Dr Mel Evans

Dr Mel Evans


I joined the University of Leeds in October 2021, becoming part of the School of English as a Lecturer in English Language (with Digital). I teach on our UG and MA programmes, contributing to modules on areas in linguistics, stylistics and digital humanities.

I studied for my PhD in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield (awarded 2011), and spent some time living in New Zealand before returning to the UK. I have previously held lectureships at the University of Leicester and the University of Birmingham.


  • Postgraduate Taught Director for School of English
  • N8 Theme Lead for Digital Humanities
  • Co-Chair Corpus Linguistics Satellite Group

Research interests

At the heart of my research is the relationship between language and technology, and how the materials and conventions around communication have evolved and developed throughout history. This may be through a corpus analysis of pragmatic properties of sixteenth-century correspondence, or in a qualitative analysis of YouTube vlogs produced by people with cancer.

I explore the relationship between individual practices and language use ‘in the moment’ and the longer trajectory of variation and change. In my approach, I draw on digital tools and methods: corpus methods have been central to my research, but I also investigate language computationally (quantitatively), and I enjoy experimenting with new techniques and strategies to answer research questions. Collaboration and interdisciplinary working are also essential parts of my approach, and I see our understanding of language and communication benefitting from multiple perspectives: I have collaborated with colleagues from history, literature, archives, media & communication, psychology and computing, and am open to future beneficial research partnerships.

Past and Present Projects

My PhD thesis investigated the role of the individual speaker in processes of language change using a sociolinguistic framework, focussing on Queen Elizabeth I as a case study. Using corpus-based methods, the project initiated a career-long interest in the language of the individual, in the history of the English language, particularly early modern English, and in historical correspondence.

My work royal discourse and communication practices continued into a book project, Royal Voices: language and power in Tudor England (2020, Cambridge University Press). I was also principal investigator on this British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (September 2021–May 2023), ‘In Our Name: pragmatics, materiality and ideologies of power and nation in the correspondence of James V and Henry VIII, 1513–1542’. For Scotland and England, royal correspondence has shaped the political and social lives of both nations as much as any battlefield. Letters were the primary means of diplomacy, information exchange, and signaling the sovereign’s royal authority. The project examines the vernacular letters (between 1513–42) of James V and Henry VIII, taking a new perspective on their ideological import: it considers how such letters were written, and the ways these choices represent royal power and shape national views of kingship. By analysing the use of Scots and English, the ways in which the royals refer to themselves and to their recipients, how they express their intentions and commands, and the properties of the paper, the handwriting, and the signature, we explore how the discourses of a King of Scotland or England can be differentiated, and how their choices relate to the changing social and political conflicts of their time.


Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age (2016–2022) and The Cambridge Works of Aphra Behn (2021- ongoing)

I was co-investigator on an AHRC-funded project to produce a new edition of the works of Aphra Behn, a seventeenth century dramatist and poet, and one of the first English women to write professionally. Whilst the funded project has now ended, I continue to investigate the style of Behn’s writings and those of her contemporaries. The results so far have provided new insights into the linguistic creativity of literary writing in the seventeenth century, such as pragmatic features of Restoration drama and of the development of prose narrative. The investigations also offer evidence for or against Behn’s authorship of some traditionally dubious or circumspect texts. The methods and approaches I am developing will contribute to the wider field of non-traditional authorship attribution. I am also editing Behn’s correspondence for Volume VIII of the edition, including her spying letters and some previously unpublished posthumous materials. I maintain the project website.


Transhistorical Approaches to Digital Communication

An ongoing research interest lies in the relationship between technology and communication, and how studying practices of the past can improve our appreciation of present-day digital and social media interaction. With Caroline Tagg (Open University) we have been developing a transhistorical framework (see our edited collection Message and Medium, De Gruyter Mouton, 2020). In this area, I am currently working on a corpus-assisted discourse analysis project investing the lexical priming of ‘Long Covid’ on social media data in the first year of the covid-19 pandemic.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD English Language and Linguistics
  • MA English Language and Literature
  • BA English Language and Literature

Professional memberships

  • Media Coordinator for the British Association of Applied Linguistics
  • Poetics and Linguistics Association
  • Digital Correspondence Community Interest Group (co-founder)
  • Human Machines Language BAAL Special Interest Group

Student education

I am the Postgraduate Taught Director for the School of English. This means I oversee the three MA programmes (English Literature, Creative Writing and Postcolonial Studies), working with colleagues to provide exciting and well-supported programmes for our MA students.

I teach on a range of modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including courses on sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and corpus linguistics, stylistics, computational stylistics and digital humanities. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Language at Leeds
  • Language and Society
  • Digital Cultures
  • Language variation
  • Multimodality

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>