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.

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)