Dr Joan Cutting

Honorary Fellow


I began my teaching career in Havana, Cuba, where I taught Business English and ran a TEFL Masters programme for English teachers in the medical schools, for 13 years. I returned to the UK in 1990 and taught English for Academic Purposes and MA TESOL in the University of Sunderland. I now teach on the University of Edinburgh's MSc TESOL and I have several PhD students. I have undertaken consultancy in Russia (Cherepovets), mainland China (Beijing, Changchun, Chongqin, Guangzhou, Hefei, Nanjing, Nanning, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Zhejiang) and Hong Kong. I was Meetings Secretary for the British Association for Applied Linguistics 2004-07.


British Association for Applied Linguistics


  • University of Birmingham, BA Hons French Language and Literature, Italian
  • Trinity College Licentiate Diploma Teaching of English as a Foreign Language
  • University of Edinburgh, MSc Applied Linguistics
  • University of Edinburgh, PhD in Applied Linguistics: 'MSc common room casual conversations: a lexico-grammatical longitudinal study of a discourse community in formation'

Postgraduate teaching

I currently supervise students in the following areas:

  • Vague Language in learners of Persian
  • Language and Identity of Refugees in Scotland
  • Identity of Chinese Learning Assistants in Scotland

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

See Graduate School website

Past PhD students supervised

  • I have taken ten students to completion

Research summary

I analyse naturally-occurring spoken and written language, using corpus linguistics, and suggest applications to TEFL and teacher training. My main interests are:

  • Vague language (e.g. 'do', 'thing', 'and all that') and its social function
  • International student interactions in UK university tutorials

Other interests include:

  • In-group code of academic discourse communities
  • Spoken grammar and Corpus Linguistics

Current research interests

Intercultural Pragmatics and Language Teaching. Vague Language (e.g. 'do', 'thing', 'and all that') and its social function in French, Spanish, German and Mandarin. Critical Discourse Analysis.

Past research interests

Airport English

Knowledge exchange

The impact of my Airport English European project on English teachers and airport workers.

Project activity

Current projects:

  • 'Shen Me Dong Dong': beliefs about Mandarin vague language
  • The fine line between critical cultural awareness and negative stance to other cultures in students’ pragmatics journals
  • 'Blog in-group stance markers': ‘an eye-opener’ for The Research 9
  • Vague language and empowerment in supervision meetings

Recent projects:

  • Corpus analysis of written feedback given by tutors and classroom teachers to students on school placement, University of Edinburgh 2013.
  • ‘Dingsbums and dong dong: vague language across cultures’, University of Edinburgh 2013.
  • A TEMPUS staff exchange project with Karlsruhe Education University, Germany.
  • Second-language Competency for Technicians in Industry (Lang2Tech) Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation, European Commission 2012-14.  
  • The organisation, with Dr Brona Murphy, of the 2010 Inter-Varietal Corpus Studies (IVACS) Conference, The University of Edinburgh, 18-19 June 2010.
  • The organisation of the Annual 2009 Inter-Varietal Corpus Studies (IVACS) Symposium, held at Moray House, The University of Edinburgh.
  • The organisation of a seminar of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) and Cambridge University Press entitled 'Academic Language Corpora and Education' (ALCE), The University of Edinburgh.
  • Scottish Council for Research in Education: 'Institutional Support for Overseas Students' European Commission Leonardo Languages Competences'
  • 'ELSY: Devising a Multi-media Airport Syllabus for Young People who are Unemployed and Under-qualified' European Commission Leonardo Mobility
  • 'English for Tourism and Catering' European Commission Leonardo Mobility
  • 'Airport English'  The University of Edinburgh Development Trust fund
  • 'Chinese students' needs in the UK' The University of Edinburgh RAE Enhancement fund

Past project grants

2003-06 £500,000 - European Commission Leonardo Languages Competences: ‘ELSY: Devising a Multi-media Airport Syllabus for Young People who are Unemployed and Under-qualified’, with Co-Investigators (linguists/trainers) from France, Germany, Italy and Spain. I carried out the research underpinning our English teaching materials, collecting and analysing exchanges of groundstaff.

2005 £700 - European Commission Leonardo Mobility: ‘English for Tourism and Catering’. I led 13 French teachers’ investigation of teaching at Edinburgh colleges.

2006 £17,000 - European Commission Leonardo Mobility: ‘Airport English’. I led 15 British English Language Teaching (ELT) teachers’ investigation of language in Charles de Gaulle Airport.

2011-13 £373,762 - two-year project with European Commission Lifelong Learning: ‘Lang2Tech’, to develop an ePortfolio approach to validate and certify workplace second language competence for technicians across Europe. Partners were from Italy, Lithuania, Spain and Germany. I carried out needs analysis, and recorded naturally-occurring dialogues to be used in teaching materials.

View all 33 publications on Research Explorer

Conference details

2015    ‘Discourse production in intercultural pragmatics journals’, International Pragmatics Conference, Antwerp, Belgium.

2016    ‘Spanish speakers’ attitudes towards vague language’ in Intercultural Pragmatics and Communication 7th International Conference Split, Croatia.

            ‘Vague language and international students in seminars’ and ‘Spanish speakers’ attitudes towards vague language’ in International Conference on Linguistic Attenuation: Semantic and Pragmatic Perspectives, Valencia, Spain.

2017    ‘Mandarin, German and Spanish speakers’ attitudes to VL compared’ in panel ‘Current issues in intercultural pragmatics’ in International Pragmatics Association Conference 2017, Belfast.

Invited speaker

2015    ‘Curriculum Development and Second Language Teaching’, University of Sunderland

2016    ‘Shenme dong dong: Mandarin Speakers’ Beliefs about Vague Language’, Edinburgh Napier University

2018    ‘Engaging with Critical Discourse Analysis’ in ‘Critical discourse Analysis: How Language Promotes Inequality’ workshops with Community Development in Moray House.