Photo of Dr Susana Afonso

Dr Susana Afonso

Research interests

Language contact, variation and change. Varieties of Portuguese 

In the context of the non-European, non-standard varieties of Portuguese, I am currently investigating some innovations, particularly at the morphosyntactic level, observed in the Portuguese spoken in Timor Leste (East Timor) and to what extent these can correspond to the initial stages of an emerging variety of Portuguese. Timor Leste was colonised by Portugal until 1974, followed by almost three decades of Indonesian regime during which Portuguese was banned and practically disappeared from the language ecology of the country. In 2002, in the newly independent Timor Leste, Portuguese became again the official language together with a widely spoken local language, Tetun. 

Similar phenomena is also observed in other non-standard varieties of Portuguese, hence I am investigating to what extent some of these may be contact induced, or whether there are other phenomena related to general processes of second language acquisition, for example, which may also help explain the patterns.

In connection with this research as well as collaborative research on the East Timorese immigrant communities, I am a member of the Leverhulme funded international network 'Shifting Sociolinguistic Realities in the Nation of East Timor and its Diasporas'.


Cognitive Linguistics and Language Contact

I am currently approching from a construction grammar point of view innovative morphosyntactic constructions in non-standard varieties of Portuguese, which may be contact induced. I am investigating what the properties of these constructions are and how they are organised in construction networks. Furtermore, given that many of the constructions are similar across vareities of Portuguese, I am investigating which construal operations (high level cognitive processes by which the experience of the world is categorises) underlie these constructions. 


Language maintenance and shift in immigrant communities

I was CI in the project 'Patterns of multilingualism among different generations of the East Timorese diasporic community in Portugal' with Francesco Goglia was funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant (ref. SG100616). We collected sociolinguistic data among the East Timorese community in Portugal. As a follow up on our research on contact effects in immigrant communities, we organised a workshop on Language contact in immigrant contexts.

We are currently collecting data among the East Timorese communities in the UK.

 I am also interested in Lusophone communities in general, in particular on contact between different varieties of Portuguese in the immigration context.

Research collaborations

I am involved in the Leverhulme-funded international network project 'Shifing Sociolinguistic Realities in the Nation of East Timor and its Diasporas'. 

I am also collaborating with the Non-European structured in Overseas Portuguese (NESOP) project, coordinated by John Holm and Ana Luís (CELGA, University of Coimbra) and Dulce Pereira (ILTEC) and funded by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia).