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.