Photo of Dr David Oakey

Dr David Oakey BA, MEd, PhD, FHEA

Senior Lecturer English


Personal Statement

I use large digital collections of English language known as 'corpora' to study word combinations, or “phraseology”. I apply my knowledge of this area of linguistic theory to real-world problems encountered by users of English globally. Over two decades I have published a constellation of peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters about my work, firstly as a teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and latterly as an applied corpus linguistics researcher. I have described the phraseological behaviour of words across different academic disciplines (Oakey 2005; Oakey and Russell 2014), and different types of phrases used in teaching academic writing (Oakey 2002, 2009, 2011, 2020) and in teaching speaking (Jones and Oakey 2019), and on the role of phraseology in joining lexis and grammar (Oakey 2010, 2022). I participate in the international research agenda in corpus studies of English in public health settings, specifically how the phraseology of public health messages is understood by English learners in the UK (Oakey, Jones and O’Halloran 2022; Jones, Oakey and O’Halloran 2023) and how language use impacts clinical care. I co-edited with Dr Benet Vincent a special issue of the international peer-reviewed journal Applied Corpus Linguistics (Elsevier) on Corpus Linguistics and the Language of COVID-19: Applications and Outcomes. I also co-ordinate and participate in English as an Additional Language projects using corpus-informed language learning materials with schools in the Liverpool City Region.

I have been fortunate to work with and learn from many researchers, teachers, and learners of English at universities around the world, all of whom have influenced my approach to the investigation, description and teaching of English. I studied at the University of Leeds where I learned from Lynne Cameron and Martin Bygate about the way second languages are acquired. Alice Deignan introduced me to using software to study lexical and grammatical patterns in language. The obvious prevalence of patterns in academic English led me to work on formulaic language: language which is produced ‘ready-made’ rather than composed from scratch, and which is important in many social situations. Peter Howarth introduced me to the related field of phraseology, and how software can evaluate the form-function phrases which are frequently taught in EAP writing classes.

After teaching EAP at the University of Hull I joined the English Department at the University of Birmingham where I was able to learn more about corpus linguistics, lexico-grammar, metaphor, and EAP through working with Nicholas Groom, Susan Hunston, Tim Johns, Philip King, Jeannette Littlemore, and Rosamund Moon. After completing my PhD, which was supervised by Alice Deignan and examined by Ronald Carter and John Flowerdew, I moved to the Applied Linguistics and Technology Program at Iowa State University in the USA. Here I learned from David R. Russell about the field of Rhetoric, which complements EAP by teaching English academic writing in the "essayist" Liberal Arts traditions of logic and argumentation. My colleagues Evgeny Chukharev-Hudilainen and Volker Hegelheimer also introduced me to the ever-shifting field of computer-assisted second language acquisition, applying concepts and methodologies from natural language processing and educational psychology. Having run the Academic Literacy Development Centre at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, I have first-hand knowledge and experience of academic discourse in English Medium of Instruction (EMI) universities in China.

At the University of Liverpool my interests in English language research, teaching, and learning all meet in the MA Programmes which I lead in Applied Linguistics and TESOL in the Department of English. My research expertise in applications of corpora to language study, learning, and teaching has attracted research students from around the world who are investigating related areas from which new insights can be gained by appying corpus research methodology. I am happy to hear from applicants for PhD study in the following areas: Applications of English Corpus Linguistics, particularly for L2 learners and speakers of English for Academic Purposes; Interdisciplinary Academic Discourse; English Language in Clinical Care; English Grammar, Vocabulary, and Lexico-Grammar; Phraseology, Formulaic Language, Collocation, Multi-word Expressions, and Lexical Bundles.

My academic support and feedback hours each semester are Mondays 2pm-4pm or by appointment.