Welcome to Mark!

Earlier this month we welcomed Mark to the English Language and Linguistics department. Here is what Mark says about himself:

Hello, everyone!

I am glad to join the English Language and Linguistics team at UWE.

I was born and raised in Ghana, and studied in Ghana, Norway and Hong Kong. I come to UWE from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where I held the PolyU Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship and examined the representations of mental illness in the Ghanaian news media. My PhD research, which explored the interplay of discourse, ideology and mythology in politics, furthers understanding on the content, form and function of political myth and illustrates the role of language and (post-independence) leaders in political decolonization processes.

I am an interdisciplinary scholar who investigates how people deploy language in specific spatiotemporal and sociocultural contexts to achieve various aims, including identity construction and negotiation, self-promotion and othering as well as argumentation, resistance and (de)legitimation. I am particularly interested in language and identity, language attitudes and stereotypes, language and diversity, language and the media and language and/in politics. My research has a critical orientation; therefore, it aims to raise awareness about various complicated constructs in society and to illustrate how research on language use can translate into social transformation.

Who I am as a teacher is a direct result of who I am as a learner. To this end, I employ dialogic teaching where I situate myself as a learner-cum-facilitator who models active listening and engagement. I also take a critical approach to curriculum development that underscores commitment to diversity in teaching, assessment and student support.

My teaching philosophy is grounded in the core principles of relevance, reciprocity and value-addedness, and I strongly believe in multiperspectivity because when people/students see beyond their own experiences they can begin to understand the complex framework in which education exists. My aim is to guide my students to learn how to learn by evaluating and synthesizing various bodies of knowledge. This term, I will teach Critical Discourse Analysis, Intercultural Communication and Making Meaning.

Apart from my work in academia, I run a career and grad school consultancy firm. I also lead a mentorship scheme that provides guidance and support to students (especially in developing countries) who want to pursue further studies. I am furthermore interested in volunteerism, sports and music.

I look forward to a fulfilling experience at UWE – see you around!

Volunteering – Speech and Language Therapy

Here at UWE we are committed to ensuring that our students are equipped for the world of work once they’ve graduated. In English Language and Linguistics we pride ourselves on embedding a focus on careers and employability into our modules so that students can develop, recognise and articulate their skills, knowledge and attributes as well as learn to apply their learning to real world contexts.

It always gives me great pleasure to hear about the achievements of our students. Here is an account of volunteering as a Speech and Language Therapist from one of our third year students, Eleanor Grandchamp.

“It all began when I was turned down for my placement year. 

I had the perfect set up: work alongside speech and language therapists in an acute stroke ward hospital setting in Bath, gain an overwhelming amount of data for my dissertation and have the best year of my life doing what I aspired to do when I was going to graduate. 

Nope. Thanks Covid.  

The day I got that phone call saying the paperwork couldn’t go through clearance because of Covid – I felt my world shatter. I didn’t know where to turn. I’m not from Bristol. I don’t know anyone in the sector. I’m only 19 and have no ‘real’ social links or means to reach anyone. I’m not overwhelmingly smart or impressive in any way. 

In desperation, I spent my two months endlessly spamming all speech and language therapists in Bristol. I tried public, private, anyone who identified as an SLT. When no one replied, I tried Bath and Somerset. Eventually, I started trying to talk to every SLT in the UK who had a public email address. 

I heard nothing back. Ever. (Even now). 

At first, it was really hard dealing with the rejection. I began regretting my degree, thinking I should’ve taken another one. Taking the radio silence as a personal attack to my lack of experiences coming from an underprivileged area rather than reflecting on the unfortunate time of trying to join the sector (mid lockdown 2021). 

However, I did not give up. 

It was 12.04am one rainy Wednesday night. I joined a Facebook SLT group for graduates trying to find work placements in the sector. By chance, I private messaged someone who made a post on there. 

Turns out it was the head of a private SLT practice! 

