Prof. Simon Mark HARRISON

PhD English Studies (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)
MA English Studies (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)
BA French with Business (Swansea University)
Cert. CELTA (Swansea University) 
Cert. DAEFLE (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)


Visiting address
Phone: +852 34429608

Author IDs

Willing to take PhD students: yes


I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at City University of Hong Kong, where I arrived after five years in the School of English at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (now the School of Education and English). Prior to moving to China I worked as an Adjunct Professor (ATER) at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris and spent two years on a postdoctoral fellowship with the Natural Media & Engineering group in the Human-Technology Centre at RWTH Aachen (in Germany). 

Research Interests/Areas

My research explores embodied and relational understandings of language, communication, and culture across diverse settings and scales. I am interested in a wide range of topics that can be approached through the study of gesture. These include areas of English language studies and applied linguistics, such as classroom interactivity and English for Academic Purposes. My RGC-funded project 'Embodied English as Interactional Competence' is analysing a corpus of group discssions between students learning academic English. As they try out the interactional language that supports group discussion, can their bodily movements also be seen as 'becoming academic'?

Spoken language interactivity refers broadly to the psychological processes, linguistic meanings, discourse patterns, intimate feelings and interactional dynamics of speaking and gesturing with others in diverse environments. With funding from Cambridge Assessment, for example, we are studying how the Cambridge B2 First speaking paper is delivered across in-person and online environments. The test-takers tell us that “distance”, “feeling”, “intimacy”, “involvement”, and “attention” become changed, so we are analysing spoken language interactivity with a focus on the examiner-candidate dynamics. 

My first monograph The Impulse to Gesture: Where Language, Minds, and Bodies Intersect (CUP, 2018) worked at the micro-level of spoken language utterances and developed a cognitive-linguistic view of gesture. With a corpus of examples from English, French, and Chinese conversation, it focused on the embodied linguistic system of negation and used methods of gesture analysis with ELAN annotation software to discover the intricate relations between grammatical conceptualisation and gestures. My current book project is an ambitious monograph nearing completion entitled The Body Language Myth: Understanding Gesture in Language and Communication. Aiming to dramatically expand the micro-scope of my first phase of gesture research, this book interweaves several lines of empirical and theoretical gesture scholarship from multiple disciplines to propose a relational dynamics of gesture and gesturing bodies. These dynamics help think through different kinds of environmentally embedded gesturing that typically animate language and communication research, while unsettling common tropes surrounding the notion of ‘body language’.

PhD Students

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students interested in exploring aspects of spoken language interactivity, social life, and gesture in different domains of language, communication, and cultural studies, such as:

  • Public speaking and oral presentations;
  • Language proficiency and/or language testing and assessment;
  • Political speeches, political debate, or political humour;
  • Informal situations, conversations, small talk;
  • Classroom interactivity, peer dialogue, and language learning;
  • Interactive lecturing and small group teaching;
  • Cross-linguistic, cross-cultural, and intercultural perspectives.

Classroom interactivity, peer dialogue, and language learning are the focus of ongoing video corpus projects, which PhD proposals could contribute to exploring and developing. The same goes for our video samples of the Cambridge B2 First Speaking Paper that were collected across in-person and online enviroments. 

I also encourage Gesture Studies or studies of gesture from diverse empirical, theoretical, and philosophical perspectives.


EN2502 Language in Social Interaction

EN2711 Structure of English

EN2722 Studies in English: Knowledge & Pathways

EN2011 English on the Move

EN2720 Persuasive Writing

GE2410 English for Engineering (course coordinator)

EN2298 Effective Presentations for Professionals (course coordinator)


In 2019, Simon Harrison, Renia Lopez-Ozieblo (PolyU), Catherine So (CUHK) and Gladys Tang (CUHK) co-founded the International Society for Gesture Studies - Hong Kong Hub.

Master's Dissertations

Dissertations supervised by Dr. Harrison in the area of gesture studies include:

  • Xia, Yunqi (2023). Spoken Language Assessment across In-person and Online Environments—Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Cambridge B2 First Speaking Test Administration. City University of Hong Kong.
  • Lu, Yi (2023). Foreign language anxiety during oral presentations: Analysis of speech acoustic, adaptors and perceived experience. City University of Hong Kong.
  • Shi, Lujuan (2021). Language-Related Episodes from a Dynamic View: Multimodal Negotiation and Types of Communication Breakdowns during Peer Interaction. City University of Hong Kong.
  • He, Jingyi (2021). Interactional Competence and Gesture during Group Interaction: A Corpus-based Study of Language-Related Episodes. City University of Hong Kong.
  • Xu, Jian (2018). A Multimodal Analysis of L2 Learners’ Participation in Peer Interaction Concerning Language-Related Episodes. University of Nottingham Ningbo China. (with Dr. Yu-Hua Chen)
  • Stutzman, Levi (2017). Multimodal Corrective Feedback and Interactional Moves within Language-Related Episodes and Inscription-Related Episodes: An Analysis. University of Nottingham Ningbo China.
  • Stevens, Michael Paul (2016). Gestural Depiction and Conceptualization in Philosophical Exposition: A Microanalysis. University of Nottingham Ningbo China.
  • Wild, Jacob Lee (2015). Second Language Learner Multimodality and Linguistic Development in Naturalistic Settings: A Study of L2 Learners in the Chinese Street Market. University of Nottingham Ningbo China.


Honorable Mention, Ken Hyland Best Paper Award (Journal of English for Academic Purposes), for the article: “Showing as sense-making in oral presentations: The speech-gesture-slide interplay in TED talks by Professor Brian Cox” (Volume 53, September 2021)