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Personal profile

Supervisory Interests

I currently have a number of PhD students, working on a range of issues: the communication of mathematics (this PhD has a creative practice component); the role of prosody in the development of pragmatic competence among L2 learners; lexical pragmatics and ‘Netspeak’ among Chinese internet users; adopting a ‘difference-not-deficit’ approach to language-use among people with autism. All of these reflect my interest in territories beyond those linguists and pragmatists traditionally seek to explore.

Specific areas of enquiry include:

  • Pragmatics
  • Relevance theory
  • Non-verbal communication (including prosody)
  • Expressive meaning
  • Emotions and the communication of emotion
  • Pragmatics and cognitive science

Scholarly biography

I am interested in pragmatics, the study of utterance interpretation. In particular, my research explores how ‘natural’, non-linguistic behaviours – tone of voice, facial expressions, gesture – interact with the linguistic properties of utterances (broadly speaking, the words we say). Natural behaviours help us convey our intended meanings and yet the question of how they interact with language is often ignored by linguists. My main theses are outlined in my 2009 book, Pragmatics and Non-Verbal Communication, which charts a point of contact between pragmatics, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, ethology and psychology, and provides the analytical basis to answer some important questions: How are natural behaviours interpreted? What do they convey? How can they be best accommodated within a theory of utterance interpretation?

My research increasingly reflects the cross-disciplinary nature of pragmatics. Here are a few examples:

  • Dr Patricia Kolaiti and I have recently won a Marie Sklodowska Curie International Fellowship. From October 2018 we will be working in Brighton on her research project: ‘Literature as a Cognitive Object’.
  • I am co-founder of the ‘Beyond Meaning’ research network project with colleagues from Université de Neuchatel and The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The aim of the project is to develop an interdisciplinary, psychologically real theory of expressivity and creativity and it will involve linguists, philosophers and artists. The Beyond Meaning network helds its first international conference in September 2017 and on behalf of the network I am organising a roundtable event at Brighton in November 2019.
  • I am currently developing an ESRC proposal with colleagues from the University of Northumbria, Kingston University and Goldsmiths College for a research project which will explore the relationship between pragmatics and intonation using a psychological theory of ‘expectation’, hitherto only applied to the study of the interpretation of music.

I am currently working with my colleague Louis de Saussure on a monograph with Cambridge University Press entitled 'Pragmatics and Emotion'.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Tim Wharton is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Communication Arts & Humanities
Emotion Arts & Humanities
Prosody Arts & Humanities
Language Arts & Humanities
Utterance Arts & Humanities
Intentional Communication Arts & Humanities
Dichotomy Arts & Humanities
Intentions Arts & Humanities

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2018 2020

CL: MSCA-IF Literature and Art as a Cognitive Object

Wharton, T. & Kolaiti, P.


Project: Grant

Research Output 2003 2019

La notion de pertinence au défi des effets émotionnels

Translated title of the contribution: Relevance and emotional effevctsde Saussure, L. & Wharton, T., 5 Jul 2019, In : Travaux interdisciplinaires sur la parole et le langage (TIPA). 35, Emo-Langages, p. 1-23

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
Relevance Theory

Slave to the passions: Making emotions relevant

Wharton, T. & Strey, C., Jun 2019, (Accepted/In press) Relevance: Pragmatics and Interpretation. Scott, K., Clark, B. & Carston, R. (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 253-267 14 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterResearchpeer-review



Wharton, T., 1 Sep 2016, The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics. Barron, A., Steen, G. & Yueguo, G. (eds.). London: Routledge, p. 69-75 7 p. (Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterResearchpeer-review

Speaker Meaning


Wharton, T., 30 Nov 2016, International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology: Anthropology Beyond text. Callan, H. (ed.). New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, Vol. 12.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterResearchpeer-review

natural sciences
social science

Ugly Food: Overlooked and undercooked

Wharton, T. & Horsey, R., 1 Dec 2016, London, UK: Hurst & Co. 288 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authoredResearch