David Butt

Associate Professor

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My research is organised around textual evidence, in particular grammatical evidence, in relation to social, institutional, literary, and medical contexts. A feature of my interest is latent patterning in text: namely, the consistencies in speech and writing which are consequential for those involved in an exchange, but which are difficult to make explicit in a public forum. Examples of this research include work in the fields of psychotherapy in psychiatry; interaction in surgical teams; patterning in various works of Shakespeare and other poets; and changes in forms of scientific discourse. This direction of research brings me into contact with many different theorists, and the result has been work on the history of theories – theories of language change, literature, and beyond to adaptation and ‘robustness’ in institutional systems. Following the work of my own teachers in Systemic Functional Linguistics, I have devised practical network representations to capture salient differences between social contexts.


Currently, I am supervising doctoral research on Cohesion and the Conversational Model of psychotherapy (through Westmead hospital); Vygotsky’s developmental theories; strategies and contexts that encourage innovative thinking between doctoral researchers; Coelho’s “The Alchemist” in 3 languages; Chinese migrant writing in English translated back to Chinese; A.N. Whitehead’s relevance to linguistics; and evidence of political bias in the ‘common destiny’ debates around the future of New Caledonia.


My research has long been preoccupied with the grammatical construction of the ‘self’ – the way identifying expressions create the ME/I distinction that is central in the work of the pre-eminent psychologist, William James. And this and related matters have been the topics of my recent presentations in Australia and overseas (including presentations on psychevisual,below)


Since 1978, I have taught large groups of University students in Australia, at the National University of Singapore (1985-88), and in short visits across many countries – viz. China; India; Canada; Singapore; Indonesia; Japan…   


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