Prof. em. Dr. Richard Watts

Professor emeritus

Modern English Linguistics

Richard J. Watts was Professor of English Linguistics at the Institute for English Languages and Literatures from 1984 until 2008. He is one of the world's leading experts in linguistic politeness research, his other active research interests being in the status of the English language in Switzerland, the socio-historical study of the English language (with particular reference to the development of Standard English) and social practices in various forms of social institution, e.g. the family. He has also published in pragmatics, the language situation in Switzerland and narrative theory, and has recently researched into lexical borrowings from English in the Swiss German dialects, an interest which he has retained from the time of his doctoral thesis at the University of Zürich in German linguistics on locative prepositions in English, Standard German and Zürich German. His personal interests and hobbies are his family, his dog, the cultivation of his garden in Erlach, research into the rich folk song tradition of the British Isles, which now in retirement he has time to convert into a book and a number of CDs featuring the songs in his large active repertoire, and last but not least the occasional glass of good, strong malt whisky.


Lokative Präpositionen im Deutschen, Englischen und Zürichdeutschen: Eine generativ-transformationelle Analyse. Swiss Studies in English 87. Bern: Francke Verlag, 1976.

English, of Course!: A two-year beginners’ course to intermediate level, Volumes 1 & 2. Zürich: Sabe AG, 1977-78. (with a team of authors)

The Pragmalinguistic Analysis of Narrative Texts: Narrative Co-operation in Charles Dickens’ “Hard Times”. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1981.

Modes of Interpretation: Essays presented to Ernst Leisi on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1984(ed.). (with Urs Weidmann)

Zweisprachig durch die Schule/Le bilinguisme à travers l’école. Berne: Haupt, 1990c(ed.).

Power in Family Discourse. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991.

Politeness in Language: Studies in its History, Theory and Practice. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1992(ed.). (with Sachiko Ide and Konrad Ehlich)

Cultural Democracy and Ethnic Pluralism: Multicultural and Multilingual Policies in Education. Frankfurt a M: Lang, 1997(ed.). (with Jerzy Smolicz)

Standard English: The Widening Debate. London: Routledge, 1999(ed.). (with Tony Bex)

Die fünfte Landessprache? Englisch in der Schweiz. Zürich: vdf, 2001(ed.) . (with Heather Murray)

Alternative Histories of English. London: Routledge, 2002(ed.). (with Peter Trudgill)

Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2005(ed.)Politeness in Language: Studies in its History, Theory and Practice. Second edition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003.

Published Articles

Proposals concerning the teaching of the English progessive aspect. In Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Applied Linguistics, vol. 2. Copenhagen. Heidelberg: Julius Groos Verlag, 1972. (with Beat Homberger)

Erhebungen zum Englischunterricht an schweizerischen Schulen. Ergebnisse einer Umfrage. Bulletin CILA 25, 9–23, 1977. (with Siegfried Wyler)

Swiss German in English language teaching: A plea for the dialect. Bulletin CILA 34, 71–80, 1981a.

The conjunction that: a semantically empty particle? Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 15, 13–37, 1983.

An analysis of epistemic possibility and probability. English Studies 65.2, 129–140, 1984a.

On infinitival complement clauses. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 16, 45–69, 1984b.

Laying the formalist ghost: an answer to the charge of scientism. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 16, 15–24, 1984c.

Interaktion im Fremdsprachenunterricht: Eine Kritik der funktionellen Methode. In Watts & Weidmann, 93–99, 1984d.

Spinning a yarn: the linguistic skills of story-telling. In Watts & Weidmann, 119–128, 1984e.

Generated or degenerate? Two forms of linguistic competence. In Dieter Kastovsky and Aleksander Szwedek (eds.) Linguistics across Historical and Geographical Boundaries. vol.I, 157–173, 1985a.

Narration as role-complementary interaction: an ethnomethodological approach to the study of literary narratives. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 17, 157–164, 1985b.

Sharing a text: a co-operative aspect of verbal interaction. In Udo Fries (ed.) The Structure of Texts. Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature 3. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 37–46, 1986a.

