Allan Bell

  • Emeritus Professor of Language & Communication, Auckland University of Technology

  • Senior Research Fellow at Laidlaw College, Auckland


Before retiring in 2019, he was Director of the Institute of Culture, Discourse & Communication, at AUT. For many years he led a dual career combining academic research in sociolinguistics with journalism and communications consultancy. He has made pioneering contributions on media language and discourse, the theory of language style (Audience Design, the most-cited paper in the field) and New Zealand English. His research interests include multilingualism in New Zealand, performance language, language and identity, biblical discourse (including a re-evaluation of Babel as blessing notcurse), and social and linguistic aspects of the internet. He has led major research projects on New Zealand English, language style, Pasifika languages, television violence, and the World Internet Project New Zealand. In retirement, his research is focusing on aspects of biblical language and discourse, including the languages of the Gospels and their tradition – and learning Greek. He has published many papers in leading journals and edited collections, as well as six books. His 2014 Guidebook to Sociolinguistics is a comprehensive, research-based introduction to the field. He is Editor Emeritus of the Journal of Sociolinguistics, the leading journal in the field, which he co-founded in 1997 and edited until 2017.

Research topics

  1. Stereotyping dialects and their speakers 

    Many language dialects have stock phrases which are performed, mainly by outsiders, as stereotypes of the dialect as a whole, such as toity-toid and toid (Thirty-third and Third) for New York City. I am examining both the linguistic character of these phrases and, especially, their social significance, since almost all reveal negative stances towards the dialect and the social group that speaks it.  
  2. Reflections on the Word

    I am working on understanding key biblical passages to interpret their meaning for our approach to language – from the story of Babel in Genesis 11 (a blessing not a curse, I argue) to the Prologue to the Gospel of John (what does ‘in the beginning was the word’ actually mean?), to the linguistic significance of Pentecost (an affirmation of language diversity, for example).  
  3. The sociolinguistics of the Gospels 

    Central questions concerning what languages were used by Jesus and his disciples, and what languages were used in the transmission of the Gospel traditions, remain contested. I am bringing to this issue sociolinguistic tools and insights which biblical scholarship has been largely unaware of – to its loss. 

Contributions to

Valuing Profusion and Disorder in Creation, Language and Society (Disciplinary Brief)
Discipline(s): Humanities
Theology: Created Order

Virtues / Humanities (Preview Response)
Discipline(s): Humanities
Theology: Virtues

Created Order / Social Sciences (Preview Response)
Discipline(s): Social Sciences
Theology: Created Order

Flourishing / Social Sciences (Preview Response)
Discipline(s): Social Sciences
Theology: Flourishing

Justice / Humanities (Preview Response)
Discipline(s): Humanities
Theology: Justice

Linguistic Justice (Disciplinary Brief)
Discipline(s): Social Sciences, Humanities
Theology: Justice