Biodata Christopher Butler

Christopher Butler took a first degree in biochemistry at the University of Oxford and taught biochemistry and microbial physiology for some years at what is now Nottingham Trent University, UK, before making a career move into linguistics. He worked at the University of Nottingham from 1971 to 1992, first in the Department of English Studies and later in the Department of Linguistics, where he was Head of Department from 1986 to 1992. He also directed the university’s Language Centre from 1986 to 1990. In 1992 he took up the post of Head of English Language and Linguistics at what is now York St John University. From 1994 to 1998 he acted as Director of Research at that institution. He was awarded a Professorship of Linguistics in 1994. In 1998 he took early retirement in order to devote more time to research and writing. In 2000 he was made Honorary Professor in the Centre for Applied Language Studies (now Applied Linguistics, School of Arts) at Swansea University.

Chris Butler’s main research interests are concerned with theoretical and descriptive issues in functional grammars, with particular reference to English and Spanish. He has contributed to work in a number of structural-functional theories of language: Systemic Functional Grammar, Dik’s Functional Grammar, Role and Reference Grammar, Functional Discourse Grammar and the Lexical Constructional Model, and in 2003 published a two-volume work, Structure and function: A guide to three major structural-functional theories, comparing in detail the first three of these theories. His descriptive work is corpus-based and frequently makes use of statistical techniques. A number of publications bring together the various strands of his work, attempting to show how insights from corpus linguistics can help us to formulate more adequate functional grammars. In recent years, he has become interested in the relationships between functionalist and cognitivist and/or constructionist theories of language. He argues that functional linguistics should strive to meet a set of conditions of descriptive and explanatory adequacy, and should give an explanatory account of how the speaker/hearer works. It therefore needs to go well beyond the grammar as broadly conceived, to model the processes of language production and comprehension, as well as the patterns which systematically recur in naturally occurring data.

Chris Butler has published four major books and around seventy articles, and has also edited or co-edited a number of other volumes: Computers and Written Text (Blackwell 1992), Nuevas perspectivas en Gramática Funcional (Ariel, 1999), The Dynamics of Language Use: Functional and Contrastive Perspectives (John Benjamins, 2005), Functional Perspectives on Grammar and Discourse. In honour of Angela Downing (John Benjamins, 2007) and Deconstructing Constructions (John Benjamins, in press). He has given presentations, often invited plenary lectures, at many international conferences in Europe, Australia and the USA. He co-edits the series Discussions in Functional Approaches to Language, published by Equinox, serves on the editorial or advisory boards of the John Benjamins series Studies in Corpus Linguistics and the journals Language Sciences, Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada, Journal of English Studies (La Rioja) and Atlantis, and is currently Reviews Editor for Functions of Language (John Benjamins). He is a member of SCIMITAR, a research group based in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and advisor to three funded projects at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, the Universidad de La Rioja and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Selected publications


  • Butler, C. S. (1985) Systemic Linguistics: Theory and Applications. London: Batsford.
  • Butler, C. S. (1985) Statistics in Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Butler, C. S. (1985) Computers in Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Butler, C. S. (2003) Structure and Function: A Guide to Three Major Structural-Functional Theories. Part 1: Approaches to the simplex clause. Part 2: From clause to discourse and beyond. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Chapters in books

  • Butler, C. S. (2005) “Functional approaches to language”, in C. S. Butler, M. L. A. Gómez-González and S. Doval-Suárez (eds.) The Dynamics of Language Use: Functional and Contrastive Perspectives. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 3-17.
  • Butler, C. S. (2006) “Functionalist theories of language”, in K. Brown (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edn. Vol. 4. Oxford: Elsevier, 696-704.
  • Butler, C. S. (2007) “Notes towards an incremental application of the Role and Reference Grammar semantics-to-syntax mapping rules for English”, in M. Hannay and G. J. Steen (eds.) Structural-Functional Studies in English Grammar. In Honour of Lachlan Mackenzie. (Studies in Language Companion Series 83.) Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 275-307.
  • Butler, C. S. (2007) “Towards a cognitive-functional model of text comprehension”, in C. S. Butler, R. Hidalgo Downing and J. Lavid (eds.) Functional Perspectives on Grammar and Discourse: In Honour of Angela Downing. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 41-80.
  • Butler, C. S. (2008) “Interpersonal meaning in the noun phrase”, in D. García Velasco and J. Rijkhoff (eds.) The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar. (Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs, 195). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 221-261.


Articles in journals

  • Gonzálvez-García, F. and C. S. Butler (2006) “Mapping functional-cognitive space”. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 4, 39-96.
  • Butler, C. S. (2008) “Cognitive adequacy in structural-functional theories of language”. Language Sciences 30, 1-30.
  • Butler, C. S. (2008) “Three English adverbs and their formal equivalents in Romance languages: a corpus-based collocational study”. Languages in Contrast 8(1), 107-124.
  • Butler, C. S. and M. Taverniers (2008) “Layering in functional grammars: an introductory survey”. In C. S. Butler and M. Taverniers (eds.) Layering in Functional Grammars, special issue of Linguistics 46(2), 689-756..
  • Butler, C. S. (2008) “The subjectivity of basically in British English”. In J. Romero Trillo (ed.) Pragmatics and Corpus Linguistics: A Mutualistic Entente. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 37-63.


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