Monday, 12 December 2016

#blog48 What happens when a whole cohort of first years write about learning on their module?

#blog48 Approaches to Meaning Module Reflection Challenge

The following blog post was written by the entire first year Approaches to Meaning cohort as a way to reflect on and consolidate their learning and memories from the module. This was done to give students a chance to embed their learning more deeply by attaching it to memories, and to give them a chance to develop skills that English Language and Linguistics graduates bring to the jobs market in abundance. They did it beautifully, and we are very pleased with the result!

Students requested one of the following roles: content provider, curator, photographer, creative director and editor. Editors helped to write the following blog post collaboratively, using Google Docs, and completing the challenge within 48 hours. Well done! Over to the students...

- Becci

Over the last twelve weeks, we have been introduced to a range of new ideas surrounding the topic of ‘Approaches to Meaning’. Created collaboratively within the space of 48 hours, this post was a group challenge designed to bring together twelve weeks of what we have learned, what we have achieved and some of our favourite memories from the past term. It’s a reflection technique that allows us to collaborate, making use of and developing skills that can be used later in life, both in and outside of a work environment. Some of the keys skills developed during this task are as follows: 

          • Reflection
          • Communication
          • Visual/creative skills
          • Teamwork
          • Curating data and information

Our tutor, Becci, gave us four questions that we should reflect on before and during our class. Here are the questions, and some of our responses and thoughts:

Question 1: Why would I recommend this module to future students?

If someone were to say that they didn’t know whether taking Approaches to Meaning was for them or not, we’d answer them with this...

By taking this module, you will cover more than what you expect - one student described Approaches to Meaning as “a dynamic and interesting range of areas to study about language and linguistics". The range of material is astonishing and there’s a topic for everyone. Whether you’re into sociolinguistics or history of meanings, "this module will give you knowledge about your own language. You will have another view of your language and understand it better." As Beth pointed out, for example, sociolinguistics is “a great way to look at the language of your demographic". Some have us have been looking at the meanings of new slang words, and the meaning of words in Grime culture. 

Furthermore, on our module, you are able to develop your skills in both essay writing and presenting through the assignments that are given and, when it comes to the assignments, the nice thing about them is that you are given encouraging feedback to take away. This particularly helps with something such as presentations. Presenting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but the encouraging feedback which we were then given helped tremendously with confidence levels, with Becci going on to say that the “student presentations were really good”. The same can be said with the feedback from the essays. 

Question 2: What is the most interesting thing I have learnt about English Language and Linguistics on this module?

Approaches to Meaning is an extremely broad module with a diverse range of study topics - meaning that there’s something of interest for everyone. Psycholinguistics in particular seemed to be a real hit, with one student saying that the most interesting thing they learned on the module was “in the week of psycholinguistics with Prototype Theory - I look forward to more psycholinguistics in second year” and another telling us “I enjoyed learning about how different people can interpret concepts differently and how many elements are affected by context or opinion".

Consideration of social aspects is a key strand of English Language and Linguistics, so we have spent some time using sociolinguistic approaches this term. An interesting thought that one student has taken away from this area of study is that “[s]lang is just language not yet accepted by the public"' In order to collect data for sociolinguistic study, a significant part of the module was learning how to use corpora (collections of written texts from a range of sources). Another student said that the most interesting aspect of Approaches to Meaning for them was “being taught how to use corpora and how many fascinating and bizarre things they hold". Corpora are big bodies of text data that reveal interesting patterns and secrets about words and their usage.

Martha told us that the most interesting thing she’s learnt on this module was “[a]bout synonymy…And how to pronounce synonymy” whilst another student simply told us “[e]verything blows my mind!” Good stuff!

Question 3: What have I learnt about myself through participating in seminars?

On this module, not only did we gain extensive knowledge about the English Language in ways we had never even thought of, we also learnt a lot about ourselves through participating in the seminars - and it is safe to say that many of us feel as if we have grown in our experience and applicable skills through our weekly discussions and tasks we completed. 

For instance, one student says she has learnt to "be more confident about [herself] and speaking in front of a crowd" in regard to delivering her presentation in front of the rest of the class, a skill which she can apply to a multitude of professional contexts. Similarly in terms of self-confidence, another student told us “I have learned I should not be afraid to share my opinions with the seminar groups". Others added “[i]t is important to share ideas and thoughts as other students will have interesting comments and feedback” and “I’ve learned that the best way for me to learn is by talking through a subject". So, it sounds as though the social, communal nature of Approaches to Meaning seminars have suited us all down to the ground. Starting university and suddenly feeling like a tiny fish in a huge pond is daunting for most people - but being able to share ideas and opinions with fellow like-minded students can really help us all to feel more confident and better connected.