They messaged me back instantly after my rambly explanation in their DMs. They were interested in my background as an immigrant and as an undergrad in linguistics, and my future ambition as an SLT. They decided to invite me along to a session in London as a one-off favour. 

There, I watched this amazing SLT deliver a session to a child. They played with Lego, pretended to be dinosaurs, caught bubbles. All so much fun yet subliminally educational. 

After the session I asked the SLT so many questions, I made a lot of notes ( 4 pages!!) of particular instruments used to deliver the session, the ways of encouraging the child to speak, how to deal with behavioural difficulties. We sat there for an hour in their car analysing every little bit of the child’s linguistic behaviour. 

They asked me after if I wanted to come to every one of the child’s sessions and see the linguistic growth for myself in a developing three-year-old with a lisp, nasality and ASD. 

Of course, I said yes!! 

To begin with, I applied to the RCSLT. You must have a license with the RCSLT before beginning practise but this is only achieved through employment or the appropriate education. Initially, I had neither but because of the SLT, I was able to become an officially recognised Speech and Language Therapy Assistant at 19! (I did cry a bit when I got my card in the mail I was so proud of myself!!). 

Now that I was qualified, I was able to observe a few more sessions, sitting in the corner. This was to let the child grow comfortable with having me in their space. Next, I was asked to plan a few activities for them to do and to provide linguistic reasoning behind it. I was taught how to diagnose different types of lisps, gliding, aphasia and more. They provided me with legal forms that I would use in my own career to professionally and scientifically record linguistic progress. 

Eventually, I was invited to join in on the sessions – leading two or three activities. I was super nervous but the SLT was on hand for support if I needed it. 

Now I run the sessions by myself every week! 

I am now on my 23rd week with the child. I have also been seeing another child with selective mutism and another with a very strong lateral lisp. Every case is so different from the other, and even my own cases adapt so much every week. Speech and language therapy never ceases to amaze me. 

The SLT who brought me on has an office now. When I went to visit, they said I would have my own set of keys (big woah). They said I can come shadow other SLT sessions and watch scientific speech assessments being done on a wide variety of children.  I’m so excited! 

While it took me two months of day in day out hard work and constant rejection to be able to pursue my dream, it does show that you shouldn’t give up. Don’t let the pandemic stop you, or anything else in life. 

Some days were really hard to pick myself up and carry on. I felt discouraged, I thought maybe it wasn’t working out for a ‘reason’ – like how people say when you fail something. But I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to prove everyone and my inner saboteur wrong. 

I really want this and I know I can do it.” 

Bristol Centre for Linguistics (BCL)

We are really pleased to announce the return of the BCL research seminar series for this academic year. We will be joined by some wonderful academics. Do come along and listen. They are open to everyone (and completely free!).

Autumn Seminar Series 2021

Wednesdays, 1-2pm

On Zoom

24th November 2021

Dr Felicity Deamer (University of the West of England)

For the Record: Exploring variability in interpretations of police investigative interviews

8th December 2021

Dr Laura Speed (Radboud University)

The connection between language and smell

15th December 2021

Dr Alexandre Nikolaev (University of Eastern Finland)

Effects of Age and Education on Language and Cognition

For further details or to be added to the mailing list for information about future events organised by the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, contact minna.kirjavainen-morgan@uwe.ac.uk (Director of BCL)

First Year Induction Week

During the first week of Induction, our first year students split off into groups and took to the streets of Bristol to complete a linguistic scavenger hunt, investigating the linguistic landscape of our diverse city. They were tasked with finding evidence of 8 different features of language in Bristol: some local slang use, evidence of Welsh, at least 3 other languages aside from English, discriminatory language – plus others.

