Welcome to Kate!

Hello! I am thrilled to be fully joining the team, having loved my time at UWE as an associate lecturer this past year. Here’s a bit of an intro to me and the work I do…

I’m a forensic linguist, which (broadly) means that I study the use of language in investigative and legal contexts. My current research focuses on first response police officers’ interactions with victims of domestic abuse at the scene of reported incidents. First response ‘call-outs’ are high-pressure, often high-emotion scenarios in which communication can easily break down. Yet the success of these encounters hinges on communication on both evidential and relational bases: officers need to find out what happened and victims need to feel supported. This is an un(der)studied setting because of the complex but crucial privacy measures involved. My research relies on police body-worn video (BWV) and the participation of the people it shows.

Because so little is known about talk in this context, I take a highly inductive approach to uncover the micro-level interactional features that contribute to what goes wrong (and right) during call-outs. Building on my PhD research at Cardiff University, I’m about to start work on some new BWV footage, with the ongoing aim of feeding these insights into police training. Beyond this, my wider research activities centre on spoken interaction in a variety of institutional contexts, with a focus on power, gender and vulnerability. I’m therefore really keen to explore some of the interdisciplinary research opportunities at UWE.

Originally from the north coast of Ireland, I caught the linguistics bug with an MA at Queen’s University in Belfast, before a job opportunity in Fiji whisked me away (as you can imagine!). I then spent ten jam-packed years working throughout the South Pacific Islands, Australia and Asia. The path back to this side of the world involved a distance MSc in forensic linguistics from Aston University, and a couple of babies…! I’ve now lived here in Bristol for the past five years and love this city.

This coming year (22-23) I’ll be teaching Language at Work, Studying Speech Communities, Constructing Languages, (Phonetics and) Forensic Linguistics, Nonverbal Communication and the second term of our shiny new module, Language, Environment and the Law. We have a brilliant community of Englist Lang & Linguistics students, and I look forward to seeing lots of familiar and new faces in September!

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 (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!

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!  

Undergraduates, an opportunity not to be missed!

by Craig Evans

I was pleased to see that UWE is supporting students wishing to attend the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) next year, no doubt due in large part to the tireless efforts of Jenny Hill to secure funding. As a recent UWE graduate of the English Language and Linguistics degree course, and someone who benefited from this support in 2014 and 2015, I feel that I should stress how it is an opportunity not to be missed. This is especially the case for those thinking about continuing your studies postgraduate. I am currently studying for an MA in Discourse Studies at Lancaster University, and I believe the experience of attending an undergraduate conference not only helped bolster my MA application, but also my self-belief for studying at a higher level.

Of course, it is not only an opportunity for would-be academics, but also invaluable for anyone hoping to get ahead in a variety of industry sectors. No doubt we’ve all had our fair share of advice about the importance of doing extra activities to get an edge in an increasingly competitive graduate work market. Well, if you only do one extra activity during your time at university, then I recommend you make it the attendance of an undergraduate conference. The drive, focus and initiative demonstrated by students who present their own independent research at a national conference is something that will impress any discerning employer.

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iMean Conference 2015

by Craig Evans

Back in April, the fourth iMean conference was held at the University of Warwick. This was the first iMean outside of UWE. The conference – started in 2009 and staged every two years – is organised by Jo Angouri and Kate Beeching. This year, UWE’s Helen Watts was at the helm coordinating a group of Warwick and UWE students to help ensure the smooth running of the event, which by all accounts was a great success.

Rachael and I were there representing UWE’s English Language and Linguistics undergraduates. It was an exciting opportunity to experience a different university campus, to meet others interested in language research, and to experience some fascinating talks by academics at all levels. During our four days at the conference, we helped out with registration, organising signage, and directing delegates to the right rooms. In return for our efforts, we were able to attend the talks we wanted, to enjoy free breakfasts and a free drinks event, and to gain some valuable work experience (always good for the CV).

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CDA speeches! A practical exploration of Aristotle’s artistic proofs and other rhetorical techniques

by Craig Evans

For last week’s Critical Discourse Analysis module, several students volunteered to write speeches which they then delivered in the seminars. The purpose of the exercise was to explore the way that features of classical rhetoric, in particular Aristotle’s artistic proofs, work in persuasive writing. The format involved four speakers in each seminar making opposing arguments on two topics. After each speech the rest of the seminar group were asked to discuss the rhetorical merits of the speech; and after each topic, a vote was held to decide which argument had won the most support.

The two topics chosen by students to speak on were immigration and the Oscar Pistorius trial. Speakers were asked to argue against or for the following propositions:

“Immigration has gone far enough and a firm limit should now be placed on Britain’s borders”

“Oscar Pistorius is guilty of murder and should be sentenced accordingly” Continue reading

Harry Parkin’s ‘What Tax Returns Reveal About the West Midlands Dialect’ – BCL Talk Review

by Craig Evans

The Bristol Centre for Linguistics’ seminar series continued yesterday with an engaging talk from recent PhD graduate Harry Parkin. The subject of Dr Parkin’s presentation was what tax returns reveal about the West Midlands English dialect; or to be precise, what the poll tax returns of 1377, ’78 and ’81 reveal about specific dialectic features. The main feature under examination was the rounding of /ɑ/ before nasal consonants, which would become an <o>. To illustrate this point, Dr Parkin provided the etymological example of band and bond, which would have once denoted variant spellings of the same word.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Dr Parkin’s research, and diachronic linguistics in general, is the methodology involved. How can we really know how people spoke in a time before technological innovations enabled voices to be recorded? The answer: well, we can’t really know for sure. However, evidence for the sound of English in the past does exist: in the form of the written word. Continue reading

Bristol Centre of Linguistics Seminar Series 2014-2015

by Craig Evans

The BCL seminar series starts tomorrow at UWE, and the line-up looks great! First up, Laura Wright will be visiting from Cambridge to deliver a talk on an interdisciplinary approach to history (Geography, Literature, Onomastics: the rural and suburban history of Sunnyside, Rm 2S609). This will be followed a week later (22 October, Rm 2S609) by our very own Harry Parkin who will be sharing with us his findings on what tax returns reveal about the West Midlands English dialect.

After a two-week interval, on 5 November (note: this has now been rescheduled to 3 December), Markus Schiegg will be over from the University of Bristol to talk about Variation in lower-class writing: 19th-century patient letters from southern Germany (Rm 2S603). Then, for those of you interested in semantics, Richard Coates will be revisiting a fascinating theme with Some more aspects of the Pragmatic Theory of Properhood, which will be on 12 November (Rm 2S609).

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