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Birgul Yilmaz

Birgul Yilmaz

Areas of interest

I am a critical sociolinguist, an ethnographer and an applied linguist. My research interests are language, migration, humanitarian governmentally, international law and the intersections of language, power, inequality and social justice. In my research, I question how language, discourse, and communication matter socially, politically and economically. I use my depth of knowledge in sociolinguistics to develop research that aims to answer real life problems. 

My empirical inquiries are built on extensive ethnographic fieldwork with refugees including unaccompanied /children who live in camps and squats in Greece. In my work I engage with Foucault’s notions of counter-conduct and pastoral care in understanding the roles of humanitarian discourses and international legal texts and how these shape the everyday lived experiences of migrants. I investigate the role of English language learning and language use in humanitarian emergencies and how these play a key role for the survival of the refugees in deviant spaces such as camps and squats.

My earlier work focused on intersections of language and identity, language ideologies, attitudes towards standard vs nonstandard varieties of Kurdish-Kurmanji as well as the intersections of language, nationalism, gender, faith, region and social class in community language learning settings in the UK.  


LS1ELS English Language & Society

LS1GL Globalisation & Language

LS2DAN Discourse Analysis

LS2LAG Language & Gender


Before joining the University of Reading, I worked at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as a Postdoctoral Fellow, at UCL Institute of Education and at the University of Westminster as a British Academy Postdoctoral Researcher. I worked as an MA Tutor in Language Education for Refugees and Migrants and as a Field Researcher in Sociolinguistics, (Project P.R.E.S.S.) on Lesvos island at the Hellenic Open University and as a visiting scholar at the University of San Antonio at Texas in United States. In addition to my academic work, I worked with refugee children in a school funded by UNICEF in Athens.

Selected publications


Yilmaz, Birgul. 2022. Language portraits: an inquiry into the linguistic repertoire, migration and immobility. Under Review. Special Issue: Art as social practice: language and marginality. Eds. Roberta Piazza, Charlotte Taylor, Birgul Yilmaz. Applied Linguistics Review.

Yilmaz, Birgul. 2021. The making of the unaccompanied children: From legal discourse to the

everyday. Language, Culture and Society

Yilmaz, Birgul. 2020. Language attitudes and religion: Kurdish Alevis in the UK. Special issue: Situating Alevism in the Contemporary Transnational Context. Eds. Umit Cetin, Celia Jenkins, Suavi Aydin.  Kurdish Studies Journal, 8 (1): 133-161.

Yilmaz, Birgul. 2018. Language ideologies and identities in Kurdish heritage language classrooms in London. International Journal of Sociology of Language, 253:86.



Yilmaz, Birgul. 2022. Accepted. Immobility infrastructure and the linguistic precariat. Alfonso Del Percio and Li Wei(Eds). Handbook on Language and Mobilities. De Gruyter Publishers.

Sharifi, A., Khezri, H., Sheyholislami, J., Yilmaz, B., Barwari, Z., Ciziri, N., & Derince, M.S. 2022. (In Press) Kurdish as a stateless and heritage language in diaspora. In J. Sheyholislami, G. Haig, H. Khezri, S. Akin, & E. Öpengin. Oxford Handbook of Kurdish Linguistics. Oxford University Press. 

Yilmaz, Birgul. 2021. Language and humanitarian governmentality in a refugee camp on Lesvos island. De Fina, A. & G. Mazzaferro (Eds). Exploring (Im)mobilities: Language practices, discourses, imaginaries and narratives. Multilingual Matters.

Yilmaz, Birgul. 2020. Doing linguistic ethnography in a refugee camp as an educational site: Experiences from fieldwork. In Michail, D., Sakellariou, A and Gogonas, N (Eds). Refugees and Education: Studies and Issues. Thessaloniki: Stamoulis ISBN: 978-960-656-009-5 [in Greek]