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Photo of Dr Susana Afonso

Dr Susana Afonso

Senior Lecturer in Portuguese


01392 724236

My main research interests lie in two areas: emergence and development of varieties of Portuguese, particularly of vernacular varieties. I am currently involved in a project on the convergence/divergence between European and Brazilian Portuguese (from a Cognitive Linguists perspective) and I have done research on Portuguese in East Timor (including maintenance and shift of Timorese languages in the diaspora in Portugal). A chapter on ‘Portuguese as a transnational language’ will appear in the edited volume Transnational Portuguese studies. The second area of research is interdisciplinary and focuses on the use of language in communicating scientific concepts in informal contexts (museums). A collaborative article on the use of conventional metaphors has recently been published in Science Education.  

Research interests

Language contact, variation and change. Varieties of Portuguese 

I am currently approching from a Cognitive Linguistics and construction grammar point of view innovative morphosyntactic constructions in non-standard varieties of Portuguese. I am investigating what the properties of these constructions are and how they are organised in construction networks.

In connection with this, I am currently a member of the project Convergence/Divergence between European and Brazilian Portuguese, led by Professor Augusto Soares da Silva (Catholic University, Portugal) and funded by the FCT - Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (2018-2019)

In the context of the non-European, non-standard varieties of Portuguese, I have investigated 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. In connection with this research as well as collaborative research on the East Timorese immigrant communities, I was a member of the Leverhulme funded international network 'Shifting Sociolinguistic Realities in the Nation of East Timor and its Diasporas'.

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. 

Language use to communicate scientific concepts in informal contexts (museums)

This is an interdisciplinary and collaborative work with Dr Ana Afonso (University of Minho) which aims at analysing the conversations between the visitors and between them and the museum guides in order to understand visitors' conceptualizations of  scientific (and other) phenomena and how these conceptualizations differ (or not) from the scientific concepts. Also important are museum guides' conceptualizations of the scientific phenomena they communicate to visitors through the use of conventional metaphors (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980). We are currently collaborating with the Hall of Diversity Universty of Porto. 

Research supervision

I am open to dicsussing research proposals in any relevant subject given my research expertise. I am especially happy to consider working with candidates with interests in the following areas:

- varieties of Portuguese (language contact, variation and change) 

- language planning and language policy in the Portuguese-speaking world

- Cognitive Linguistics (Construction Grammar, metaphor theory) and applications of Cognitive Linguistics in different fields (science, journalism, education, etc.), involving principally, but not structly limited to, Portuguese (e.g. Spanish and English could be considered).

Other information


Conference papers (since 2006)



[with Goglia, F.] "Language choice and language contact among different generations of the East-Timorese diasporic community in Portugal". MIMS: Multilingual Individuals in Multilingual Societies (Hamburg 5-8 October 2010)

[with Goglia, F.] "Patterns of multilingualism among different generations of the East-Timorese diasporic community in Portugal". Pluricentric Languages: Linguistic Variation and Sociocognitive Dimensions. (Braga 15-17 September 2010)


"The conceptualisation of impersonals".  Global Languages, local languages. 42nd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (Lisbon, 9-12 September 2009)


“Functional shifts in constructions”. Linguistics and English Language Seminar Series, The University of Manchester (Manchester, 12th February 2008)


“As construções impessoais em português numa perspectiva onomasiológica”. XXIII Encontro Nacional da Associação Portuguesa de Linguística (Évora, Portugal, 1-3 October 2007)

“The role of context in language and perception”. NDCL: 2nd UK Cognitive Linguistics Association Conference (Cardiff, 27-30 August 2007)

“Impersonal constructions in European Portuguese: an onomasiological perspective”. Parasession on Passives, Reflexives, Impersonals and Related Constructions. (Sopot, Poland, 12-13 July 2007)


“Existentials as impersonalising devices: the case of European Portuguese”. ICCG4: Fourth International Construction Grammar Conference (Tokyo, 1-3 September 2006)


I convene modules mainly on language variation and change, including contact between languages (mainly involving Portuguese), an area of my academic research. I also convene a module on the relationship between language, culture and the mind, inspired by cognitive linguistics.

I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Modules taught