Dr. Thora Tenbrink

Dr. Thora Tenbrink
Director of Research, College of Arts and Humanities, and Reader in Cognitive Linguistics
+44 (0)1248 38 2263
Room 306, 37-41 College Road


I joined Bangor University in September 2012 after having spent ten years as a research scientist at the Faculty of Linguistics at the University of Bremen, Germany. During this time I completed my PhD thesis, which was published in 2007 as the monograph "Space, Time, and the Use of Language" by Mouton de Gruyter.

Later, I edited a Special Issue on "The Language of Space and Time" in the Journal of Pragmatics (2011), and co-edited "Spatial Language and Dialogue" (Oxford University Press, 2009), "Representing Space in Cognition" (Oxford University Press, 2013), and "Spatial Information Theory. 11th International Conference, COSIT 2013" (Springer).

I was principal investigator in two recently concluded projects in the Collaborative Research Center SFB/TR 8 Spatial Cognition (Bremen/Freiburg, Germany). I have always enjoyed interdisciplinary and international collaboration, typically within areas of cognitive science, and am currently working with cognitive psychologists at Tufts University (Boston), UCL London, and the ETH Zurich. At Bangor, I am a member of the MPC Network for the Study of Media and Persuasive Communication.

In the School of Linguistics and English Language I currently have four functions – researcher, lecturer, director of research, and ethics officer. Contact me about any of these, for instance if you are wondering about how to do empirical studies and get ethics approval. 


My main interest concerns the relationship between linguistic representations and cognitive processes, as addressed through Cognitive Discourse Analysis (CODA: Tenbrink, 2015). This research is primarily empirical: Typically I confront speakers with a particular task to do and record the language they use in relation to this task. After transcription, linguistic data analysis focuses on specific features that reflect how the speakers conceive of the task given to them.

For instance, I have done research on wayfinding strategies, spatial communication in complex built environments, and spatial inferences derived by wayfinders from situational clues, experience, and verbal and graphical information. Other projects deal with complex problem solving processes such as object assembly, origami paper folding, and analogical reasoning, with the relationship between linguistic features and misinformation, and with the transfer of cognitive linguistic patterns in second language acquisition. More theoretical work concerns spatiotemporal reference frames and linguistic ontologies, representing the conceptual repertory available to speakers as reflected in language.

For more information, please consult my website, knirb.net.

Selected recent articles

Tenbrink, Thora and Lucie Salwiczek (in press). Orientation and metacognition in virtual space. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.
Brunye, T. T., Gagnon, S. A., Gardony, A. L., Gopal, N., Holmes, A., Taylor, H. A., & Tenbrink, T. 2015. Where did it come from, where do you go? Direction sources influence navigation decisions during spatial uncertainty. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 68(3):585-607. DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2014.963131. (Bangor Repository)
Tenbrink, Thora. 2015. Cognitive Discourse Analysis: Accessing cognitive representations and processes through language data. Language and Cognition 7:1, 98 – 137. (Bangor Repository)
Tenbrink, Thora and Holly A. Taylor. 2015. Conceptual transformation and cognitive processes in Origami paper folding. Journal of Problem Solving 8:1.
Tenbrink, Thora, Kathleen Eberhard, Hui Shi, Sandra Kübler, and Matthias Scheutz. 2013. Annotation of negotiation processes in joint-action dialogues. Dialogue and Discourse 4:2, 185-214.
Hölscher, Christoph, Thora Tenbrink, and Jan Wiener. 2011. Would you follow your own route description? Cognition 121: 228-247.
Tenbrink, Thora. 2011. Reference frames of space and time in language. Journal of Pragmatics 43:3, 704-722. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.020.
Tenbrink, Thora, Elena Andonova, and Kenny R. Coventry. 2011. Spatial strategies in the description of complex configurations. Discourse Processes 48:237-266.
Bateman, John, Joana Hois, Robert Ross, and Thora Tenbrink. 2010. A Linguistic Ontology of Space for Natural Language Processing. Artificial Intelligence 174: 1027-1071.

Current PhD Students

  1. Amaal Algamde
  2. Wesam Almehmadi
  3. Haider Katea
  4. Ekaterina Egorova (University of Zurich)
  5. Gesa Schole (University of Tuebingen)

I welcome enquiries from students interested in pursuing a PhD related to cognitive discourse analysis and communication.