Core Team

Biographies Word cloud (generated with Tagul)The team of investigators, research associates and digital humanities developers that worked on Linguistic DNA are based at the Universities of Sheffield, Glasgow, and Sussex.

Susan Fitzmaurice, Principal Investigator (Sheffield)

Susan is Professor of English Language at the University of Sheffield.  Her principal areas of research are within the history of the English language and English historical sociolinguistics. She has worked extensively on semantic-pragmatic change, focussing on English in the eighteenth century and latterly, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She is particularly interested in the contexts in which semantic change takes place and in the social structure of polysemy over time. She lead research theme 1, exploring the particular characteristics of paradigmatic terms, the discursive contexts in which they are used and how they spread across genres. A key question for this theme was how the early modern genealogies that emerge inform modern forms of knowledge and perception.

Michael Pidd, Co-Investigator (Sheffield)

Michael oversees the work of the Digital Humanities Institute (DHI) at the University of Sheffield, one of the UK’s leading digital humanities centres. He possesses a deep knowledge of technology, research methodology within humanities scholarship, and the operationalisation of large, complex projects. His research interests are in data science, ontologies and humanities computing which he explore through the process of delivering research projects. Michael’s role on the Linguistic DNA project was to oversee all technical development, supporting the project’s exploration of appropriate digital methods for data retrieval, modelling and visualisation.

Marc Alexander, Co-Investigator (Glasgow)

Marc is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Glasgow. He works mainly on digital humanities and the study of meaning in English, with a focus on lexicology, semantics, and stylistics through the application of cognitive and corpus linguistics. Marc’s research interests primarily centre around the digital and cognitive analysis of language using the Historical Thesaurus of English; he is the third Director of the Thesaurus, following Professor Michael Samuels and Professor Christian Kay. Marc lead the Glasgow part of Linguistic DNA, focusing on our third research theme.

Justyna Robinson, Co-Investigator (Sussex)

Justyna is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sussex. She is interested in developing methods for tracing and analysing changes in lexical meaning by incorporating insights from sociolinguistics, cognitive linguistics, and corpus linguistics. Justyna has particularly focussed on discovering socio-cognitive conditioning of semantic change in progress. She has worked on semantic obsolescence, folk and dialect semantics. Her methodological contributions develop notions of semantic variable, semantic lectometry, or semantic behavioural profiling. She lead research theme 2, exploring the linguistic characteristics of concepts and their constituent keywords and how they change over time. Justyna was also responsible for overseeing the delivery of the methodology workshops and managing the project’s dissemination plan and publications.

Fraser Dallachy, Research Associate (Glasgow)

Fraser’s interests are in historical corpus linguistics and the physical objects—such as manuscripts and early printed books—from which we draw our knowledge of earlier stages of the English language. He has previously worked on the SAMUELS project (funded by the AHRC and ESRC), which created semantic annotation software to be applied to historical as well as present-day forms of the English language and thus further open up historical textual datasets such the EEBO-TCP corpus for automated analysis. Fraser is primarily interested in developing historical semantic research based on the Historical Thesaurus of English, including through Linguistic DNA’s exploration of lexical pressure (research theme 3). Alongside this he is interested in the idea of ‘authority’ (auctoritas) from the Middle Ages onwards, especially the language used in expressing views contrary to established authority.

Iona Hine, Research Associate (Sheffield)

Iona’s thesis, “Englishing the Bible in Early Modern Europe” (University of Sheffield, 2014), combined linguistics, theology, and social history to show that in English as in other languages, ideological concerns tended to outweigh linguistic expertise in the evaluation of good vernacular translation. She has an MA in Jewish-Christian Relations (CJCR/APU, 2003), a BA in Theology and Religious Studies (Cambridge, 2001), and a PGCE in Secondary Religious Studies. Iona has published on biblical literacy, drawing comparisons between early modern and current rhetoric, and retains an interest in William Blake’s art and poetry. She has also contributed to other Digital Humanities projects, transcribing and recording ecclesiastical court cases for Intoxicants in Early Modernity (AHRC & ESRC), and advising on concept-modelling for Ways of being in a Digital Age (ESRC) and Militarization 2.0 (Swedish Research Council).  As lead research associate, Iona has worked to document contexts of change in early modern print, with special attention to the metadata that accompanies EEBO-TCP. She maintains a personal blog at

Seth Mehl, Research Associate (Sheffield)

Seth Mehl’s primary research interests lie in corpus semantics, with a focus on methodology in relation to linguistic meaning, from semantics (including semasiological and onomasiological perspectives), to pragmatic and discursive meaning, as well as grammatical meaning. With the Linguistic DNA team he investigated semantic and conceptual content of large text collections using innovative methods for measuring lexical co-occurrence. In addition to Linguistic DNA, he has worked on the HEFCE QR-funded project Gender and well-being in rural sedentary South African communities, the AHRC-funded project Teaching English Grammar in Schools, and on the development of English pedagogical apps at the Survey of English Usage. Seth completed his PhD in English and MA in English Linguistics at University College London. He is a member of the Keywords Project, and a council member of the Philological Society.

Matthew Groves, Research Software Engineer (Sheffield)

Also based in the Digital Humanities Institute, Matthew has previously worked on a range of DHI projects including Mark My Bird, Manuscripts Online, and England’s Immigrants.

George Ionita, Research Software Eningeer (Sheffield)

George is a passionate Software Engineering graduate from the University of Sheffield and worked in the Digital Humanities Institute at The University of Sheffield. He is an enthusiastic individual who gets excited about new projects and is always striving to achieve continually high results. George has previously worked on projects at the DHI such as Casa Ricordi Letters, Whites Writing Whiteness and Aphra Behn.

Brian Aitken, Digital Humanities Research Officer (Glasgow)

Brian is the Digital Humanities Research Officer for the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. He is responsible for developing, implementing and supporting the School’s extensive collection of digital resources, principally those developed through externally and internally funded research projects. Since taking up the post in 2012 he has developed the online resources for a number of major research projects, including The Historical Thesaurus of English, Mapping Metaphor, A Thesaurus of Old English, the Dictionary of the Scots Language and the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech, and has contributed to other major research projects such as SAMUELS.  He has also developed a number of teaching apps such as the Scots Dictionary for Schools app and the Essentials of Old English app.  Prior to joining the School, Brian spent more than 10 years working as lead developer and technical advisor on a broad range of Digital Humanities and Digital Preservation projects at the University of Glasgow’s Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) and also worked as website developer for the University’s Archive Services. A list of the projects Brian has been involved with at Glasgow can be found on his Digital Humanities webpage.