Karen Grainger

Dr Karen Grainger

Associate Professor in English Language and Linguistics


I have lectured and researched in the areas of linguistics, sociolinguistics and discourse analysis at Sheffield Hallam University since 1990. I research language use and interaction in institutional, intercultural and electronic contexts and have a particular expertise in Politeness theory. I have published in the areas of health care, intercultural communication and the debate around 'deprived' children's language skills. I have been Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Politeness Research for 10 years and have published widely in this field. 



 I teach on the BA English Language degree in the areas of sociolinguistics, cross-cultural communication and pragmatics. My teaching is informed by my research and has received positive feedback from students and peer reviewers.  In my teaching career, have been Course Leader for several degrees including BA Communication Studies and MA Communication Studies. I helped develop the current BA English Language and was programme Leader for the English suite of degrees between 2012 and 2015. In terms of research, I have an international reputation in politeness theory due to editorship of the Journal of Politeness Research and the publication of a number of research articles and books which contribute to knowledge in the field.  I have also made significant contributions to the field of interactional sociolinguistics in terms of methods of data analysis and data collection, particularly in the areas of institutional talk (nurses and elderly patients) and intercultural communication.  Recent forays into educational sociolinguistics have helped to re-ignite a debate about non-standard language use in school policy and practice.  I have successfully supervised a number of PhDs and am happy to continue to supervise projects in the areas of politeness theory, interactional sociolinguistics and educational sociolinguistics.  

Politeness Theory; institutional interaction; interactional sociolinguistics; educational sociolinguistics; intercultural communication.


Department of Humanities

College of Social Sciences and Arts

The pragmatics of Zimbabwean English; the discourse of elderly care; indirectness across cultures; language deficit revisited; the pathologisation of non-standard language.

English Language

BA English Language; BA English

Sociolinguistics; Pragmatics & Politeness: English Language dissertation 


(1) Norms and Normativity in Indirectness across Cultures.  (journal paper in progress).   

(2) Conceptualisations of English in UK Educational Policy’.

'Language, Education and Disadvantage: a response to the deficit model of children's language competence' Report of the BAAL/CUP Seminar, April 2011.

Linguistic Politeness Research Group


Journal articles

Grainger, K., & O’Driscoll, J. (2022). Editorial: where we have been and where we are going. Journal of Politeness Research, 18 (1), 1-9. http://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2021-2041

Grainger, K. (2018). “We’re not in a club now”: a neo-Brown and Levinson approach to analyzing courtroom data. Journal of Politeness Research, 14 (1), 19-38. http://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0039

Van Der Bom, I., Grainger, K., Paterson, L., & Peplow, D. (2017). ‘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. Discourse, Context, & Media, 21, 36-45. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2017.11.003

Van Der Bom, I., & Grainger, K. (2015). Journal of Politeness Research: Introduction. Journal of Politeness Research, 11 (2), 165-178. http://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0007

Grainger, K., Kerkam, Z., Mansor, F., & Mills, S. (2015). Offering and hospitality in Arabic and English. Journal of Politeness Research, 11 (1), 41-70. http://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0003

Grainger, K. (2013). "The daily grunt": middle class bias and vested interests in the 'Getting in Early' and 'Why Can't They Read?' reports. Language and Education, 27 (2), 99-109. http://doi.org/10.1080/09500782.2012.760583

Grainger, K. (2013). Of babies and bath water: Is there any place for Austin and Grice in interpersonal pragmatics? Journal of Pragmatics, 58, 27-38. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.08.008

Grainger, K., & Jones, P.E. (2013). The ‘Language Deficit’ argument and beyond. Language and Education, 27 (2), 95-98. http://doi.org/10.1080/09500782.2012.760582

Grainger, K. (2013). Call for Papers. Journal of Politeness Research, 9 (2). http://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2013-0012

Grainger, K., Mills, S., & Sibanda, M. (2010). "Just tell us what to do": Southern African face and its relevance to intercultural communication. Journal of Pragmatics, 42 (8), 2158-2171. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.12.017

Bousfield, D., & Grainger, K. (2010). Introduction. Politeness research: Retrospect and prospect. Journal of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture, 6 (2). http://doi.org/10.1515/jplr.2010.009

