This entailed developing a small corpus of engineering lectures for use in staff development, lecturer training and EAP instruction.
  • The enhancement of the British Academic Spoken English corpus. The project enhances the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus, which enables, amongst other things, the investigation of: (i) the frequency and range of academic lexis; (ii) the meaning and use of individual words and multi-word units; (iii) the information structure and thematic structure of academic lectures; (iv) the pace, density and delivery styles of academic lectures; (v) patterns of interaction, including turn-taking and topic selection in seminars; (vi) the representation of ideas and the expression of attitudes; (vii) variation between British and American academic speech. BASE will remain a record of British spoken academic discourse at the turn of the century, and may be compared with corpora compiled in the future to investigate diachronic change in academic language use.
  • Digitising experiences of migration: the development of interconnected letter collections. A project to bring together different stakeholders currently working with emigrant letter collections, to discuss issues and challenges surrounding digitisation, build capacity relating to correspondence annotation, and initiate the process of interconnecting resources to encourage cross-disciplinary research.
  • The Word Tree corpus interface. The most important information contained in a corpus concerns patterns of language use, but these patterns are often hard to discern when corpus data is is presented in the standard way, using Key Words in Context (KWIC) concordance lines. This project built a Word Tree interface to present the patterns visually. Following an “onion” model, users are able to interact with the surface layer of data, but are offered opportunities to enter more complex digital environments where they can examine phraseological patterns in their wider contexts.
Research breakout image

Professor in English Language

Building: George Eliot
Room: GE610
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