Here we have a selection of chosen pictures with a comment from each group:

Group 1

“We found a little art gallery near Cabot Circus – it had a lot of art pieces with words in. This piece depicts a picture of Queen Elizabeth with several piercings, such as a nose ring. This is paired with a neon sign which reads ‘God save the Queen’ but the ‘a’ in ‘save’ is changed to the anarchy symbol. As there is stigma against facial piercings, which are considered rebellious, alongside the patriotic phrase, we see this to be antagonistic and a statement of youth culture.”

Group 2

“During our hunt we found most diversity in the suburbs on the way to/from the city centre. We saw a wider range of shops catering to the diverse communities who live and work in the outer areas of the cities, however, closer to the centre this diversity decreased”

Group 3

“This photo shows the connection between language and art within Bristol City centre. We think it demonstrates the inclusivity of the city through the rainbow colour scheme, which is commonly associated with the LGBTQ+ community and Pride. Moreover, the language used is ‘love Bristol’, which instils a sense of welcome for all visitors as well as highlights the city’s love for diversity.”

Group 4

“Finding Bristol slang within the city centre was difficult as its part of a local dialect which is usually spoken rather than written in texts. The mugs in this image have ‘alright my luvver’ and ‘gert lush’!

Group 5

“This is a very familiar image to us all. It is there to provide a deterrent to people who may be looking to commit crime in a specific area. Although the chosen language of this sign is English, and therefore could be considered non-inclusive, the camera imagery is a symbol which should be recognisable by non-English speakers”

Thanks for all your hard work and enthusiasm during induction week. We are very much looking forward to working with you all over the next few years!

Welcome back!

This week we’ve welcomed students back onto campus. It’s been wonderful to see (and hear!) people chatting and getting to know each other after a difficult academic year, which was mostly completed online.  

For our new first year students this is a time of great excitement but also nerves and uncertainty.  

Here, two of our current second year students share their experiences, top tips and highlights from their year of lockdown learning.  

“Lockdown linguistics” 

By Alice Carr  

Starting university was nerve-racking, to say the least, perhaps enhanced ever so slightly by the fact that we could see much of it taking part online. This did turn out to be the case, but I wouldn’t change it! 

My earlier days were much more normal, I was able to meet a few of my lecturers in person and plenty of my cohort, all of which were so welcoming (even with their faces half covered by masks!) The in-person lectures I could attend were interesting and relaxed. What followed was A LOT of online recordings and Microsoft Teams chats. Nevertheless, the lecturers made it more bearable than I could ever have wished for, keeping the morals high and all of us engaged.    

Before my start date, I believed I had to have everything: the books, paper, stationery piled high enough to stock WHSmith’s, it was stressful. What I wish I had known was the strength of the support bubble the linguistics team at UWE gave to me- breaking down everything clearly and concisely so I knew exactly what I would need for the course. It turned out I had overbought massively! What is also useful to know from the get-go is the sheer amount of material available to you, such as the library and meetings with your PAL leader for help in a subject or just for an informal chat.  

I will say, the greatest highlight of my ‘lockdown’ first year was the ability to become a student rep. This grew my confidence massively as it allowed me to support both myself and my peers during such a bizarre and uncertain time. I guess it was nice to be able to turn up to lectures from the comfort of my bed, but I vow never to moan about walking to the lecture theatre on a Monday morning ever again, even if it is in Bristol weather! 

My first year 

By Ben Bryan 

I do not believe many people start university without any uncertainties about how their experience will go. For myself personally, I arrived at UWE to study English Language and Linguistics in October 2020, not knowing anybody and having previously only visited Bristol once. Despite all that, I soon became settled in my new surroundings and those initial uncertainties very quickly eased.   
 
Unsurprisingly, the first year was a challenge. Starting university in the middle of a pandemic meant both my work and social life was constantly changing. With that being said, the biggest credit I can pay to both this course and Bristol is, despite all that, I have still managed to have a great first experience. 

The highlight of the course last year was being able to learn about the different branches of linguistics – it really helped me to find areas of interest. The support systems in place and the communication with lecturers have also made it easy to discuss concerns and aspects of the course in greater detail which was imperative for engaging with the course.  

