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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.

BANNER HEADLINE(!)

by Richard Coates

You may have noticed that English Heritage came up with the idea of a surname-laden flag “to cheer the team on this Sunday and show that the whole nation is behind them.” = see https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about-us/search-news/englnd-united/. The huge mass of information about the origin of individual names that they direct you to is taken (with permission) from the Oxford Dictionary of family names in Britain and Ireland. The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded the work for this four-volume dictionary, which was edited by Patrick Hanks and Richard Coates of UWE and Peter McClure of Hull. The task was undertaken over a period of six years (2010-16) at the Bristol Centre for Linguistics. Work has continued since the award in anticipation of a revised edition in due course, and shows no signs of flagging. Unfortunately the weight of about 32,000 names was a bit too much for the team to bear – but thinking positively, they were leading with only six kicks to go.

A sample:

Maguire: from Irish  Mag Uidhir ‘son of Odhar’, meaning ‘sallow’. This was the name of the ruling family of Fermanagh in the 13th-17th centuries. Yes, and Kane’s Irish as well. And Grealish. And Coady.

Trippier: from Old French trippier ‘tripe seller’; or perhaps from an unrecorded agent noun from trepertripper ‘to dance’.

Pickford: usually a variant of Pitchford, from a place-name in Shropshire.

Henderson: usually from Middle English and Older Scots Hener(i)son ‘Henry’s son’.

Mings: English, but heaven knows what.

Rashford: so rare that we haven’t got round to an explanation yet. But off the record, it may be a form of the surname Rochford.

A review of my internship with Bristol Centre for Linguistics

by Jess Freathy

Since June, I have been remote working as an intern for Bristol Centre for Linguistics. As the lockdown brought a rather anticlimactic end to my undergraduate degree in English Language and Linguistics, I was pleased to delay “adult life” by essentially extending my time in academia for another 10 weeks. I have (virtually) moved around the department, assisting the BCL academics with their summer research. Their range of specialities gave me a wide scope of activities and some juicy research areas to delve into. For those interested, I have written a little summary of my internship experience.  

My fellow linguistics graduates will, no doubt, continue to find themselves pondering over a particular turn of phrase from time to time, and the “lingo” of the COVID-19 pandemic was no exception for me. Luckily, I could put this mildly annoying habit to good use as I joined Prof. Jonathan Charteris-Black in his analysis of the Coronavirus discourse; it will come as no surprise that he is considering the use of metaphor in the recent media coverage. Together, we developed an online survey to examine how different frames of metaphor affect public reactions to the pandemic. This process has made me more aware of the manipulation of metaphors in the news, and it has been interesting to see this evolve with the ebb and flow of the pandemic. It was exciting to collaborate with a true CDA expert and see his work on this unprecedented era take shape. Discussing the term ‘Quentin Quarantino’ with Jonathan over Zoom while under national lockdown is a rather surreal highlight of my internship.  

Zooming out from the specific figurative language, I began to construct corpora of “crisis communication”. Reporting to Dr. James Murphy, I looked back on the year’s newspaper headlines to take a macro perspective of the language applied to the pandemic. It was very telling to see how the different ideologies of the publications were embedded in just a few words of headline. However, I do admit to my frustration as I revisited the government’s steps that basically led the country right off the edge of a cliff (the metaphors are endless!). I suppose hindsight is 20/20. Nevertheless, I was glad to be a small part of the academic study of this historic situation.  

At week 4, I was handed over to Dr. Charlotte Selleck, whose specialism in the Welsh language was a relatively unfamiliar topic, so the next three weeks were full of new discoveries. I scoured academic journals for all things “minority language” and was particularly intrigued by the intrinsic intersections with policy, social status, and perceptions of cultural capital. These were particularly relevant to Charlotte’s work on attitudes towards Welsh in the private education sector. This is a sphere I have no experience of and, while conducting CDA of curricula and prospectuses, I was surprised by the intense discourse surrounding the prospects of young children.  

Using my shiny new survey-making skills that I had practised with Jonathan, I worked with Charlotte to construct a survey for Welsh private school parents, to find the value they place not only on Welsh, but also on more “cosmopolitan” foreign languages. Throughout this process, I gained better awareness of the necessary rigour to accommodate various demographics, specifically same-sex, or single parents. Shamelessly, I think my work with Charlotte made me check my own cultural capital, which has motivated me to get back to language learning now I have finished uni.  Italian lessons await…? 

My final three weeks of this internship was much more familiar territory. I was reporting to Dr. Grant Howie as he embarks on a new project on Perceptual Dialectology, the topic of my final year dissertation. Even though I vowed to never set my eyes on these articles again, in a way, this literature (re)review was a blessing in disguise. I could use the “could’ve would’ve should’ve” attitude towards my own work to help Grant plan his study.  