Grainger, K., & Harris, S. (2007). Special Issue: Apologies: Introduction. Journal of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture, 3 (1), 1-9. http://doi.org/10.1515/pr.2007.001

Harris, S., Grainger, K., & Mullany, L. (2006). The pragmatics of political apologies. Discourse and society, 17 (6), 715-737. http://doi.org/10.1177/0957926506068429

Grainger, K., Jennings, M., & Masterson, S. (2005). ‘Things aren't the same, are they?’: the management of bad news delivery in the discourse of stroke care. Communication and medicine, 2 (1), 35-44. http://doi.org/10.1515/come.2005.2.1.35

Grainger, K. (2004). Verbal play on the hospital ward: solidarity or power? Multilingua: journal of cross-cultural and interlanguage communication, 23 (1-2), 39-59. http://doi.org/10.1515/mult.2004.007

Makoni, S., & Grainger, K. (2002). Comparative gerontolinguistics: characterizing discourses in caring institutions in South Africa and United Kingdom. Journal of social issues, 58. http://doi.org/10.1111/1540-4560.00291

Grainger, K.P. (1999). Book Reviews. Discourse & Society, 10 (3), 444-446. http://doi.org/10.1177/0957926599010003010

Grainger, K. (1998). Reality orientation in institutions for the elderly: The perspective from interactional sociolinguistics. Journal of Aging Studies, 12 (1), 39-56. http://doi.org/10.1016/s0890-4065(98)90019-6

Grainger, K. (1993). “That's a lovely bath dear”: Reality construction in the discourse of elderly care. Journal of Aging Studies, 7 (3), 247-262. http://doi.org/10.1016/0890-4065(93)90014-b

Coupland, J., Coupland, N., & Grainger, K. (1991). Intergenerational Discourse: Contextual Versions of Ageing and Elderliness. Ageing and Society, 11 (2), 189-208. http://doi.org/10.1017/s0144686x00004001

Coupland, N., Grainger, K., & Coupland, J. (1988). Politeness in context: Intergenerational issues (Review article). Language in Society, 17 (2), 253-262. http://doi.org/10.1017/s0047404500012793

Conference papers

Bates, C., Doherty, K., & Grainger, K. (2011). Understanding Programmers Through Discourse Analysis. In RAISE 2011, University Central Lanacashire, Preston, UK, 9 June 2011. http://www.agilenorth.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Whats-the-Sense-of-Using-Echo.pdf

Grainger, K. (2011). "The Daily Grunt":The resurgence of the deficit model of language competence in children. In Language, Education and Disadvantage, Sheffield Hallam University, 19 April 2011 - 20 April 2011.

Bates, C., Doherty, K., & Grainger, K. (2011). Facework in a pair-programming session. In Psychology of Programming Interest Group Work in Progress, Sheffield Hallam University, 18 April 2011 - 19 April 2011. http://extra.shu.ac.uk/crr/wip_ppig_2011/

Mcseveny, K., Grainger, K., & Doherty, K. (2010). I'm sooooo chuffed : face management in reports of success on an online weight loss message board. In Fifth International Symposium on Politeness, University of Basel, 30 June 2010 - 2 July 2010.

Mcseveny, K., Doherty, K., & Grainger, K. (2009). Laugh out loud : humour, confession and identity management in an online weight loss support group. In Laughter and Humour in Interaction Conference, University of Huddersfield, 24 June 2009 - 25 June 2009.

Mcseveny, K., Doherty, K., & Grainger, K. (2009). "I was in the same boat" : advicegivingand solidarity inan online weight loss community. In 1st Autumn Conference of Interpersonal Communication and Social Interaction Section of ECREA, Tampere, Finland, 21 October 2009 - 23 October 2009.

Grainger, K., Mills, S., & Sibanda, M. (2008). The Southern African concept of ‘face’ and its relevance tointercultural interaction. In 4th International Symposium on Politeness, Budapest, 2 July 2008 - 4 July 2008.

