Professor Jeannette Littlemore BA, MA, PhD, PGCHE

Photograph of Professor Jeannette Littlemore

Department of English Language and Linguistics
Professor of English Language and Applied Linguistics

Contact details

Frankland Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Jeannette Littlemore is a Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on metaphor and metonymy and explores the facilitative and debilitative role played by metaphor and metonymy in language education and in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural communication more generally. She is interested in the creative use of metaphor and metonymy and in the ways in which figurative meaning is negotiated by speakers with different kinds of background knowledge and different emotional experiences.

Her monographs include: Metaphors in the Mind: Sources of Variation in Embodied Metaphor (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Metonymy: Hidden Shortcuts in Language, Thought and Communication (Cambridge University Press, 2015); Figurative Language, Genre and Register (with Alice Deignan and Elena Semino, Cambridge University Press, 2013); Doing Applied Linguistics (with Nicholas Groom, Routledge 2011); Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Learning and Teaching (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) and Figurative Thinking and Foreign Language Learning (with Graham Low, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006). She is currently working on a new monograph: Unpacking Creativity: The Role of Figurative Communication in Advertising, (with Paula Perez-Sobrino, Cambridge University Press).


  • Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. University of Birmingham, 2001.
  • PhD English Language Teaching, Thames Valley University, 1998. Title: Individual differences in second language learning: towards an identification of the strategy preferences and language learning strengths of L2 students with holistic and/or imager cognitive styles. Supervisor: Professor Peter Skehan.
  • MA Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching, University of East Anglia, 1993.
  • BA (Hons) European Studies (majoring in French and Economics with a mathematics subsidiary), University of Bradford, 1989.


I have been working at the University of Birmingham since 1999. Before that, I taught and lectured in Spain, Japan and Belgium.


I teach on both the campus-based and the distance MA programmes in TEFL and Applied Linguistics as well as the BA Single Honours and Joint Honours programmes in English Language. I teach on and/or convene modules in Language Teaching Methodology, Second Language Acquisition, Lexis, Research Methods in Applied Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, Pedagogic Grammar, Psycholinguistics and Teacher Training. 

Postgraduate supervision

I have a lively group of PhD students working on metaphor, metonymy and second language learning. I am interested in supervising MA and PhD research in the areas of:

Teaching and learning figurative language
Language learning and cognitive linguistics
Analyzing figurative language

Find out more - our PhD English Language and Applied Linguistics  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My current research interests lie in the area of second language learning and teaching. I am particularly interested in the acquisition of figurative language by non-native speakers of English and in the applications of cognitive linguistics to second language learning and teaching.

Research groups

External research grants and awards received

  • Dates: Sep 2016 - Sep 2018
    Title of Project: 
    Death before Birth: Understanding, informing and supporting the choices made by people who have experienced miscarriage, termination, and stillbirth (Project Reference: ES/N008359/1)
    Funding Body: 
    My role: 
  • Dates: Oct 2015 - Oct 2017
    Title of Project: Exploring Multimodal Metaphor in Advertising (Project Reference: 659078)
    Funding Body: European Union (Marie Curie Fellowship Scheme)
    Amount: €183,455
    My role: Principal-Investigator (Research Fellow: Dr Paula Sobrino-Perez)
  • Dates: Jan 2012-Dec 2014
    Title of Project: Metaphor use in one-to-one academic consultations in English: Implications for Spanish student mobility in Europe (FFI2011-22809)
    Funding Body: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness
    Amount: €50,820
    My role: Co-Investigator
  • Dates: May 2014 - Apr 2016
    Title of Project: Metaphor: From Embodied Cognition to Discourse
    Funding Body: Thyssen Foundation (Germany)
    Amount: €10,000
    My role: Co-Investigator
  • Dates: Oct 2014-Sep 2017
    Title of Project: Cognitive modeling and meaning construction across languages: Theory, implications, and applications (FFI2013-43593-P)
    Funding Body: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness
    Amount: €73,000
    My role: Co-Investigator
  • Dates: Aug 2010-Jul 2011
    Title of Project: Verbal and gestural metaphor in cross-cultural communication
    Funding Body: The British Council
    Amount: £2,820
    My role: Principal Investigator
  • Dates: Apr 2010-Mar 2011
    Title of Project: Investigating figurative proficiency at different levels of second language writing
    Funding Body: Cambridge ESOL
    Amount: £5,000
    My role: Principal Investigator
  • Dates: Jan-Dec 2006
    Title of Project: The Development of Creativity in Japanese Learners of English
    Funding Body: Japanese DAIWA Foundation
    Amount: £1,200
    My role: Principal Investigator
  • Dates: Aug 2000 - Feb 2003
    Title of Project: New Technologies and Language Learning: Pedagogical Approaches and Practical Applications (Project Number: 56563-CP-1-98-1-IE-LINGUA-LA)
    Funding Body: The European Union
    Amount: €146,000
    My role: Co-Investigator
  • Dates: Jan 1997 - Jul 1999
    Title of Project: European Language Council Thematic Network Project in the area of Languages: (Project 25917-CP-2-97-1-DE-ERASMUS-ETN)
    Funding Body: The European Union
    Amount: €6,030,000
    My role: Co-Investigator

Other activities

I am involved in a number of national and international research projects, investigating the use of verbal and gestural metaphor in cross-cultural communication and the development of figurative proficiency at different levels of second language writing.