The most reassuring aspect of Bristol for anyone moving here is that there is something for everyone. It’s a diverse city that provides both historical and modern features. With a strong social life, a variety of places to go out and events to experience, anybody can move here and find something they can engage with. The challenging part for me was finding enough time to make the most of the opportunities here, and going into second year, I’m still discovering things I want to experience! 

Despite everything, I had a wonderful first year and can reassure anyone who is about to do the same that they shouldn’t be worried about the experience they are about to have!  

Welcome to Felicity!

We’re delighted to announce that last week we welcomed Dr Felicity Deamer to our team here at UWE! Felicity will be joining us as a Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics. Here’s what she has to say about herself:

I’m really excited to be joining UWE and can’t wait to get going! I’m coming to UWE having spent the past two years working as a Research Fellow in Aston’s Institute for Forensic Linguistics (AIFL), where I have been engaged in a number of strands of applied research. I have been working with Aston colleagues (in partnership with UK police forces) to explore how police investigative interviews get repurposed and used as evidence in court. We have focused on the transformation that takes place in which an audio recording of an interview is transcribed, and how that transcription, though treated as an identical substitute for the original audio recording, typically falls short of being an accurate representation of what was said and how it was said.  

I have also been looking at violence and the use of restraint on mental health wards. I have been examining body-worn (worn by nurses) camera footage from mental health wards in order to ascertain whether there are particular communicative and interactional patterns (i.e. speech acts and/or turn-taking dynamics) that precede the escalation of violent episodes in patients in acute mental health settings, and whether there are particular types of talk or exchange initiated by nurses and other mental health staff that result in a positive de-escalation of these violent incidents that could reduce the use of restraint on wards.  

I have come to my current research having worked for the previous six years as a collaborative researcher on interdisciplinary projects at Durham University; my work there centred round the application of mixed methods in linguistics to mental health research. Before this, my doctoral research at UCL focused primarily on metaphor comprehension, and the development of figurative language comprehension capacities in children, in particular. Over the years, my research has used whatever methods, experimental and analytic, are best for tapping into what I am investigating, ranging from eye tracking, to conversation analysis, questionnaires, and interviews.  

In TB1, I will be teaching Making Meaning, The Language of Life, and Critical Discourse Analysis. In TB2, I’ll be teaching Phonetics and Forensic Linguistics, and Nonverbal Communication. 

Outside of work, I spend most of my time rushing around after my two small boys, and I love running and food! 

Sustainability in Creative and Cultural Industries

Last Friday (10th September), UWE hosted a stop in the UK  Net Zero Carbon Tour. The Tour is an initiative that is working its way up the country to arrive in Glasgow in time for the start of Cop26. It allows local entrepreneurs and UWE academics/programmes to demonstrate and display their contributions to guiding our country towards Net Zero by 2050.

As well as lecturing on the English Language and Linguistics programme, I (Grant) am also the Sustainability Lead for Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). I was fortunate enough to be able to get a display zone in order to exhibit some of the great work that our students in English Language and Linguistics, and Creative and Professional Writing have done on sustainable themes. These included academic posters from research projects conducted in our second year module, Researching Language as Social Impact (Linguistics), and excerpts from portfolios from students in Creative Practice: Writing Mechanics in the form of short stories, scripts, and a poem. As the Sustainability Lead for CCI, I could not have been prouder of being able to exhibit work from our students, showing how important we consider sustainability and a greener future to be.

This was a particularly important moment for our programmes as fighting climate change and pushing sustainability is often considered to be in the realm of the hard sciences and education; but today I got a chance to explain the importance of creative writing and linguistics (language science) to persuade the public and provide research on the direct impact of language use on our decisions to be sustainable or not.

Thank you to the students who agreed to have their work displayed. It was a great day all-round!