It also sounds as though equal and positive relations between students and tutors have been hugely beneficial to all throughout this module. In regards to helpful feedback on assignments, one student said “Keep trying - the second draft is always better and the third is always better than that, and then the fourth… Eventually you’ll be a WINNER". But not only have we students learned a lot about ourselves during our first term - Becci also told us “I have found out that I can learn from my students". Win-win!

Most importantly, though, the nicest way of learning about oneself is through realising how much you enjoy something and simply having fun. One happy student said “I learnt to stick to what I love and that is Linguistics!”

Question 4: What is my favourite memory from Approaches to Meaning seminars?

As the weeks grew on it was undeniable that in our seminar groups we had formed close bonds with each other, sharing some amazing memories of the fun we had in our weekly discussions, in which seminar teacher Becci "blew our minds" on the regular. A personal favourite of mine was the sense of camaraderie and competition between classmates when faced with the weekly quiz, which Kate described as "so intense and so fun". 

One student picked out their favourite memory of the entire module as being the big ‘Cake v. Biscuit Debate’ which took place in our seminar on psycholinguistics and Prototype Theory. What makes a biscuit not a cake and what makes a cake not a biscuit? What is a flapjack? And where on earth does a Jaffa Cake stand on the scale? All appear to be just some of life’s big, unanswered questions and the matter remains unresolved. Another student’s most cherished Approaches to Meaning memory was learning about the lady behind the Prototype Theory herself, Eleanor Rosch (“GIRL POWER!”).

One memory that stood out as a highlight was the word association game. We played this as a way of getting to grips with how word senses and concepts might link in the mind. When asked to write a favourite memory down, this was what some of us had to say about the word association game:

“My fave memory was playing word association and it worked perfectly!” - Beth
“How surprisingly often the word ‘spatula’ came up.” - Eve

Some even chose to highlight when word association took an interesting turn and some answers weren’t what we would expect:

“Word association: (Tree → Christmas → spoon???)”

“Word association: everyone: 'pen'; Becca: 'protractor!' "

But of course, we used these more unusual cases to try and work out how we deal with word meanings in discussions!

One final memory that really stood out was the week we decided to create a new word and put it onto Twitter to see how far the word would travel in a week. We wanted to see if we could get people to pick up on our usage of the word and use it themselves. In a week, we think we managed to get one person to use our word naturally, with some other questionable findings. It might be interesting to go back and have a look to see where it’s got to now. Our made-up word, we decided, was quirmy. And the meaning? ‘Feeling off or something gross’.

To sum up, the last twelve weeks have taught us an awful lot of what we will need both academically and outside of the classroom as has been highlighted above. As one of the editors for this post, the process of doing this has allowed me to develop skills such as collecting information and putting it into a suitable format. It has also been a way of developing team work, communication skills and use of technology which have been an integral part of this challenge. All of these skills are key to any job, but when looking at them with regard to this blog post, they are usual for any form career in media industries; technology and writing.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

ROLLS 30/11: 'Talking to the police about rhubarb' with Dr Frances Rock

‘Talking to the police about rhubarb’: Interpersonal, metalinguistic and multimodal meaning making in legal advice to asylum seekers
In the 12-month period ending August 2016, 36,465 people applied for asylum in the UK (Refugee Council 2016). For those seeking asylum from a location within the UK the application process is accompanied by a period of waiting which can often extend for many years when such activities as paid work are prohibited. If those seeking asylum, and in this liminal state, can demonstrate that they are destitute, they can receive a small amount of financial support from the UK Government. This paper examines exchanges in and around a legal advice drop-in where those seeking this financial support are offered advice and information on their claims for financial support. 
Drawing on linguistic ethnographic and discourse analytic approaches to data collection and analysis, the paper examines ways that meaning is made in the face of differences in background, social role and even language between advisers and clients.
The paper illustrates how meaning making is accomplished through interpersonal work on the theme of life in the city (Wise and Noble 2016; Blackledge, Creese and Hu 2015), metalinguistic talk about language and language practices (Levine 2009; Merrills 2009) and multimodal meaning making such as the use of drawing (Ormerond and Ivanič 2002) and mobile phone technologies (Jacquemet forthcoming). This examination provides insights into how legal advice is accomplished in the contemporary, superdiverse city and how language practices scaffold social relationships in times of extreme personal hardship.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Student (and teaching fellow!) Perspectives on ROLLS

Last week, in our ROLLS session, we were very lucky to receive a stimulating and thought-provoking talk about Light Verb Constructions, and how corpus methods can be used to shed light on their usage and semantics. The talk mentioned the semantic concepts of ambiguity and vagueness, and it struck me and Justyna that the information in the talk might be of benefit to a range of our current students who are working on meaning. Plenty of students came along, and engaged with the talk, and this made me really happy to see. 

