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