Thursday, September 24, 2020

Using the Lexis podcast to inspire Language Investigations

Here's a thread I did on Twitter about how you might want to use the Lexis podcast to help with your NEA Language Investigations.

It's that time of year again when students are starting to work on NEA language investigations. We've covered some areas on @LexisPodcast that I think would be good for investigations, so here are a few ideas.

You’ll need to think carefully about how to formulate your own aims and research questions (IMO that’s more important than a title), where your data is going to come from and how you are going to analyse it, but these topics might appeal…

Back in episode 2, we looked at the language of & about protests. There’s been a summer of protest – BLM, ‘statue defenders’, anti-maskers, Extinction Rebellion, antifa facing down fascist militias – so plenty of data to explore.

You could look at the reporting of protests in the media, the language of the protesters themselves (Lisa looked at BLM placards and slogans in that episode), the representation of different sides, including the police.

In episodes 1 and 2, we talked about accents & accentism. More widely, there have been debates among teachers and educators about standard & non-standard English in schools. Why not look at the ways in which certain accents & dialects are represented?

That could be through news stories about varieties of English or by analysing the language used in accent reduction advertisements, YouTube channels or comments online. We interviewed Rob Drummond, Devyani Sharma and Ian Cushing about these topics.

Language policing and censorship have been issues we’ve come back to a few times. Whether it’s racially offensive terms or people choosing their own pronouns (and the backlash against that), language debates are always in the news.

The ways in which these are reported & commented on can make really good investigations. You could employ critical discourse approaches to explore how different arguments are put forward & how language itself is represented.

But also, you could look at how language changes over time. By selecting some texts from different time periods (social media messages, media texts, letters) you could explore the changing frequency of taboo terms and their alternatives.

Tony Thorne was our interviewee in episode 9 and we had a great chat with him about the language of the pandemic. You might have had enough of this by now – I know most of us have – but there’s masses of data out there to analyse…

How the pandemic has been represented over its lifespan, how key politicians and scientists have spoken about it to the public, how different social and ethnic groups have been scapegoated. I could go on, but I’ll just get angry & depressed.

But there’s so much you could look at around the framing of the whole issue, the slogans used, the reporting of the language even. Tony had some excellent stuff to say about covid vocabulary and it wasn’t as depressing as you might think!

In episode 7 we talked to Philip Seargeant about emojis. How are these used in different messaging and social media apps? Is there a notable difference between age groups? Who uses them more or less and for what ends?

Kelly Wright’s work on the representation of race and ethnicity in sports journalism sparked some interesting discussion in episode 6 and we spoke to her at about the same time as a PFA report on representation of footballers was published.

This is a fascinating area to investigate and there’s great scope for you to build your own mini-corpus and explore the language of representation here, whether it’s with a focus on the terms used to describe black athletes compared to white…

how women are represented compared to men, how Paralympians compare to able-bodied athletes… there’s a lot to think about. Gathering data, selecting a database for your own mini-corpus analysis, exploring key words & their meanings, can all be productive.

We focused on accent change in our Northern accents special in episode 8 and talked to Georgina Brown about new research about (maybe) new accents. So often, accents are linked to prestige and social expectations, so could this be a focus?

You could look at particular sounds, think about how they are used by different speakers in different social situations and think about their social meanings. Accent studies at A level can be trickier than others, but there’s scope for a good investigation if you think carefully.

In episodes 3, 4 and 10 we’ve talked a lot with Devyani Sharma, Shivonne Gates and Lucy Jones about language variation and identity. You could take any of the work they talked about – their own research or studies they’ve mentioned – as a useful starting point.

MLE, language performing different social identities and questions about how we change our language in different contexts can all lead to studies where you collect your own data and offer your own questions.

That’s enough to be going on with for now… If you have any other ideas, based on what we’ve done so far, let us know!

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