Extracurricular talks which present research might be perceived as inaccessible by some students who may get a lot out of going if only they went. Research lectures and seminars might feel like a closed-off space for undergraduates who might not think they belong there because they're not 'senior' enough to have earned a pew. This is not what the situation is like at Sussex. Coming to Sussex as a new staff member, I have to say that my colleagues here in English Language and Linguistics do lots to include students in research seminars, and always communicate that students are welcome. We always explain how and why particular talks can be beneficial. Our door is open. We are fostering collegiality, and giving a spark to those who want to explore English language and linguistics. This, again, makes me really happy to see.

Not all of our students come to ROLLS, but a lot do. I wanted to find out what benefit they see in attending the talks. Just because you are present somewhere, it doesn't mean that you are benefiting, or enjoying it! I spoke to three students about ROLLS to get their perspectives. 

Paul is one of our MA students. He sees ROLLS as a 'hefty jolt' of learning and information, and enjoys taking insight from short but intense introductions to the work of others. Paul suggested to me that the talks can be food for thought when thinking of his own work. He'd never thought about LVCs before, but he has now. Sometimes, the spark for a really exciting study comes from a throwaway comment made by another researcher. ROLLS gives our postgraduate students that exposure to new ideas. 

The theme of exposure to ideas in linguistics continues when we turn to the undergraduates. A first year student of mine, Jodie, told me that the talks are a great way to hear about what's going on in linguistics that is new and exciting. Like Paul, Jodie can get to learn about things she might not otherwise hear about, and she appreciates that the information and perspectives come from an expert in the field. Becca, another first year, told me that she appreciates the chance to ask questions, and participate in and listen to academic debate, honing her broader study/work skills. Becca also feels listening to other academics is helping her to structure her work in a better way. 

As a student, I loved going to talks like ROLLS - it was a chance for staff and students to learn and debate together to expand their knowledge on exciting topics. I never would be where I am without this type of stimulation. I'm glad to see this type of learning happening here, and if you haven't attended yet and want to see the benefit for yourself as a student, please come to the next one on the 30th of November. It's about meaning making in legal advice to asylum seekers (1pm, Jubilee, G36).

Rebecca - Teaching Fellow in English Language and Linguistics

Friday, 18 November 2016

Student blog post: The history of ‘cotch’: from Victorians to Grime artists

Elizabeth Doherty is a first year student in English Language and Linguistics with an interest in language use in music and the media. Beth carried out her research using the Oxford English Dictionary (online) and the Early English Books Online Corpus.

The history of ‘cotch’: from Victorians to Grime artists

As a young person, it’s my experience that Grime music and associated youth culture has had significant impact on my language use and that of my social group. In my life, the rise of Grime appears to be linked with an increase in use of certain ‘slang’ terms. Linguistically, the Grime genre is full of language with interesting histories, and just one of these words is ‘cotch’. People my age have the metalinguistic belief that this is a new word with a recent etymology, but this isn’t true.

‘Cotch’ apparently derives from Jamaican English. It said that it is derived from the verb ‘scotch’ with deletion of the ‘s’, leaving ‘cotch’. In the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, online), it says that ‘scotch’ is from Barbadian English, and means ‘to find or be given temporary make-do accommodation’. This can be seen to link to the noun sense of ‘cotch’. In the OED, ‘cotch’ is said to mean (in Jamaican English) ‘a place to sleep, rest or sit temporarily’.

According to the OED, the first instance of ‘cotch’ means something like ‘to rest oneself; to lean on something for support’, with usage in the late 1800s, e.g., ‘they are not supposed to cotch even for ten minutes…’. This shows that ‘cotch’ as lexeme was present in the Victorian era.

As part of my research into ‘cotch’, I looked into the Early English Books Online corpus where I found an instance of ‘cotch’ dating back to the 1600s:

(1) ‘Let the Cotch stay at Showlane end.’

