GeWiss: multilingual corpus of spoken academic discourse

The project ‘‘Gesprochene Wissenschaftssprache kontrastiv – Spoken academic discourse in contrast’’ (GeWiss) is an international research cooperation between British, German and Polish partners funded by the Volkswagen Foundation for a period of three years between 2009 and 2012. The research organizations involved
were the Herder Institute (University of Leipzig, Germany), Aston University in
Birmingham (UK), and Wroclaw University (Poland). As part of the project a corpus of spoken academic language was built which consists of 80 hours (300,000 tokens) of spoken academic discourse concentrating on three genres: specialist research presentation, student presentation, and oral examination. The corpus will be made available to the general public via the Internet by the end of 2012.

The project teams in all three countries are currently publishing the first results of a corpus-based contrastive analysis which combines qualitative and quantitative approaches, e.g. G. Reershemius (2012) ‘Research cultures and the pragmatic functions of humor in academic research presentations: A corpus-assisted analysis’,
Journal of Pragmatics 44, 863-875.

A number of PhD projects are based on the corpus data; at Aston, for example, doctoral researcher Klaus Thiele is working on “The distribution and function of metaphors in German and English research presentations”, due to be submitted in 2013.

To view a poster describing the project, click here: GeWiss poster

If you are interested in working with or learning more about the corpus, please contact Prof Gertrud Reershemius.


‘Tings a gwan’: Linguistic Superdiversity in Contemporary Minority Ethnic Artistic Performances

As part of the Aston English Research Seminar Series, InterLanD invites you to a presentation on ‘Tings a gwan’: Linguistic Superdiversity in Contemporary Minority Ethnic Artistic Performances on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 from 4.00 to 5.30 pm in Room MB 404c at Aston University.  This presentation considers patterns of language identification and identity construction conveyed in two performances given by young minority ethnic performers in Birmingham.  This event is free and open to all.  No booking is required.

This was “Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities”

On 12-14 September, over fifty delegates from across the world came together at this international conference at Aston University to discuss the situation of smaller regional languages and varieties in the age of globalization. Globalization – the flow of people, products and ideas across the world – is not a new phenomenon. Mass migration, the development of air travel and electronic communication devices, however, have caused it to increase in speed and impact on the individuals’ lives. In the context of regional varieties we look at an accelerating increase in dialect levelling and language shift. In the light of this, sociolinguists have started to see the need to revisit many well established concepts of theory and analysis: Is there such a thing as a language, such as “English” or “Welsh”? Is a “native speaker” an ideological construction? Can we still apply the concept of a clearly defined “speech community” in a globalized world? Is “superdiversity” a more appropriate term to describe the present linguistic situation than “multilingualism”? The most urgent question for speakers of smaller languages is whether there is still a role to play for lesser used varieties under these changed circumstances.

Regional varieties, so the conference showed, have become an important contributor to identity construction processes, an increasingly important issue for the individual and the community in late Modernity: the individual is under constant and increasing pressure to define who s/he is and has to choose from an ever growing pool of possibilities to construct social identity in an increasingly globalized world, which is perceived as overwhelming and complex. By referring to what is seen as traditional regional language, dialect and culture, localizing oneself seems to be a viable way out of this dilemma. This should have stabilizing effects on lesser used varieties, which have been facing a gradual process of language shift and divergence towards dominant contact languages over the last hundred years. Unfortunately, at the same time, modern life does not so much require knowledge of regional varieties as of standard languages and a good command of English as the global lingua franca. How can an upwardly mobile individual combine the requirements of modern life with identity construction on a regional scale if they so choose? What are the linguistic consequences for lesser used varieties and their respective contact languages?

The discussions were led by three keynote lectures:

Professor Yaron Matras (University of Manchester) The afterlife of a language: The journey of English Romani from community language to a discourse register.

Professor Joan Beal (University of Sheffield) Dialect Inc: the commodification of languages in the ‘new economy’.

Professor Barbara Johnstone (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) The History of Yinz: from areal distribution to regional identity.

“Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities” – international conference at Aston

This week (12-15 September, 2012) Aston University will host the international linguistics conference “Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities”.

The conference organising committee is headed by Dr Urszula Clark (Reader in English, Co-Director of InterLanD) and Prof Gertrud Reershemius (Professor in German Linguistics, Associate Dean for Research LSS) on behalf of Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research into Language and Diversity (InterLanD) and Institute for the Study of Language and Society (ISLS), two research centres located within the School of Languages and Social Sciences alongside CLERA.

The keynote speakers are Prof. Joan Beal, University of Sheffield, Prof. Barbara Johnstone, Carnegie Mellon University (USA), and Prof. Yaron Matras, University of Manchester.

Focussing on the individual speaker and the speech community which is created by the use of language(s) as social practice, the conference includes papers and posters on the following fields of research:

• Language contact between a lesser used regional variety and a dominant standard language.
• Identity and regional varieties;
• Indexicality and enregisterment;
• Variation and style;
• Postvernacular linguistic and cultural practices;
• Emblematic language use and language mixing;
• Lesser used regional varieties and the Internet;
• Regional varieties and linguistic landscapes;
• New approaches to dialectology.

To learn more about this event, go to the conference website, where you will find a full programme.