David Butt

Associate Professor

  • 169 Citations
  • 5 h-Index
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Personal profile


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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Projects 2006 2010

Centre for Language in Social Life - Integrated Linguistic database

Butt, D., Moore, A., Henderson-Brooks, C., Lukin, A., Wu, C., Matthiessen, C. & Moore, S.


Project: Research


Research Outputs 2000 2019

Context and text in scientific disciplines of English: a social semiotic perspective

Butt, D. G., 2019, In : Language, Context and Text. 1, 1, p. 4-38 35 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

scientific discipline

Firth and the origins of Systemic Functional Linguistics: process, pragma, and polysystem

Butt, D. G., 2019, The Cambridge handbook of systemic functional linguistics. Thompson, G., Bowcher, W. L., Fontaine, L. & Moore, A. (eds.). Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, p. 11-34 24 p. (Cambridge handbooks in language and linguistics).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

From the workbench: the 'knight's move' in Halliday’s long conversation between verbal art and verbal science

Webster, J. & Butt, D., Feb 2019, The Bloomsbury companion to M. A. K. Halliday. Webster, J. J. (ed.). London: Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 467-488 22 p. (Bloomsbury companions).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

Development of the CoMTAS-Conversational Model Therapy Adherence Scale

Halovic, S., Korner, A., McLean, L., Chapman, C., Haliburn, J., Stevenson, J., Butt, D., Graham, P., Malloch, S., Phillips, T. & Meares, R., Dec 2018, In : Psychodynamic Psychiatry. 46, 4, p. 511-536 26 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Reproducibility of Results
Referral and Consultation

On being a literature teacher: a language based perspective

Butt, D. G., 2018, On verbal art: ripples in a timeless world: essays in honour of Ruqaiya Hasan. Wegener, R., Neumann, S. & Oesterle, A. (eds.). Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing, p. 26-52 26 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review