It was not clear from the information in the corpus what this noun phrase meant – it could have been a misspelling of something else (a coach?). Still, it is possible that the word was in use quite early on. In any case, most of the usages I found related to some sense of relaxation, as in the Victorian instance above.

Today, ‘cotch’ has a very colloquial meaning. It is often described by young people as the act of ‘chilling out’. This definition of ‘cotch’, meaning to chill out or relax, is not surprising given the definition of ‘cotch’ during the Victorian era. The word appears to be popular with Grime artists, an underground genre of music often associated with youth culture.

Dizzee Rascal is a famous Grime artist. His debut album is called ‘Boy in Da Corner’. The first track of this record  features ‘cotch’ as a verb:

(2) ‘I’m just sitting here, I ain’t saying much, I just watch I really don’t feel like moving, so I cotch’.

We have seen above that ‘cotch’ can be both a verb and a noun, and so belongs to different parts of speech. On today’s Grime scene, I have noticed that the noun sense is often marked by a possessive. These instances appear to me to be linked with the competitive nature of Grime music, which is often a convention of the genre, e.g:

(3) ‘I’m back in the white man’s cotch’ (Graftin’, Dizzee Rascal).

Here, a ‘white man’s cotch’ can be interpreted as referring to a home or a place which one perhaps owns, almost as a metaphor for territory. It’s my perception that more artists and fans/young people are adopting ‘cotch’ in either part of speech to identify strongly with a particular subculture.

As you can see, ‘cotch’ has a very interesting history from Victorian society to its inclusion in Grime and youth culture. It seems to be that it’s meaning is reasonably fixed – I perceive ‘cotch’ to be common as a verb, but corpus work would be needed to confirm this. The core meaning is definitely to do with resting or chilling out. In any case, after such a long history, the lexeme really should take five minutes to cotch.

Beth Doherty – English Language and Linguistics Student, University of Sussex  

Monday, 14 November 2016

ROLLS! Seth Mehl talks to us about Light Verb Constructions (LVCs)

Join us for ROLLS this Wednesday at 1pm in Jubilee G36 - we'll be joined by Seth Mehl from Sheffield University. He'll be speaking on Light Verb Constructions; Seth draws on innovative corpus approaches, and talks about some of the meaning relations that we and our students have been studying this semester. For more information, read on...


English light verb constructions (LVCs), such as make decisions and take action, have been an object of linguistic study for nearly a century (cf. Poutsma 1926, Jespersen 1954, Huddleston and Pullum 2002). In this talk, I present new research on English LVCs with maketake, and give, as evinced by three components of the International Corpus of English, representing Singagpore English, Hong Kong English, and British English (ICE; cf. Greenbaum 1996). In particular, I demonstrate the value of two corpus semantic methods: corpus onomasiology, and identity evidence. Corpus onomasiology examines, in naturally occurring language, language users' preferences for selecting different forms that express a given meaning (cf. Geeraerts et al. 1994). Corpus onomasiology is particularly useful for LVC study insofar as LVCs have been defined as expressing equivalent meaning to a related verb: for example, make decisions is equivalent to decidetake action is equivalent to act (v.).  Identity evidence (Mehl 2013), a relatively new approach in corpus semantics, involves naturally occurring language data that resembles classic identity tests for polysemy (cf. Kempson 1977: 130; Palmer 1981: 106; Cruse 1986: 62; Cruse 2004: 104). Identity evidence in this case demonstrates polysemous usage of light verbs. I employ onomasiological evidence and identity evidence together to show that there is remarkable consistency in light verb semantics across these three varieties of World Englishes, even in extremely nuanced features of semantics in use. I also present the groundbreaking argument that not all light verbs are light in the same way, but instead exhibit degrees of lightness.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Mock politeness and culture: Perceptions and practice in UK and Italian data - Charlotte Taylor's latest article

Charlotte Taylor has recently had an article published in the prestigious Intercultural Pragmatics journal. 

Charlotte is very interested in mock politeness/impoliteness, and the development and deployment of corpus methods in pursuit of findings. These research strands come together in her latest publication, in which she considers the extent to which perceptions of cultural variation correspond to actual practice, examined through the lenses of Britain and Italy. 

An interesting finding from the first stage of Charlotte's study is that, using British and Italian corpora, it appears that potential mock-polite behaviours such as being ironic are associated with British identity.

Charlotte's paper can be accessed here.

