Sociolinguistics and multilingualism

Sociolinguistics and multilingualism

The sociolinguistics and multilingualism research cluster focuses on the issues relating to linguistic features and associated links to social meaning, social values, identity and the wider regional and socio-cultural contexts.

Our focus is both at the level of whole languages like English, Greek, German, and Chinese, and also on a much more local level with the study of regional dialects like Liverpool English, a.k.a. ‘Scouse’, Yorkshire dialect and the study of stylistic variation and language crossing, particularly in the Greek language or varieties spoken in Yangshuo, China. Identity is of central significance to the cluster’s scope and particularly the ways in which gender, ethnic, migrant and regional identities, to name a few, are constructed in relation to socio-ideological and other wider discourses in social circulation.

The ‘third wave’ of sociolinguistic study places key importance on the nonlinguistic social factors associated with linguistic variation (Eckert 2012). In recent years we have seen many studies that focus on the ways in which language features align with social and cultural values, allowing us to gain much more nuanced understandings of the ways languages are used in society. We see work relating to social personae and characterological figures (Johnstone 2017), and the associated repertoires of language features linked to places, styles, or groups of speakers (Agha 2003) via theoretical frameworks like indexical order (Silverstein 2003). Additionally, much work has been done in the areas of style (Coupland 2007, Rampton 2013) and in superdiverse contexts (Blommaert 2013) where issues relating to speaker agency and identity are key factors in the analysis.

Our research is conducted within the ‘third wave’ tradition and as such thematic areas of study include indexicality and enregisterment, narrative analysis, translation studies, language and gender, language and identity (both contemporary and in historical contexts), language and ethnicity, language in educational contexts, language and tourism, and globalisation. Various methodological approaches are employed by cluster members including corpus linguistics, linguistic anthropology and ethnography, participant observation, sociolinguistic interviews and focus groups, as well as more experimental approaches such as ‘draw a map’ tasks and neural net approaches to AI machine learning of languages in Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) systems.

We are currently conducting research in collaboration with several local schools in the Merseyside area where projects aim to develop pedagogical approaches to teaching spoken language in secondary schools, as well as to design teaching materials and deliver recommendations to English Language syllabus providers. We are also conducting an ESRC funded project in collaboration with the Hartree Centre part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, with the goal of helping ASR systems to understand regional dialects of English.

Members of this Research Cluster include:

We welcome enquiries about any aspect of our research, and we are happy to supervise PhD students in any of these areas.

Cluster Lead: Sofia Lampropoulou

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