Greg Woodin

Greg Woodin

Department of English Language and Linguistics
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

PhD title: The sensorimotor basis of multimodal communication
Supervisors: Professor Jeannette Littlemore, Dr Bodo Winter, Dr Marcus Perlman
PhD English Language and Applied Linguistics


  • BA (hons.) English Language (1st class)
  • MA by Research English Language and Applied Linguistics
  • MA Social Research (Distinction)


My thesis focuses on sensorimotor simulation – the mental recreation of previously experienced perceptions and actions. My primary argument is that sensorimotor simulation drives multimodal communication, particularly the production of iconic and metaphoric speech and gesture.

In the case of iconicity, sensorimotor simulation drives the coinage of words and gestures that resemble their referents. Even as iconicity diminishes over time in individual words due to historical processes of conventionalization and grammaticalization, iconicity in the lexicon as a whole is replenished by novel iconic coinages, expressive modifications of existing iconic terms, and iconic gestures. The impetus for iconicity in multimodal communication, I argue, is driven by sensorimotor simulation.

According to conceptual metaphor theory, abstract domains that cannot be perceived directly (target domains) are understood by analogy to concrete domains that can be perceived directly (source domains). Metaphoric thought processes can thus be understood as sensorimotor simulation of a concrete source domain when thinking about an abstract target domain. This process drives the production of metaphoric language and gestures, and also the design of cultural artifacts such as data visualizations.

Other activities


  • 5th International Conference on Figurative Thought and Language – Talk – Sofia University. More is mostly up: Vertical trumps horizontal in spatial metaphors for quantity. Funded by ESRC.
  • UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference 2020 – Poster – University of Birmingham. The effect of conceptual metaphors on the interpretation of data visualisations.
  • English Language Research Seminar 2019 – Talk – University of Birmingham. The spatial organisation of abstract thought.
  • PG Tips 2019 – Talk – University of Birmingham. Using the TV News Archive for gesture research.
  • Language and Cognition at Birmingham 2019 – Poster – University of Birmingham. More is mostly up: Vertical trumps horizontal in spatial metaphors for quantity.
  • 12th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature 2019 – Talk – Lund University. Degrees of metaphoricity: a large-scale, quantitative analysis of iconic gestures in the TV News Archive. Funded by ESRC.
  • Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference 2019 – Talk – University of Birmingham. Degrees of metaphoricity: a large-scale, quantitative analysis of gestures in the TV News Archive.
  • The Creative Power of Metaphor 2019 – Poster – University of Oxford. Degrees of metaphoricity: a quantitative gesture analysis. Funded by ESRC.
  • Spatial Cognition 2018 – Poster – University of Tübingen. Placing abstract concepts in space: quantity, time and emotional valence.
  • Figurative Language: Experimental and Corpus-Based Studies 2018 – Poster – University of Nottingham. Thinking metaphorically: what do figurative language and metaphoric gestures reveal about thought?
  • Researching and Applying Metaphor 2018 – Talk – Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The continuity of metaphor? Horizontal and vertical metaphors in the spatialization of time, quantity and valence. Funded by School of EDACS and College of Arts & Law.
  • Research Poster Conference 2018 – Poster – University of Birmingham. Thinking metaphorically: what do language and gesture reveal about thought?
  • Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference 2018 – Talk – University of Birmingham.


  • The Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor (RaAM) 2020/2021

Online presence:



  • Awarded the Constance Naden Medal, given to the student who submits the highest quality thesis for the MPhil/MRes/MA by Research degree across the College of Arts and Law.
  • Awarded ESRC Midlands Graduate School DTP Studentship. 1+3 programme (MA Social Research + PhD English Language & Applied Linguistics) at the University of Birmingham with an October 2018 start. Annual payment consists of course fees (£4,260) and a maintenance award (£14,777).
  • Offered AHRC Midlands3Cities DTP Studentship (£14,777 course fees + £4,260 maintenance award).


  • Highly Commended in Language & Linguistics category of The Undergraduate Awards Programme 2017.
  • Awarded College of Arts & Law Masters Scholarship to undertake an MA by Research in English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham for 2017/18. Worth £4,195.
  • Awarded the Gwyneth Fox Award, awarded to the student with the highest mark overall (80.291) enrolled on the English Language or the English Language and Linguistics single honours programmes. Worth £250.


  • Won the Vera Adamson Prize, given to the first-year undergraduate deemed to have produced“the most outstanding work in the field of Modern English Language”. Worth £100.
  • Won the Sonnenschein Prize, given to“first year students whose performance in their examinations is deemed to be of sufficient merit”. Worth £75.
  • Longlisted for the Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize 2015 amongst names such as Hilary Mantel.


  • Awarded Access to Birmingham (A2B) Scholarship for undergraduate study. Worth £4,500.
  • Received unconditional offer to undertake undergraduate degree in BA English Language at the University of Birmingham.