Vowels like Jagger - "Under my tongue: a longitudinal study of the vowels of Sir Mick Jagger"

Lynne Cahill recently presented longitudinal research on the vowels of Sir Mick Jagger at English Melodies/PAC International Conference, run by the Laboratoire Parole et Langage in Aix-En-Provence. The study was jointly conducted with a final year undergraduate student, Kate Jellyman, and was a development of her exciting undergraduate final year project.

Lynne and Kate tracked three of Sir Mick's vowels between 1964 and 2013. For comparison, the vowels of speakers of Received Pronunciation and 'cockney' were also examined for a similar time-frame. Lynne and Kate used Praat software to analyse the relevant vowel sounds, and found that, overall, Jagger's vowels are somewhat closer to 'cockney' (but this is not always consistent), and that, in general, his vowels have stayed the same over time.

Who said that linguists aren't rock-and-roll?

Lynne Murphy Discusses Trump and the American Elections in the Media

Judging by our social media analyticals, regular readers and followers of our posts enjoy a good 'language and politics' story. Lynne Murphy, Reader in Linguistics here at Sussex, in addition to her other research, has been busy the last few months engaging with the media on topics relating to the (very, very) soon-to-be-upon-us American general election.

Lynne will appear on BBC Radio 3’s ‘The Verb’ this Friday to talk about words of 2016.  In October, she appeared on KCBS talk radio in San Francisco and on RTR RM (Australia)'s Talk the Talk to discuss the way that Donald Trump ‘others’ people through his linguistic choices This links with a recent article in she wrote for Quartz which examines how Trump’s use of one, tiny, commonplace expression - ‘the’ – causes him to sound racist. This article can be viewed here (if you've not seen it already - it went a bit viral.)

Keep your eyes peeled, no doubt, for further linguistic analysis after the election. If you cannot wait for your latest installment, Lynne also runs a regular blog on differences between British and American English, Separated By A Common Language.

A Spoken Corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English

A Spoken Corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE)

Melanie Green, working with Miriam Ayafor (University of Yaounde I) and Gabriel Ozon (University of Sheffield) have recently created and released the Spoken Corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English. The work was funded by the British Academy, and a Leverhulme Grant.

Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE) is a pidgin/creole language variety that has been heavily stigmatised and, to date, has not been extensively codified. Melanie and her colleagues carried out fieldwork to collect samples of private and public conversations and monologues for tagging and inclusion in their corpus. The way that the corpus is constructed allows CPE to be compared with other post-colonial varieties of English for research purposes.

The corpus contains 240,000 spoken words. The corpus is important in that it is linked with ongoing developments of a spelling system for CPE, and it will be useful for new research into CPE through the lenses of creolistics, typology, language contact, and other fields of theoretical and applied linguistics.

If anybody would like to explore the corpus and look at the variety in more detail, it can be accessed here

When Cinema Borrows from Stage: Theatrical Artifice through Indexical Explicitness in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Dogville

Roberta Piazza has recently had an article published in a special issue of Social Semiotics. The paper is entitled When Cinema Borrows from Stage: Theatrical Artifice through Indexical Explicitness in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Dogville.
Roberta’s research focuses on discourse analysis, pragmatics, stylistics and sociolinguistics, with a particular emphasis on how this relates to (different) media and to discourse and to identity. Roberta's current paper examines how theatrical texts can ‘travel’ to the cinema medium.

"The Cook" (from Piazza, 2016)

In the abstract, Roberta writes:

"Framed within the debate on the different nature of theatrical and filmic communication, the study considers two avant-garde films by Greenaway, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, and von Trier, Dogville, as examples of texts that travel from one medium to another and show closeness to the theatre. This is revealed not solely through the artificiality and the enclosure of the setting and the mise-en-scène, but also at the level of the discourse understood as the ensemble of images, music, gestures, and dialogue. The two films exhibit an unnaturalness unusual in cinema, a medium in which the editing realises a seemingly realistic representation of characters and events. The discussion focuses on how such a sensation of artificial non-realism is achieved in the films. It is argued that it derives from the marked explicit relation between the various levels of communication in the two films, the verbal and the visual, as well as between the dialogue contributions by the different participants in the narrative, characters, and narrator. The construct adopted for the analysis is indexicality, which is interpreted in a broad sense and that, as is discussed, contributes to the “monstrative” dimension of the films in terms of the explicitness of the communication."

The paper can be viewed here.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

One day symposium on Discourse: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

One day symposium on Discourse: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

On the 18th of November, we are hosting an exciting and engaging one day symposium (free of charge) which explores discourse from multidisciplinary perspectives (law, media, religion, identity construction in various fields). For any enquiries, or to register, please email The programme for the event can be viewed below. Places are limited and only a few remain, so please register your attendance as soon as possible. We are looking forward to some stimulating discussions, and hope to see you there! (Language Centre, LLC4, Arts A Building).