Complementation and meaning. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 18, 101–129, 1986b.

Relevance in conversational moves: a reappraisal of well. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 19, 37–59, 1987.

Language, dialect and national identity in Switzerland. Multilingua 7.3, 313–334, 1988b.

Language as a marker of socio-cultural identity in Switzerland. In Noer, Deliar (ed.), Culture, Philosophy and the Future: Eassys in Honour of Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana on his 80th Birthday. Jakarta: P.T. Dian Rakyat, 59–80, 1988c.

The perceptual salience of discourse markers in conversation. In Weydt, Harald (ed.), Sprechen mit Partikeln. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 601–620, 1989a.

Taking the pitcher to the well: native speakers' perceptions of their use of discourse markers in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics 13, 203–237, 1989b.

Comic strips and theories of communication. Word and Image 5.2, 173–180, 1989c.

Relevance and relational work: linguistic politeness as politic behavior. Multilingua 8.2/3, 131–166, 1989d.

The role of early grammar writers in creating a linguistic tradition. In Liver, Ricarda, Iwar Werlen and Peter Wunderli (eds.), Sprachtheorie und Theories der Sprachwissenschaft: Geschichte und Perspektiven. Festschrift für Rudolf Engler zum 60. Geburtstag. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 299–315, 1990a.

Cross-cultural problems in the perception of literature. In Sell, Roger (ed.), Literary Pragmatics. London: Routledge, 26–43, 1990b.

Linguistic minorities and language conflict in Europe: Learning from the Swiss experience. In Coulmas, Florian (ed.), A Language Policy for the EC. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 75–101, 1991.

Linguistic politeness and politic behaviour. In Watts, Ide and Ehlich (eds.), 43–69, 1992a.

Acquiring status in conversation: ‘Male’ and ‘female’ discourse strategies. Journal of Pragmatics 16, 467–503, 1992b.

A relevance-theoretic approach to commentary pragmatic markers: the case of actually, really and basically. In Kiefer, Ferenc (ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on Metapragmatic Terms, Budapest, June 1990. Budapest: Acta Linguistica, Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 1988 [1993].

English as a lingua franca in Switzerland: Myth or reality? In Bulletin CILA 58, special issue on ‘Schweizer Soziolinguistik – Soziolinguistik der Schweiz’ edited by Iwar Werlen, 109–127, 1993. (with Franz Andres)

Male vs female discourse strategies: Tabling conversational topics. In Brünner, Gisela and Gabriele Graefen (eds.), Texte und Diskurse: Methoden und Forschungsergebnisse der Funktionalen Pragmatik. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 218–237, 1994a.

Cross-cultural miscommunication in a Swiss day-care center. In Multilingua 13(1–2), special issue on ‘Cross-cultural communication in the professions’ edited by Anne Pauwels, 13–3, 1994b3. (with Johanna Ziberi)

Planning in-service training courses: Institutional constraints and non-native EFL teachers’ perceptions. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 4, 19–56, 1994c.

Needs and wants: The semantic and pragmatic interpretation of English privative verbs. Pragmalinguistica 3–4, 173–185, 1995.

Justifying grammars: A socio-pragmatic foray into the discourse community of early English grammarians. In Jucker, Andreas (ed.), Historical Pragmatics. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 145–186, 1996a.

Schweizerische Identität und der schweizerische Beitrag an Europa: aus der Sicht eines Ausländers. In Linder, Wolf, Prisca Lanfranchi and Ewald R. Weibel (eds.), Schweizer Eigenart – eigenartige Schweiz. Berne: Haupt, 129–142, 1996b.

Silence and the acquisition of status in verbal interaction. In Jaworski, Adam (ed.), Silence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 87–115, 1997a.

Language policies and education in Switzerland. In Watts, Richard J. and Jerzy Smolicz (eds.), Cultural Democracy and Ethnic Pluralism: Multicultural and Multilingual Policies in Education. Frankfurt a M: Lang, 271–302, 1997b.

Relevance theory and verbal interruptions: Assessing discourse status. In Jucker, Andreas H. (ed.), The social dimension of communication. Special issue of Multilingua 16 (2/3), 153–186, 1997c.

