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Download Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme 2020/21 Flyer


 The research focus in the department is on applied linguistics, sociolinguistics and professional communication.  Thematically, the research covers major areas such as health communication, political communication, digital media communication, advertising and (city) branding, language teaching and learning, as well as core areas in linguistics, including the study of language in society and discourse analysis.

Language and Professional Communication

This research profile focuses on all areas relating to Language and Professional Communication, including lexico-grammatical, discourse, genre and pragmatic studies in professional contexts, organizational communication, intercultural and professional communicative competencies, cultural identities in the multilingual and multicultural workplaces, and English for specific purposes.

(1) Healthcare Communication

  • Prof. Louise Cummings* (Speech and Language Therapy)
  • Prof. Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen*
  • Prof. Bernadette Watson* (Application of a Language and Social Psychology perspective to Health Communication, Intergroup Communication Across Cultures in Health Communication)
  • Dr Dennis Tay* (Mental health and psychotherapy)

(2) Political Communication

  • Prof. Kathleen Ahrens* (Language and Politics, Corpus Linguistics)
  • Dr Aditi Bhatia* (Critical Discourse Analysis, language and politics/political discourse)
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Nationalism, American Dream, American identity)
  • Dr Anne Schluter (Populist discourse)

(3) Professional Communication

  • Prof. Hans Ladegaard* (Leadership & Gender, Intercultural Communication in the workplace)
  • Prof. Bernadette Watson* (Interprofessional communication in health)
  • Dr Victor Ho* (Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis)
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Intercultural Communication)
  • Dr Clarice Chan (English for Specific Purposes, Business English)
  • Dr Mable Chan (English for Specific Purposes, Workplace Communication; Business English)

(4) Scholarly Communication

  • Prof. Guangwei Hu* (Academic Discourse, Research Ethics, Scholarly Publishing)
  • Prof. Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen* (Institutional Linguistics) 

Linguistics, English Language, and Systemic Functional Linguistics

This research profile includes all areas of linguistics, English language and systemic functional linguistics, including grammar, lexicology, lexicography, pragmatics, semantics, phonetics, phonology, discourse analysis, conversation analysis, corpus linguistics, typology, and description and theory of languages and other semiotic systems.

(1) Clinical Linguistics

  • Prof. Louise Cummings* (Clinical pragmatics, communication disorders)

(2) Cognitive Linguistics

  • Prof. Kathleen Ahrens* (Metaphor Theory, Psycholinguistics)
  • Dr Dennis Tay* (Metaphor theory, Psycholinguistics, Quantitative research methods)
  • Dr William Feng*  (Multimodal Metaphor and Metonymy)
  • Dr Renia Lopez (Gestures)

(3) Corpus linguistics

  • Prof. Kathleen Ahrens* (Political Discourse Analysis)
  • Dr Phoenix Lam (Corpus-Assisted Discourse Analysis)
  • Dr Phoebe Lin (Multiword expressions, Speech prosody)

(4) Sociolinguistics

  • Prof. Hans Ladegaard* (Language & gender, Language & education)
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Linguistic anthropology, Linguistic Landscapes, Discourse analysis)
  • Dr Phoenix Lam (Linguistic landscapes)
  • Dr Anne Schluter (Language and power, Language attitudes, Language ideology )
  • Dr Gerald Stell (Language Variation, Sociology of Language, Language Perception)

(5) Systemic Functional Linguistics

  • Prof. Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen* (Appliable Discourse Analysis, Language Description & Typology, Lexicogrammatical Cartography, Probabilistic Profiling, Multilingual Studies, Registerial Cartography)
  • Dr William Feng* (Systemic functional visual grammar, Social Semiotics)

Language Teaching and Learning

This research area covers all aspects of language teaching and learning, including the teaching and learning of English and other languages, second language acquisition, needs analysis, programme evaluation, language policy, language in education, change management, teacher learning and professional development, multimodal features involved in teaching and learning, pronunciation, learner language corpora, corpus-driven studies of pedagogical grammar, classroom discourse, language across the curriculum, academic literacy, genre based pedagogy, pedagogy and curriculum development and English for academic purposes (EAP).