Monday, 17 October 2016

Student bloggers wanted!

Student bloggers wanted!

Are you thinking about a career in journalism, PR, media, law, advertising, education and/or academia? Is it likely, if not, that you'll be in some career where you'll need to write reports, or research and feed back on particular topics to your team? You'll answer yes to at least one of these questions. Good writing competence is essential in the working world.

The ability to research a topic, and to write about it coherently and succinctly is relevant to all graduate careers these days, and is, indeed, absolutely essential for some of those mentioned above. Can you imagine working in branding, and not being required to write about a product for public consumption? Is there a journalist who doesn't research and present their findings and opinions to the public? Precisely. As businesses move their customer-reaching communications online, blogging is an important tool in communicating with customers. For those of us into teaching or academia, blogging is becoming a key way to communicate research, and to obtain feedback on early research ideas.

Rebecca (@chasing_ling) is looking for student bloggers to write short pieces of 350-500 words (maximum) on topics in English language and linguistics. You can drop in to see her in B247 between 10 and 12 on a Wednesday in her office hours. She welcomes work from BA, MA and PhD students. Choose any topic that fascinates you, get scribbling, and you will receive feedback on your writing, and any help that you need to mould it into a snappy and informative piece for this blog. 

Like conlangs? Tell us something about Dothraki or Klingon. Interested in 'slang'? What's happening with the rise-and-rise of a 'new' word in your area? Have you noticed cases of discrimination in the discourse of the media? Tell us about your findings. Is there a 'pet peeve' in linguistics that you'd like to explore and find out why people become angry about it? The potential is endless. We are waiting. Hone your writing skills, learn something new, and develop your online communication for the working world. Rebecca looks forward to hearing from you!

Monday, 26 September 2016

ROLLS talk 5th October: Developing a cognitive pragmatic theory of emphasis as showing

Dr Rebecca Jackson recently completed her PhD entitled ‘The Pragmatics of Repetition, EMPHASIS, and Intensification’ at The University of Salford, and recently joined Sussex University as the new teaching fellow in English Language and Linguistics. Her talk concerns her current research programme, which is an attempt to develop a pragmatic theory of emphasis. Having approached the topic of emphasis through the lens of repetition initially, Rebecca found that within pragmatics generally, within some areas of stylistics, and within her own field of pragmatics, Relevance Theory, there is no concrete and cognitively-driven explanation of what emphasis is, how we notice it, how we use it, and what the effects of emphasis might be on communication. The term is generally used intuitively, and with the assumption that we all know what ‘emphasis’ means as a theoretical concept. Using the case of epizeuxis (adjacent repetitions), and taking inspiration from research in prosody, typography, TV captioning, and graphic design, Rebecca’s aim is to start developing a pragmatic theory of what emphasis is and how it works. There will be some examples from Japanese TV captioning, and from British women's magazines., among other sources

In her ROLLS talk, Rebecca takes us on a tour of different things which have been called emphasis in the fields mentioned above, and asks what they have in common from the point of view of what and how they communicate. Repetition is often called emphatic, and repetitions can be thought of as showing what a speaker wants to communicate, rather than saying it (providing linguistic evidence for a speaker’s meaning), so is the claim in this talk. If this is right, then maybe all the emphasis phenomena examined in the talk communicate by way of showing, by way of providing more ‘direct’ evidence for what the speaker intends to communicate. Rebecca’s claim is that emphasis is simply very ostensive, deliberate, and attention-attracting showing behaviour on the part of a speaker. Taking account of the relevance-theoretic claim that we will generally try to maximise the amount of useful information that we can get from a stimulus (and this for as little effort as possible), Rebecca considers why speakers emphasise things, what the effect of this may be, and what practical applications a better understanding of emphasis might engender.

Monday, 12 September 2016

What’s new for 2016-2017?: New faces

Welcome to the new academic year! This year’s what’s new is more of a who’s new.

