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).