I am looking forward to this project on accents in the South West of England, it deserves some more scholarly attention!  

All in, this internship has been a welcome bridge from student life into the more professional side of academia. Working from home has hardly felt like work. I am grateful to UWE’s lovely Linguistics department for their guidance over the last 3 years and for placing their confidence in me this summer. I have changed from an unambitious first year into an inspired linguist! I look forward to whatever comes next but, for now, I intend to make the most of sunny Bristol 🙂

A message to our graduating students

by James Murphy

You will by now have received your final results  – the outcome of three, or in some cases, four years’ hard work.  You can all be extremely proud of what you’ve achieved.  Not just in the form of the grade shown in black and white on your screen, but in terms of how you’ve grown in your time at UWE.  That growth is less tangible, but in no way less real.  You have developed into people who have a keen sense of what is just and fair, into people who put the interests of others before yourselves and into people who are unashamed to share your passions and feelings.  All of these aspects will set you in good stead – perhaps better stead than your grades – in the years to come.

You are graduating in perhaps the most challenging time for a group of students that I have known in my academic career – perhaps even in the longer careers of the more senior members of the linguistics team (no names mentioned…).  But this is a challenge which I know you are able to rise to.  Drawing on the skills you’ve developed in communication, analysis, synthesis and critical thought, as well as your evident care and compassion for others, I know that you will get to where you want to be in time.  That’s not to say that it will be easy or that the path will be straight, but showing resolve and resilience will help you get there.

Where ‘there’ is will be different for each of you, of course.  But every year I pass on to graduating students the words of wisdom which Kate Beeching shared with me when I first started at UWE.  Of work, she said that there are three important aspects: 1) You can enjoy what you do; 2) You can be making a difference with what you do; 3) You can earn lots of money.  And Kate says that the best you can hope for in a job is to have two of those three aspects.  And your priorities will change at different points in your life, such that you will likely be looking for a different two in your twenties than in your thirties than in your forties, and so on.  I won’t share which two I think I have in my job right now!  But what I wish for all of you is that at some point you reach the Holy Trinity!

So I am sending you this message with all my best wishes and with hope that we can celebrate all of your successes properly in the very near future.  Be proud of everything you’ve achieved and seek to do good in all your future endeavours.  Keep us posted with what you do next.

I shall be raising a glass to you all.

Summer Interns: An update from Megan

by Megan Crouch

I am a second year English Language and Linguistics student and am interning with Bristol Centre for Linguistics during the summer break this year. Currently, I’m three weeks in and already have learnt a huge amount that I will not only take forward with me for my final year of study but also forward with my career aspirations.

Working alongside Dr. Luke Rudge, I have been researching the use of gesture in interactions both when presenting as an individual but also with conversational partners. The first few days were heavily based upon my own learning and development. I began to delve into journals and books on gesture and how to use the gestural annotation software ELAN. This first reading was eye-opening, I was naïve to how complex gesture really is, the different conventions, annotation systems and analysis perspectives.

This internship so far has not just been a ‘do this task’ type of internship but instead I have been able to drive the direction of research myself (under the supportive eye of Luke) to explore the areas of gesture that interest me. In turn, this has led to hours of insightful reading discoveries, plenty of trips down rabbit holes uncovering new and interesting perspectives on ideas (which is never a bad thing!) and a new wealth of knowledge to take forward with me. As well as theoretical knowledge I have also developed practically to taking on ELAN where I have been segmenting, annotating and transcribing gestures using a bank of gesture conventions I collated from my reading. Don’t get me wrong, ELAN isn’t as simple as that brief sentence might sound it took a while to get my head around the system!

My research has directed me towards the beginnings of a cultural comparison in the use of gesture. I have been focussed on the different gestures used by British and American television show hosts while conducting interviews with their celebrity guests. Though the analysis so far comes from a very small pool of data I have found that the American interviewer is a lot more animated than the British, using far more gestures during an interview.

One thing I have read that I will remember forever… “The link between gestures and speaking is tight. This link develops in children even if they have never seen gestures. Congenitally blind children spontaneously develop speech-accompanying gestures though the frequency of gestures is not as high as in sighted children” (Kita, 2009).

Kita, S. (2009) Cross-cultural Variation of Speech-accompanying Gesture: A Review. Language and Cognitive Processes [online]. 24 (2), pp. 145-167.

PhD success for Helen Watts

Many congratulations to UWE stalwart, (Dr!) Helen Watts, who successfully defended her thesis in her PhD viva today and has been recommended for the award subject to some minor amendments.

The thesis, entitled ‘Discourses of Care: Enactments of relational work in two dementia care settings’, was a lucid and thorough analysis of how care workers build relationships with residents living with dementia through interaction.