We are delighted to welcome Rebecca Jackson who is joining us this year. She will mostly be covering for Charlotte Taylor & Roberta Piazza during their research leave and will be teaching modules relating to semantics (1st year), pragmatics and intercultural communication (2nd year and MA), discourse analysis (2nd year) and stylistics (2nd and 3rd year). Rebecca’s own research sits at the interfaces of pragmatics with stylistics, prosody, and semantics. Her PhD explored ‘The Pragmatics of Repetition, EMPHASIS, and intensification’ and was a part-pragmatic/stylistic and part-linguistic treatment of some of the very disparate phenomena which have been called repetition. While working on the project, she became very interested in emphasis, nonverbal communication, and intonation/prosody. She is currently preparing papers on developing and applying a pragmatic theory of emphasis. If you would like to find out more about her research, look out for an appearance on the ROLLS programme! 

We will also be welcoming Dario del Fante from University of Siena, Italy, who is visiting on an Erasmus placement from October-March. He has just finished his MA with a dissertation on A corpus based study of the representation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in British broadsheets. He will be working with Charlotte Taylor as a research-assistant, mainly focussing on corpus design and building.

And lastly of course, we are looking forward to meeting all our new students – welcome to Sussex

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Research news: September 2015-August 2016

As usual, we are starting the year with a round-up of what we have all been up to over the last academic year – and it has been a busy one!

Staff research

Lynne Cahill has been working on a project with Stefania Merlo Perring (a historian at the University of York) scanning and transcribing medieval charters in order to compare the original language with the language used in the digitised calendar entries that are being used in most digital humanities projects. She introduced this project to us at ROLLS this year. She also presented her study of The rise and rise of the orthographic kiss (in UK CMC) at the Tenth Workshop on Written Language and Literacy in Nijmegen, Netherlands (May). In recognition of her work in the area, she has been elected Vice President of the Association of Written Language and Literacy and invited to join the editorial board of the Journal of Written Language and Literacy.

Melanie Green was on research leave in autumn 2015 and has been working on her British Academy-funded project to develop a corpus of spoken Cameroon Pidgin English. The corpus is now completed and about to be deposited with the Oxford Text Archive, allowing other researchers to access this wonderful resource.  She has also been presenting and writing up her findings from the corpus and gave with three papers, together with her co-author Gabriel Ozon: Information structure in a spoken corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English at Language (ISSLaC2) at CNRS, Paris (Dec); Frequency and grammaticalisation in a spoken corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English at Corpus Linguistics in the South 11 here at Sussex (Feb) and Light verbs on the contact continuum at ICAME 37, Chinese University of Hong Kong (May). Look out for the written papers in the next round-up of our research news!

Roberta Piazza has been continuing her work on identity and place, the representation of unsettled communities and television media discourse. In her work on unsettled identities she presented at the Sociolinguistics Symposium on The place-identity of individuals belonging to unsettled communities. A case study of a London squatter (June) and at the PALA conference on (In)authenticity and (im)partiality in the multimodal discourse of television documentaries of Irish communities in the UK (July). She is currently working with colleagues from Journalism here at Sussex on the representation of Jeremy Corbyn in the media and developing a new collaborative project on young homeless people in London and their relation to place, so watch out for more on these. In recognition of her fascinating research, she was invited to give a plenary talk at the IV Conference Innovation in Philology and Communication Studies at Valencia University (April). She has also published an article reporting on her work in stylistics, titled When cinema borrows from stage: theatrical artifice through indexical explicitness in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Dogville, in Social Semiotics. She co-authored a chapter with Melanie Green on Argumentation in discourse and grammar. in Handbook of Pragmatics.

This year Lynne Murphy has been focussing on the relationship between British and American English, the topic of her long-running blog Separated by a Common Language. She has been on leave since January 2016, funded by the (US) National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Program. The funding is to support the publication of a general-audience book on the relationships between British and American English, which is now under contract for Penguin USA and One World Books (UK). Research for the book has also been supported by a Leverhulme/British Academy Small Grant for a trip to American dictionary archives in April. She has completed a four-article series on British and American English relations for English Today volume 32: 1. (Un)separated by a Common Language? 2.British English? American English? Are there such things? 3. The differences behind the similarities, or: why Americans and Britons don’t know what the other is talking about. 4. Minding your pleases and thank-yous in British and American English. She has also written materials on American English for Oxford Dictionaries. Lynne has been very busy spreading the word about the fabulousness of linguistics to non-academic audiences and gave several invited talks: on past efforts to de-Frenchify English at the Catalyst Club (Feb), on the vocabulary of politeness at the Kent English Language and Linguistics Student Conference (April), on the word the at the Boring Conference (May), and on transatlantic linguistic biases at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Conference (Sept).
Lynne opening Public Linguistics
In addition to running her two blogs (
Separated by a Common Language and Who Shall Remain Antonymous), she guest-blogged for Cambridge Extra at Linguist List in March and August. She was on two episodes of The Allusionist podcast with her collaborator Rachele De Felice (UCL) talking about please, and on the Relatively Prime podcast, talking about math(s). Lynne also ran the very successful HEIF-funded symposium on Doing Public Linguistics in June.