Grainger, K., Doherty, K., & Mcseveny, K. (2006). "Stop Cheating": impoliteness on a weight watchers message board. In 2nd International Symposium on Politeness, Huddersfield University, 1 July 2006.

Book chapters

Grainger, K., & Xie, C. (2020). Norms and normativity in indirectness across cultures. In Advancing (Im)politeness Studies. Springer

Grainger, K. (2020). Take Care of Yourself: Negotiating Moral and Professional Face in Stroke Rehabilitation. In Archer, D., Grainger, K., & Jagodziński, P. (Eds.) Politeness in Professional Contexts. John Benjamins: http://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.311.04gra

Archer, D., Grainger, K., & Jagodziński, P. (2020). Chapter 1. Introduction. In Politeness in Professional Contexts. (pp. 1-22). John Benjamins Publishing Company: http://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.311.01acr

Grainger, K. (2020). Reality Orientation in Institutions for the Elderly: The Perspective from Interactional Sociolinguistics. In Language in Use: A Reader. (pp. 69-81).

Paterson, L., Grainger, K., & Peplow, D. (2017). Does money talk equate to class talk? Audience responses to poverty porn in relation to money and debt. In Mooney, A., & Sifaki, E. (Eds.) The Language of Money and Debt : a Multidisciplinary Approach. (pp. 205-231). Palgrave Macmillan: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57568-1_9

Grainger, K. (2011). 'First order' and 'second order' politeness: institutional and intercultural contexts. In Discursive approaches to politeness. (pp. 167-188). Berlin: De Gruyter Moulton: http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/128851?format=G

Grainger, K. (2010). Indirectness in Zimbabwean English : a study of intercultural communication in the UK. In Bargiela-Chiappini, F., & Kadar, D.Z. (Eds.) Politeness across cultures. (pp. 171-193). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Grainger, K. (2004). Communication and the institutionalized elderly. In Handbook of Communication and Aging Research. (pp. 479-497).


Archer, D., Grainger, K., & Jagodziński, P. (Eds.). (2020). Politeness in Professional Contexts. John Benjamins. https://benjamins.com/catalog/pbns.311

Archer, D., Grainger, K., & Jagodziński, P. (Eds.). (2020). Politeness in Professional Contexts. John Benjamins. https://benjamins.com/catalog/pbns.311

Grainger, K., & Mills, S. (2015). Directness and indirectness across cultures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Theses / Dissertations

Mansor, F.A. (2017). Politeness and offering in Libyan Arabic hospitality. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Grainger, K. http://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00053

Alzouebi, A. (2015). Teachers' and Roma students' experiences of the ESOL classroom in Yorkshire. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Ridley, D., & Grainger, K.

Kerkam, Z.M. (2015). A comparison of Arabic and English directness and indirectness : Cross-cultural politeness. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Mills, S., & Grainger, K.

Bates, C.D. (2014). Message passing: How software engineers use talk. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Doherty, K., & Grainger, K.

McSeveny, K. (2009). The management of identity and accountabilityin online weight loss discourse. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Doherty, K., & Grainger, K.

Nishimura, Y. (2008). Aspects of Japanese computer-mediated communication : linguistics and socio-cultural perspectives. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Yates, S., & Grainger, K.


Grainger, K. (2018). Norms and normativity in indirectness across cultures. Presented at: International Symposium on Advances in (im)politeness studies, Fujian Normal University, China

Grainger, K., & Jones, P.E. (2017). Challenging the pathologisation of non-standard language. Presented at: British Association of Applied Linguistics, annual conference, Leeds University, UK

Other activities

External examiner for Aston University English programme

Postgraduate supervision

• 1 Masters by Research successfully completed: Amina Alzouebi, ' Teachers' experiences of teaching Roma students in an ESL classroom' ( 2015)

• Currently supervising: Thomas Price: 'Autism and Politeness'   Mark Stott: 'Integrationism' ; Claire Ashmore: perceptual Dialectology                                          

Student Writing' (1998)
'Interaction on a Weight Loss Message Board' (2010)
'CMC on Japanese Message Boards' (2008)
'How Software Engineers Use Talk' (2014)
'Indirectness in Libyan Arabic speakers'.2015

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