(1) English as a lingua franca

  • Dr Chris Jenks* (World/Global Englishes, CMC)
  • Dr Anne Schluter (The socio-political role of English)
  • Dr Gerald Stell (New Englishes)

(2) English for Specific Purposes

  • Prof. Guangwei Hu* (Teaching/learning of ESP/EAP)
  • Dr Clarice Chan (Business English, curriculum development)
  • Dr Mable Chan (Business English; Workplace Communication)

(3) Second Language Acquisition

  • Prof. Guangwei Hu* (Language-in-education policy, Intercultural Pragmatics)
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Socially-distributed cognition, Interactional competence)
  • Dr Mable Chan (Generative grammar, Language Learner Autonomy, Acquisition of functional and nominal categories)
  • Dr William Feng* (Textbook analysis, Classroom analysis)
  • Dr Phoebe Lin (Computer-assisted language learning, Vocabulary acquisition)
  • Dr Renia Lopez (The pragmatic meaning of gestures)

(4) Second Language Writing

  • Prof. Guangwei Hu*
  • Dr Victor Ho*
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Translingual writing) 

Media and Communication

This research area focuses on all aspects of media communication in various contexts, including but not limited to creative cultural industries, public communication, and corporate communication. Research in this area analyses language, image, sound and other semiotic resources in old and new (creative) media, such as advertisements, news, comics, film, and television from different theoretical approaches.

(1) Critical Discourse Analysis

  • Professor Kathleen Ahrens* (Political discourse, critical metaphor analysis)
  • Dr Aditi Bhatia* (Political discourse, social media)
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (World Englishes, political discourse, nationalism)

(2) Discourse analysis

  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Membership categorization analysis, ethnomethodology)
  • Dr Dennis Tay* (Metaphor and metonymy in discourse, statistical modelling of discourse)
  • Dr William Feng* (Multimodality, media discourse, advertising discourse)
  • Dr Phoenix Lam (Multimodality, professional discourse, computer-mediated discourse)

(3) Public health messaging

  • Prof. Louise Cummings* (Reasoning and Argumentation) 

Area Studies and Intercultural Communication 

This profile encompasses research on the linguistic and socio-cultural aspects of particular areas, such as Hong Kong and Europe. Research topics include intercultural communication in professional contexts, with emphases on English, German, French and Spanish speaking cultures, intercultural communicative competencies, cultural identities in multilingual workplaces, intercultural and intergroup communication, language attitudes and stereotypes, and language and gender.

(1) Language and Migration

  • Prof. Hans Ladegaard* (Domestic migrant workers in Asia; Internationalization and student mobility)
  • Dr Chris Jenks* (Expat identities)
  • Dr Anne Schluter (Power in migrant workplaces)

(2)  Multilingualism and Multiculturalism

  • Prof. Hans Ladegaard* (Multilingualism)
  • Dr Anne Schluter (Language policy)
  • Dr Gerald Stell (Language Planning)

How to apply:

Stage One 

Identify potential supervisor

  It is very important to identify a staff member who is willing to work with you to develop a research proposal. If you don’t have someone specific in mind, we suggest you look at the information provided on our faculty page to locate a suitable supervisor by reading their academic publications to get a clear idea of their area of interest and preferred methodologies. Please note only staff with an asterisk next to their name are able to accept Ph.D. students in the coming academic year.

Stage Two Prepare proposal
  To increase your chances of success, prepare a preliminary research proposal for your potential supervisor to consider. Please click here for research proposal guidelines for your reference.

Stage Three Prepare cover letter

Prepare a 1-2 page cover letter to submit with your proposal to the potential supervisor. The letter should clearly indicate:

a) proposed field of study

b) motivation for applying to study with supervisor (i.e. what previous research has the supervisor done that is particularly interesting to you and relevant to your own line of study); and,

c) academic background, including graduating institutions and GPA

Stage Four Submit online
  Upon finalisation of your research proposal and nomination of a potential supervisor, please submit your application to the Research Grants Council (RGC) of Hong Kong through the Fellowship Scheme’s online system. Once you have obtained a reference number, you will be able to submit the full application for admission to PolyU via the Fellowship Scheme.

*All faculty members with a star next to their name are potential Principal Supervisors for the 20-21 intake of RPg students.

20170703 PhD Students

Website for e-prospectus and online application:

Applicants are encouraged to apply to the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme:


Last Updated in Jul 2020