Grant Howie

Summer Interns in BCL

Over the summer we’ve continued the tradition of having some student interns working alongside us in the Bristol Centre for Linguistics (BCL). After an incredibly competitive application process (there really were some excellent candidates this year!), Cleo, Taryn and Matt were successful in being awarded an intern placement. Here, Taryn and Matt reflect on their time working in BCL and adjusting to the world of work after completing their third year of study.  

My internship – Taryn Davis 

Over the past six weeks I have experienced my first taste of a real-life, make your Momma proud, kind of job. No more late nights mopping frozen daiquiri off the floor, I’m a Research Assistant (intern) now, Mum. From corpus-linguistics with James, to planning and publishing research for a new coursebook with Harriet, and even assisting with the hiring of a new linguistics lecturer – this internship has given me a wealth of experience to carry into the working world. 

My first week kicked off with a zoom call from James. I was given three tasks – create a content schedule for the next year of UWE Lingo posts, write some of these posts, and help research the potentially increased links between Journalistic Aggressive Questioning and Covid-19 Death Rates. After ten minutes of back-and-forth, I closed my laptop and locked eyes with my Yorkshire Terrier across the room – “It’s just you and me now, boy.” “Woof” he said. 

What struck me during the first week of my internship, was the independent and explorative nature of the role. Whilst those that I worked with were always on hand to answer any questions, it was my responsibility to get my head down and finish the assigned tasks. Time Management; Check. Independently Driven; Check. How you like me now LinkedIn Recruitment? 

After finishing my first week with James, I started helping Harriet. My first task was to choose some final-year Creative Writing zines to be distributed to prospective students, and to write them some entertaining, yet informative letters. This is harder than one might imagine due to there not being a single student in England who wants to check their emails over Summer. My other task for Harriet, was to organise, plan, and draft the contents for a Creative Writing and The Self coursebook. As someone who is now applying for Editorial Assistant roles, I found this to an enjoyable task. I also got to spend some time researching publishers, and potential competition for the book, which provided me with even more of an insight into the editorial world. 

Back to James now, only this time I’m analysing four years’ worth of National Student Survey data and using a Corpus Assisted Discourse Analysis approach to determine linguistic patterns in student comment data. This was difficult, but interesting. Using the Corpus Linguistic software, AntConc, I was able to determine keywords which appeared more frequently in 2021 as opposed to other years, and then analyse these further to make some qualitative analysis in-roads. I’d love to share the results, but it’s confidential. And I haven’t finished it yet. 

As of right now, whilst also writing this post and sipping a tea I can’t taste (thank you, Covid), I’m working with Grant on a sustainability focused project. Sustainability, however, is not purely environmentally focused, it also relates to culture and society, and in this case, the DUP’s dismissal of the Irish Language. I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth in to this final piece of research before my six-week internship comes to an end. 

These past six weeks have provided an enjoyable, and varied experience. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity and urge anyone who’s thinking about undertaking an internship (in the words of beloved Shia LeBouf), to “just do it”. 

My internship –  Matthew Currant 

Whilst working as a BCL intern I assisted in two research projects. The first project was primarily sociolinguistic and related to language used by politicians during discussions on the Northern Ireland language policy. The second project was psycholinguistic in nature and was concerned with ambiguous language used in social interactions, and how it might affect people’s happiness. 

The duties that I carried out during the internship were varied and included conducting literature searches, categorising (coding) data for analysis, creating draft literature reviews, sitting on a panel to assess candidates for a lecturing position, producing research materials, and helping to co-host an academic symposium.  

The internship was beneficial because it allowed me to experience the role of an academic and gain insight into the duties that they undertake. As someone who is considering an academic career, this was especially important and allowed me to assess whether such a career would be right for me. 

Additionally, the internship was intellectually stimulating and allowed me to learn about different linguistic areas. For instance, I spent a considerable time reading and extracting information from literature regarding the History of the Irish Language. I also attended an academic symposium that allowed me to learn about new linguistic research and to see how academics present and defend their work. 

