Greg Woodin Headshot

I'm Greg Woodin, a linguist and cognitive scientist at the University of Birmingham, UK.

My research uses experimental and corpus methods to investigate the psychological processes involved in the comprehension and production of metaphoric and iconic forms of communication, and their influence on language evolution.

I'm especially interested in conceptual metaphors of number and quantity, and some of my work has investigated numerical communication and cognition more generally. My PhD thesis explores the idea that sensorimotor simulation underlies both metaphor and iconicity.

I'm currently working as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow on Dr Bodo Winter's UKRI-funded project 'Making Numbers Meaningful'.


English Language and Applied Linguistics

University of Birmingham


Distinction in Social Research

University of Birmingham

MA by Research

English Language & Applied Linguistics

University of Birmingham

BA (hons.)

First class degree in English Language

University of Birmingham

Selected Publications

2024 • Cognitive Science

Woodin, G. & Winter. B.

Numbers in context: Cardinals, ordinals, and nominals in American English

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There are three main types of number used in modern, industrialized societies. Cardinals count sets (e.g., people, objects) and quantify elements of conventional scales (e.g., money, distance), ordinals index positions in ordered sequences (e.g., years, pages), and nominals serve as unique identifiers (e.g., telephone numbers, player numbers). This paper is the first to investigate the relative frequencies of different number types, presenting a corpus analysis in which we manually annotated 3,600 concordances in the Corpus of Contemporary American English.

2023 • Journal of Cognition

Banks, B., Borghi, A. M., Fargier, R., Fini, C., Jonauskaite, D., Mazzuca, C., Montalti, M., Villani, C. & Woodin, G.

Consensus paper: Current perspectives on abstract concepts and future research directions

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This consensus paper synthesizes the work and views of researchers in the field, discussing current perspectives on theoretical and methodological issues, and recommendations for future research. Overall, we argue that abstract concepts should be studied in a more nuanced way that takes into account their complexity and diversity, which should permit us a fuller, more holistic understanding of abstract cognition.

2023 • Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory

Woodin, G., Winter, B. Littlemore, L., Perlman, M. & Grieve, J.

Large-scale patterns of number use in spoken and written English

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We analysed more than 1.7 million occurrences of numbers between 0 and a billion in the British National Corpus, finding that four main factors affect number frequency: magnitude, roundness, cultural salience, and register. In writing, we find that the numbers 1–9 are mostly represented by number words (e.g., ‘three’), 10–999,999 are mostly represented by numerals (e.g., ‘14’), and 1 million–1 billion are mostly represented by a mix of numerals and number words (e.g., ‘8 million’).

2022 • IEEE Transactions on Visualizations and Computer Graphics

Woodin, G., Winter, B. & Padilla, L.

Conceptual metaphor and graphical convention influence the interpretation of line graphs

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We conducted two experiments (N = 300 per experiment) where participants answered questions about line graphs depicting good and bad quantities. Our results suggest that conceptual metaphors matter for the interpretation of line graphs. However, designers of line graphs are warned against subverting graphical convention to align with conceptual metaphors.

2021 • Journal of Cognition

Perlman, M. & Woodin, G.

A complete real-world theory of language should explain how iconicity remains a stable property of linguistic systems

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We argue that it is a misconception that languages generally become more arbitrary over time. Although many words and signs certainly do become less iconic, all evidence suggests that languages do not.

2020 • PLOS One

Woodin, G., Winter, B., Perlman, M., Littlemore, J. & Matlock, T.

'Tiny numbers' are actually tiny: Evidence from gestures in the TV News Archive

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Using the TV News Archive, we showed that, generally, the hands of gesturers mirror the size-based frame implied by concurrent speech (e.g., a closed-hand gesture for the phrase 'tiny number'). This paper is the first large-scale, quantitative demonstration that the TV News Archive can provide a unique window into metaphorical thought.

2018 • Frontiers in Psychology

Woodin, G. & Winter, B.

Placing abstract concepts in space: quantity, time and emotional valence

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In a task where participants placed words in space, participants preferred the vertical axis for quantity words and valence words, and the horizontal axis for numerals and time words. Across all tasks, participants tended to use specific axes (horizontal, vertical), rather than combining these two axes in diagonal responses. These results shed light on the spatial nature of abstract thought.


  • 2021
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2015
  • 2014

HPC-Europa3 Transnational Access Funding

Awarded funding (travel, accommodation, and subsistence) to undertake 10-week research visit to Dr Peter Uhrig at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg.

HEFi Horizon Award

Awarded for completing five modules relating to higher education teaching.

Constance Naden Medal

Given to the student who submits the highest quality thesis for the MPhil/MRes/MA by Research degree across the College of Arts and Law.

Awarded ESRC Midlands Graduate School DTP Studentship

Annual payment consists of course fees (£4,260) and a maintenance award (£14,777).

Offered AHRC Midlands3Cities DTP Studentship

£14,777 course fees + £4,260 maintenance award

Highly Commended in Language & Linguistics.

The Undergraduate Awards Programme 2017.

College of Arts & Law Masters MA by Research Scholarship.

English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham, 2017/18. £4,195.

Gwyneth Fox Award.

Awarded to the student with the highest mark overall (80.291) enrolled on the English Language or the English Language and Linguistics single honours programmes. £250.

Vera Adamson Prize

Given to the first year undergraduate deemed to have produced “the most outstanding work in the field of Modern English Language”. £100.

Sonnenschein Prize

Given to “first year students whose performance in their examinations is deemed to be of sufficient merit”. £75.

Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize 2015

Longlisted amongst names such as Hilary Mantel.

Awarded Access to Birmingham (A2B) Scholarship for undergraduate study.


Unconditional offer for undergraduate study in BA English Language.

University of Birmingham