Justyna Robinson was on research leave in autumn 2015 and part of spring 2016. During this time she has been investigating conceptual changes in Modern English via a collaborative AHRC-funded project on Linguistic DNA: Modelling concepts and semantic change in English, 1500-1800 and working on her language change project. Regarding the first, she has co-presented several papers with project members: Linguistic DNA: Modelling concepts and semantic change in English, 1500–1800, From Data to Evidence Conference (Oct); Corpus approaches to concept identification, here at the Sussex Humanities Lab (May); Linguistic DNA: Modelling concepts and semantic change in English, 1500–1800, Sociolinguistics Symposium 21; Linguistic DNA: Modelling concepts and semantic change in English, 1500-1800, Digital Humanities Conference 2016 (July); Historical semantics and conceptual change in Early Modern English: A new approach combining computation with close reading, International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (Aug). As part of the project, Justyna hosted a methodological workshop on Visualisation and Language Change here at Sussex University (Sept). Regarding the second area, she presented three conference papers: Semantic change across the lifespan, UK Language Variation and Change Conference (Sept); Semantic change across the lifespanSociolinguistic Symposium 21 (Jun); How does language change happen? Reconciling the role of individual speakers and community, International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (Aug). She presented her research at Sussex this year in our ROLLS series on What happens to our language as we grow older?, gave an invited talk at on Longitudinal semantic change at University of Brighton (Dec) and a plenary talk at the Sheffield Postgraduate Linguistics Conference on Growing old in Sheffield: Insights from longitudinal semantic data (Jan). At the same conference, she also gave an invited talk on Getting a job in the Higher Education: How can your hobby pay your bills? In other areas, she co-edited the volume Cognitive Approaches to Bilingualism with Monika Reif, including a co-authored chapter on Understanding bilingualism: trends, challenges and perspectives. This year she also gave a session on Language variation & Sociolinguistics at an A/AS-Level Teachers Training Conference English Language: Current research and your curriculum (June) and in August she was interviewed on Sussex Radio as an expert commenting on Sussex dialect.

Charlotte Taylor has continued to work on her three research strands of mock politeness, migration discourses and the methodology of corpus linguistics this year. In the first area, she gave an invited paper on Mock politeness: Perceptions and Practice at the Survey of English Usage, UCL (Dec) and published a review of work in Pragmatics and Discourse in the Year’s Work in English Studies. In the second area, she was appointed editor of CADAAD Journal in January 2016 and she was commissioned to write the entry on Immigrants, Undocumented: Criminalization for the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy. In work on corpus linguistics, she co-organised a Festival of Methods workshop at the Corpora & Discourse International Conference 2016, and presented a paper with Anna Marchi on Ireland and Irish in the UK Parliamentary Debates (June).
Charlotte (tiny dot) talking at Lancaster
She also gave four invited papers in the area of corpus linguistics: Conspicuous by absence? at the
UCREL Corpus Research Seminar, University of Lancaster (Feb); Language & gender: The corpus linguistics contribution 10 years on at the 9th BAAL Language, Gender and Sexuality Special Interest Group Event, Liverpool Hope University (April); ‘You shall know a word by the company it keeps’: Applying collocation analysis to investigate the relationship between language and gender at the Corpus Research in Linguistics and Beyond seminar series, King’s College London (June); A short history of corpus linguistics at the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science, University of Lancaster (July). Together with Roberta Piazza, Charlotte organised the very successful HEIF-funded workshop on ‘Research is too important to be left to researchers alone’ An introduction to using corpus tools to analyse discourse and the 11th Corpus Linguistics in the South event on Doing corpus linguistics with large and small corpora: keeping both the corpus and the linguistics components meaningful (Feb).

Student research

At the annual ROLLS postgraduate conference, organised by Charlotte Taylor, we enjoyed a plenary by Enam Al-Wer (University of Essex), followed by papers from Sussex PhD students Margarita Yagudaeva, Barzan Ali, Zurina Khairuddin and Jonathan MacDonaldMargarita Yagudaeva also presented her work on Flotsam and jetsam of idiomatic expressions or do English idioms change similarly to words? at EUROPHRAS 2016 in Trier, Germany (August).