Finally, working with other lecturers who actively encouraged my ideas and feedback allowed me to make a genuine contribution to some linguistic research. As a linguistic student interested in language, contributing to research which might make new discoveries about language and its usage was highly satisfying and rewarding. 

The internship was a very enriching experience and I highly encourage students to apply in the future! 

So, to end, all the staff working in BCL would like to thank Cleo, Taryn and Matt for their hard work over the summer! We wish you all the best for your next adventure!  

The Bristol Centre for Linguistics Project Prize

We’re very pleased to announce that this year’s BCL prize for the best undergraduate dissertation has been awarded to Eleanor Nuttall. Eleanor’s project was entitled ‘Investigating Native English Speakers’ Implicit Racial Biases Through Name Stereotyping’. It was a truly impressive piece of research on a pressing topic and was written in a clear and mature way. Many congratulations to Eleanor! You can see an abstract below:

Abstract

This research investigates native English speakers’ implicit racial name biases using matched-guise testing. The aim of this study is to explore the field of name stereotyping, in-group/out-group ideology, cultural associations and implicit biases and see if these previously reported claims are present in this project’s findings on a previously untested group. A further aim of this study is to investigate whether sociolinguistic factors such as age and gender impact the implicit name biases that may occur in native English speakers’ perceptions of Norwegian, English and Italian names. 114 participants completed the survey which used the matched-guise testing method. Participants were given one of three fake work emails; each had a different name and thus guise. They were then asked whether they thought the email was appropriate and their opinions of the person by ranking them on a five-point Likert scale with nine descriptive characteristics. The data of how the three guises were ranked was put through inferential testing using Chi-Square testing which received non-significant results. In sum, this language project suggests progress has occurred regarding implicit racial bias and name stereotyping, it does not claim nor support the idea that equality has been achieved or that the fight to get there is over. Then the sociolinguistic factors age and gender were implemented into the data as investigative measures to see if they had any effect of the results. Of which there were some interesting differences and trends. This project found the middle age category to be least biased and the older category to be most biased. The results also suggested that female participants were far less likely to rank the guises negatively than male participants.

On percentages, pandemics and parents

by James Murphy

When I was growing up, the Murphy children would always have to present themselves at the dinner table with details of their day at school.  If you came home and proudly beamed that you’d got 94% on a test at school, my dad would immediately respond, “and what happened to the other 6%?” It was always well meant… I think… and was a demonstration of his view that striving for the best you can do in your studies was the way to bettering one’s circumstances.

It is a thing of family legend, though, that one day I flipped my lid at my dad and suggested that he might like to look for the missing percentage points up one of his orifices.  

I tell this story whilst basking in the warm glow of a satisfaction rate of 94% in the National Student Survey.  After a trying year for staff and students, this is, I hope, one 94% my dad would’ve been proud of.  It is the result of the care and dedication of my wonderful colleagues in the English Language and Linguistics programme, their hard work in learning how to teach online and their desire to do right by our graduating students.

But that is true of friends and colleagues across Higher Education.  I don’t know of anyone who has taken this year lightly or saw online learning as an excuse to half-arse things.  Sadly though, they haven’t all been so fortunate to have received such positive outcomes in the NSS.  Many students have, quite fairly, used their voice in the survey to object to often being an after-thought of government policies during the pandemic.  What our results tell me is that we have been *hugely* fortunate to have a group of students who have wanted to work with us to get the best out of their studies and trusted that their tutors were always doing their very best.  The resilience and, frankly, emotional intelligence our graduates possess is what will stand them in the best stead for life after graduation, perhaps more than our having taught them about syntax, phonology or semantics — important though those things are!

This has been an academic year I wouldn’t want to repeat, but these results – despite people having differing views of the value of the NSS (in a global pandemic) – are perhaps a glimmer of sunlight as we move towards better times. Touch wood, anyway.