The viva was an enjoyable affair reflecting the comments of the examiners who agreed that the thesis represented ‘an important piece of research, carried out with the utmost care and consideration’.

Many congratulations to all involved, including supervisors Dr Kate Beeching, Prof. Jo Angouri (formerly UWE, now Warwick) and Prof. Rik Cheston (of Health and Applied Sciences). But especially to Helen herself after nearly 6 years of hard work studying for the PhD part-time.

Bottom left: Helen Watts; Top left: Prof. Fiona Cramp (Independent Chair); Top Right: Dr Virpi Ylänne (External Examiner); Bottom Right: Dr Kate Beeching (Supervisor); Very Bottom Right: Dr James Murphy (Internal Examiner)

Celebrating Kate Beeching

At the end of this month, our dear colleague and Director of the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, Dr Kate Beeching, retires from UWE after almost 30 years of dedicated service. Here we attempt to do some justice to Kate’s contribution to linguistics, both at UWE and to the discipline at large.

Dr Kate Beeching

Kate Beeching has had a varied career, starting her academic life as a French and German student at Durham University.  It was probably there that she started to hide her Scottish brogue from the Southern Sassenachs.  She was known to escape the rarefied air and spires of Durham to experience real life in the more industrial towns of the North-East of England.  That probably set her up well for working as a modern languages teacher in a tough inner-city comprehensive in Coventry.  Whipping students into shape at UWE was a breeze in comparison!  Before those gigs, Kate spent time in Mexico City teaching English with the British Council.  She was able to revisit old haunts on a trip back to Mexico a couple of years ago.  No doubt her itinerary for life in retirement (and post-Covid) is lengthy.

Kate studied for an MA in Linguistics for Language Teaching at the University College of North Wales in the early 1980s.  This set her on the path to writing language textbooks, including: A Vrai Dire (a pioneering role-play dialogues textbook in that it was based on authentic data – a rarity in language learning materials of the time.  It was a book that still had currency when younger members of the linguistics team were learning French at school!); Ça se dit, ça s’écrit; Contrastes; and La Passerelle.  In creating those textbooks, Kate could be seen schlepping across France in the summer holidays, children and recording device in tow, collecting recordings of people playing Pétanque or ordering a coffee.  It speaks to Kate’s charm and wit (whether in French of English) that she rarely had problems co-opting people into being recorded.

Kate joined UWE in the early 1990s to teach on the French degree.  Throughout that time she has lived through various faculty mergers, reorganisations and closures, and has seen out fistfuls of Deans and Vice-Chancellors.  Indeed, it was Kate’s savvy which saw the creation of the Linguistics half-award, which later became a fully-fledged programme and the establishment of a number of research resources which were significant contributors to the creation of the Bristol Centre for Linguistics in the heady days of Howard Newby’s brief stint as VC.  She has since served as the Director of BCL and focussed on developing the Bristol aspects of the title and rooted the centre firmly within the community.  The closure of French offered an opportunity to Kate’s versatility and flexibility as a scholar.  Having completed her PhD in 2001 (under the supervision of Carol Sanders at Surrey and Françoise Gadet at Université de Paris) on French pragmatics markers (hein, quoi, enfin, etc.), Kate has increasingly worked on little English words.  This resulted in her magnum opus Pragmatic Markers in British English: Meaning in Social Interaction published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.  Her publication list is lengthy – and includes historical linguistic work (on politeness-induced semantic change – abbreviated to PISC – which has been widely adopted), sociolinguistic investigations (including on Bristolian as part of the Sounds Bristolian project she instituted), and contributions in corpus linguistics (indeed, the Beeching Corpus of Spoken French is a lasting legacy for scholars of French linguistics).  She retires as one of the UK’s leading scholars in pragmatics.

But in addition to her outstanding research, a second and important hallmark of Kate’s academic work is her generosity in supporting and working with others.  That can be seen in her work on French textbooks (include French Foundations with Annie Lewis formerly of UWE and which is widely used across UK universities), her various edited volumes (usually coming as a result of colloquia at conferences, and decided upon over a boozy dinner), and the fact that the special issues she has edited have always contained contributions from postgraduate students and junior academics.  Her co-founding of the iMean series of conferences provided an opportunity for collaboration between scholars working on meaning and social interaction – it is a legacy of which she can be proud.

And all the while, Kate has been collegial, supportive, generous with her time and keen to involve students and the community in her passion and enthusiasm for language.

Preparing for second year

Now that the assessment and marking period is over, and the first of the exam boards is out of the way — we can begin to turn our attentions to the next academic year. The list below gives students going into third year some ideas of things to be reading over the summer and/or some tasks you can be doing in preparation of starting back in September. All of these books are available online through the UWE Library (or are otherwise provided via links below).