The social construction of Standard English: Grammar writers as a ‘discourse community’. In Watts, Richard J. and Tony Bex (eds.), Standard English: The Widening Debate. London: Routledge, 1999a.

Language and politeness in early eighteenth century Britain. Pragmatics 9(1), 5–20, 1999b.

The ideology of dialect in Switzerland. In Blommaert, Jan (ed.), Language Ideological Debates. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1999c.

‘Refugiate in a strange countrey’: Learning English through dialogues in the 16th century. In Jucker, Andreas H. and Gerd Fritz (eds.), Historical Discourse. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1999d.

Mythical strands in the ideology of prescriptivism. In Wright, Laura (ed.), The Development of Standard English 1300–1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 29–48, 2000.

Discourse theory and language planning: A critical reading of language planning reports in Switzerland. In Coupland, Nikolas, Christopher Candlin and Srikant Sarangi (eds.), Sociolinguistics and Social Theory. London: Addison Wesley Longman, 2001.

From polite language to educated language: The reemergence of an ideology. In Watts and Trudgill (eds.), 155–172, 2002a.

English in Swiss job adverts: A Bourdieuan perspective. In Fischer, A., Tottie, G. and Lehmann, H. M. (eds.), Text Types and Corpora: Studies in Honour of Udo Fries. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, pp. 105–122, 2002b.

Was the Great Vowel Shift really “great”? A reappraisal of recent work on an elusive linguistic phenomenon. In Tschichold, Claudia (ed.), English Core Linguistics. Bern: Peter Lang, 13–30, 2003a.

‘Flexibilität oder Sterilität? Englischen Entlehnungen im Schweizer-Deutschen und ins schweizerische Standarddeutsch’, in Dittlli, B., Häcki-Buhofer, A. and Haas, W. (eds.), Gömmer MiGro? Veränderungen und Entwicklungen im heutigen SchweizerDeutschen. Freiburg: Universitätsverlag Freiburg, pp. 131–140, 2003b.

‘Why fuude is not “food” and tschëgge is not “check”: A new look at the actuation problem’, in Britain, D. and Cheshire, J. (eds.), Social Dialectology: In Honour of Peter Trudgill. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 115–129, 2003c.

Politeness research and relational work. Journal of Politeness Research 1(1), 9–33. (with Miriam Locher)

to appearGrammar writers in eighteenth-century Britain: a community of practice or a discourse community? In Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid (ed.), Grammars, Grammarians and Grammar Writing. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2005.

Impoliteness as an aspect of relational work. Journal of Politeness Research, to appear

Current Research Projects

Socio-historical linguistics in Europe (in collaboration with Profs. Stefan Elspass, Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ernst-Håkon Jahr and Drs. Wim Vandenbussche, Nils Langer and Jürgen Scharloth.

Member of the research group in linguistic politeness based at the Universities of Loughborough, Nottingham Trent, Nottingham, Sheffield Hallam and Leeds.

Previous Research Projects

Co-proposer and co-supervisor of the research project Zweitsprachunterricht im obligatorischen Schulsystem within the framework of the National Research Programme 33 Wirksamkeit unserer Bildungssysteme/Efficacité de nos systèmes de formation. (with Profs. Iwar Werlen, Jürgen Oelkers and Jakob Wüest)

Co-proposer and co-supervisor of the research project Language contact and focusing: the linguistics of English in Switzerland. (with Profs. Peter Trudgill and David Allerton)

Visiting fellow elected by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee to research into the teaching of LOTES at the Universities of Adelaide, Western Australia and Monash (Melbourne) in 1993.

Editorial Activity

Editor of the international journal Multilingua: Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter since 1986.

Member of the editorial board of the international journal Journal of Politeness Research, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter since its inception in 2005.

Co-editor of the book series Language, Power and Social Process (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter) with Monica Heller.

Co-editor of the book series Cross-Cultural Communication (Frankfurt: Peter Lang) with Ernest Hess-Lüttich.

Member of the editorial board of the book series Pragmatics and Beyond: New Series (Amsterdam: Benjamins).