Highlight publications

Littlemore, J 2019, Metaphors in the mind: Sources of variation in embodied metaphor. Cambridge University Press.

Littlemore, J 2015, Metonymy: Hidden Shortcuts in language, thought and communication. Cambridge University Press. <>

Littlemore, J, Deignan, A & Semino, E 2013, Figurative Language, Genre and Register. Cambridge University Press.

Littlemore, J 2009, Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Learning and Teaching. Palgrave Macmillan.

Littlemore, J & Low, G 2006, Figurative Thinking and Foreign Language Learning. Palgrave Macmillan.

Recent publications


Perez-Sobrino, P, Littlemore, J & Ford, S 2021, Unpacking Creativity: The Power of Figurative Communication in Advertising. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


Austin, L, Littlemore, J, McGuinness, S, Turner, S, Fuller, D & Kuberska, K 2021, 'Effective communication following pregnancy loss: a study in England', Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 175-187.

Fuoli, M, Littlemore, J & Turner, S 2021, 'Sunken Ships and Screaming Banshees: Metaphor and evaluation in film reviews', English Language and Linguistics .

Woodin, G, Winter, B, Perlman, M, Littlemore, J & Matlock, T 2020, ''Tiny numbers' are actually tiny: Evidence from gestures in the TV News Archive', PLoS ONE, vol. 15, no. 11, e0242142.

Littlemore, J, McGuinness, S, Fuller, D, Kuberska, K & Turner, S 2020, 'Death before birth: Understanding, informing and supporting choices made by people who have experienced miscarriage, termination and stillbirth', MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 251-255.

Littlemore, J & Turner, S 2020, 'Metaphors in communication about pregnancy loss', Metaphor and the Social World, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 45–74.

Fritz, I, Kita, S, Littlemore, J & Krott, A 2021, 'Multimodal language processing: How preceding discourse constrains gesture interpretation and affects gesture integration when gestures do not synchronise with semantic affiliates.', Journal of Memory and Language, vol. 117, 104191.

Winter, B, Duffy, S & Littlemore, J 2020, 'Power, gender, and individual differences in spatial metaphor: the role of perceptual stereotypes and language statistics', Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 188-205 .

Carrol, G & Littlemore, J 2020, 'Resolving figurative expressions during reading: the role of familiarity, transparency and context', Discourse Processes, vol. 57, no. 7, pp. 609-626.

Littlemore, J, McGuinness, S, Dandy, P, Fuller, D, Kuberska, K & Turner, S 2019, 'Arranging a Funeral Following a Pregnancy Loss', Resurgam – The Journal of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 52-55.

Fritz, I, Kita, S, Littlemore, J & Krott, A 2019, 'Information packaging in speech shapes information packaging in gesture: The role of speech planning units in the coordination of speech-gesture production.', Journal of Memory and Language, vol. 104, pp. 56-69.

Littlemore, J & Turner, S 2019, 'What can metaphor tell us about experiences of pregnancy loss and how are these experiences reflected in midwife practice?', Frontiers in Health Communication, vol. 4, 42.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Kuberska, K, Fuller, D, Littlemore, J, McGuinness, S & Turner, S 2020, Death before birth: Liminal bodies and legal frameworks. in C Dietz & M Travis (eds), A Jurisprudence of the Body. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Littlemore, J, Perez Sobrino, P, Julich, N & Leung, D 2020, Is comfort purple or green? Word-colour associations in the first and second language. in P-P Ana & R Alejo (eds), Metaphor in Foreign Language Instruction. John Benjamin, pp. 101-128.

Featured article

Malt, O, Littlemore, J & McGuinness, S 2019, 'Supporting funerals following miscarriage or stillbirth' SAIF Insight Magazine for Independent Funeral Directors, pp. 22-24. <>

View all publications in research portal


Metaphor and the problems that it presents for cross-linguistic communication and language learning

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Death Before Birth - how people reach decisions regarding what happens to their baby after death, how their perceptions of the law inform their decisions, as well as how these experiences are expressed to people around them