Studying Speech Communities (compulsory)

Reading

  1. Chapter 1 of Meyerhoff (2019) Introduction to Sociolinguistics
  2. Chapter 8: Where’s the proof? of Cottrell (2011) Critical thinking skills: Developing effective analysis and argument
  3. Part I: Introduction in Mallinson, Childs and van Herk (2018) Data collection in Sociolinguistics: Methods and applications

Activities

  1. Reacquaint yourself with the IPA Chart (I cannot stress this enough – please be fluent)
  2. Sociolinguistics in action #1: Think about the people that you talk to through an average week and ask yourself:
    • Do you greet them all the same way?
    • Do you say goodbye the same way?
    • If there are differences, why do you think that these happen?
  3. Sociolinguistics in action #2: Think about your interactions with people again:
    • How often do you expect a full and honest answer to ‘how’s your day been?’ or ‘how are you?’
    • Is it sometimes inappropriate to tell someone the gritty details of your day?
    • Think about the different people you meet and what is expected in answer to this everyday question.

Language Acquisition (compulsory)

Language at Work (TB1 option)

  • For an overview of Conversation Analysis (CA), read Part 1 Introducing CA of  ten Have, Paul (2007). Introducing Qualitative Methods: Doing conversation analysis. London: SAGE.
  • For an introduction to workplace language – read Unit 1 of Koester, Almut (2004) Language of Work. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Language of Life (TB1 option)

  • Chapters 1 and 2 of Maynard, Douglas (2003) Bad news, good news: Conversational order in Everyday talk and clinical settings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press [You can access this here]
  • Familiarise yourself with the various formats which podcasts can take by listening to a variety on topics of interest to you.

Researching Language as Social Impact (TB1 option)

  • Familiarise yourself with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300)
  • Look around your local community or family/friend networks and see if there are projects or activities ongoing which promote one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Chapters 1 and 2 of Litosseliti, Lia (ed.) (2010) Research methods in linguistics. London: Continuum [You can access this here]

Preparing for third year

Now that the assessment and marking period is over, and the first of the exam boards is out of the way — we can begin to turn our attentions to the next academic year. The list below gives students going into third year some ideas of things to be reading over the summer and/or some tasks you can be doing in preparation of starting back in September. Except texts indicated with an * — all of these books are available online through the UWE Library.

Language Project

  • You should have been allocated a project supervisor — it may be useful to get in touch directly with them to discuss your project idea, and ways that you can refine this over the summer.
  • A good starting point for going about conducting a linguistics project can be found in Wray, A & A. Bloomer (2012) Projects in linguistics and language studies. 3rd edition. London: Hodder.

Gender, (Im)politeness and Power in Language

  • It would be well worth spending some time reading a range of articles in the Journal of Gender and Language  – https://journals.equinoxpub.com/GL/index (and available via the UWE library search page). This will give you a flavour of the range of research being carried out in this field. You will also find plenty of relevant research papers in the Journal of Sociolinguistics. 
  • In particular, you could look at the work of Lucy Jones – https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/english/people/lucy.jones 
    We will be discussing her research during the module. 

Language and Cognition

  • Chapters 1 & 2 of Traxler, M. (2012) Introduction to psycholinguistics: Understanding language science.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
  • Listen out for any speech errors you hear or make and keep a log of them

Critical Discourse Analysis

  • *Charteris-Black, J. (2018) Analysing Political Speeches: Rhetoric, Discourse  and Metaphor. 2nd edition Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave-MacMillan. [This is the main coursebook and so it will be useful to have your own copy]
  • Charteris-Black, J. (2019) Metaphors of Brexit:No Cherries on the cake. London: Palgrave.
  • Gunderson, E. (ed) (2009) The Cambridge Guide to Ancient Rhetoric. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Wodak, R. & Meyer, M. (2015) Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. London: Sage

Languages in the Mind

  • Grosjean, F. (2012) Bilingual: Life and Reality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [Used in TB1]
  • Everett, C. (2013) Linguistic relativity: Evidence across languages and cognitive domains. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. [Used in TB2]

TESOL

  • *Harmer, J. (2007) The practice of English Language teaching. 4th edition. London: Longman
  • Rebecca implores you please, please, please make sure you buy the 4th edition — there are plenty of second hand copies available from a major online retailer (you know the one), and Abebooks.co.uk

Creative Writing and the Self

  • Claxton, G. (2015) Intelligence in the Flesh: Why your mind needs your body much more than it thinks. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. [Selected chapters are set as homework in TB1, but it helps to have an understanding of the full argument, so good to read in full — it’s written for a lay audience, so accessible]
  • McGilchrist, I. (2009) The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. [Intro and Part I Chapter 2 especially useful, but do explore further. This video condenses McGilchrist’s ideas
  • The following interview will be required viewing in early TB1 but watching over the summer is recommended because Lynda Barry’s ideas about creative activities are central to this module