Thursday, February 08, 2024

Black British English vs MLE

The latest episode of Lexis is out and it features an interview with Ife Thompson about lots of issues connected to Black British English, including linguistic justice, anti-Black discourses in stories about language in the media, plus how Back British English is treated in schools and the courts. 

She takes a very different view to many linguists on the language variety/style/multiethnolect that's been called MLE and argues that actually it should be termed Black British English. There's a lot to think about, not least because linguistics is still a very white field and the language being discussed is commonly used by Black speakers (among others). 

Have a listen here and see what you think. It would be interesting to compare what Ife says with what Paul Kerswill talked about in this episode and to cross reference some of her points about the coverage of MLE/BBE with these media stories

Monday, February 05, 2024

Language and videogaming

If you haven't already come across it, the latest episode of our Lexis podcast features an interview with Frazer Heritage from Manchester Met on the representation of gender in videogames (among many other things). 

You can find it here

We also talked to Heidi Colthup at the University of Kent, back in early 2023, about her work on video gaming and narrative. That episode is here

Friday, December 22, 2023

New Directions

 It's here! A new *free* resource from the English and Media Centre and University of Essex. 

You can find it here

Thursday, December 14, 2023

BDE: Big Dictionary Energy

It's Word of the Year season again and 'tis the season to be rizzy, apparently. Here are all the stories that I could find about #WOTY2023 so far. One of the big beasts, the American Dialect Society, is yet to decide on theirs but all the others are accounted for. 

News stories about WOTY2023

‘AI’ named most notable word of 2023 by Collins dictionary | Artificial intelligence (AI) | The Guardian

AI named word of the year by Collins Dictionary - BBC News 

Rizz named word of the year 2023 by Oxford University Press - BBC News 

Got rizz? Tom Holland memes propel popularity of 2023 word of the year | Social trends | The Guardian’s 2023 Word Of The Year Is…

The Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year 2023

The Collins Word of the Year 2023 is…

Oxford Word of the Year 2023

Word of the Year 2023 | Authentic | Merriam-Webster

Macquarie Dictionary Blog

Cozzie livs: light-hearted term for cost-of-living crisis named Macquarie dictionary word of the year | Language | The Guardian 

» Nominate the 2023 Words of the Year American Dialect Society  

Japan chooses ‘tax’ as kanji of the year amid concern over cost of living   

Opinion pieces about new words

The Collins word of the year shortlist shows we’re more self-obsessed than ever

Hallucinating AIs and What The Words Of The Year Lists Reveal About our Modern World 

Rizz: I study the history of charisma – here's why the word of the year is misunderstood

Thread on Twitter responding to the ‘manosphere’ links:

Who's got 'the rizz'? Apparently, just men

I get the need for ‘rizz’, but ‘influencer’ should be banned for ever

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

MLE media links

In our New Directions: Language Diversity research and resource pack, we have set up an activity that asks students to research different media articles about MLE. Below you will find the media stories about MLE that have been covered in 2016, 2022 and 2023. 


Queen's English to be WIPED OUT from London 'due to high levels of immigration' (Daily Express)

Laziness is killing the magnificent English language, says James Delingpole (Daily Express)

'Th' sound to vanish from English language by 2066 because of multiculturalism, say linguists  (Daily Telegraph) 

MUVVER TONGUE ‘Th’ sound vanishing from English language with Cockney and other dialects set to ‘die out by 2066 because of immigration’  (The Sun)

It's the end of the frog and toad for regional slang, says report. Sounds of 2066 report says ‘talking to machines and listening to Americans’ will kill off British accents and slang in the future. (The Guardian)

The Daily Mail initially led with the headline "Is immigration killing off the Queen's English?" before changing it to the more neutral “What do you fink of dis? The 'th' sound will disappear from speech within 50 years as urban dialects spread.” (Daily Mail)


Wagwan? Street Slang to be Britain's main dialect (The Telegraph)

Wagwan? Why are more and more Britons speaking Multicultural London English (The Guardian)

Wagwan with our beautiful language? (Daily Mail)

Britain would be dull if my London accent wipes out all of the others (The London Evening Standard)

The Multicultural London English dialect is 40 years old but middle class Britain is still terrified (i news)


Cockney and Queen's English have all but disappeared among young people – here's what's replaced them (The Conversation)

King’s English and Cockney replaced by three new accents, study finds (The Telegraph)

Cockney and King's English becoming less common, researchers find (BBC News)

Language barrier: why even Harry has stopped speaking the king’s English (The Guardian)

The south's three new twangs: Study finds dialects SSBE, Estuary English and multicultural London English are becoming increasingly popular among young people (Mail Online)

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Useful links for Eng Lang students (and teachers)

I've not updated the links on here for a while but I'll get round to that soon as there are some really excellent resources available for the A level now and more on the way. 

One great resource that I would recommend is Heddwen Newton's English in Progress Substack, which you can find here. Heddwen curates a regular newsletter full of links to interesting stories about language, many of which are perfect for the A level course. We spoke to Heddwen in the second half of this episode of Lexis too so have a listen!

Social media links: new Bluesky account up and running

With Twitter (X... lol) going down the pan, I've set up a Bluesky account for @EngLangBlog so you can access that here if you're on that app. It seems to be growing nicely with more and more linguists on there, so I have some hope that it will be a useful resource. In the meantime, the Twitter account will stay posting but I'll be cross posting everything there to Bluesky. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Connections between texts on Paper 1: dealing with AO4

Question 3 on Paper 1 has often been a bit of a low-scorer for students and you can maybe see why. It comes an hour in to the exam, and you’ve still got all your knowledge about child language to unleash, so perhaps you treat this one as a bit of a stopgap question. On top of that, you’ve already rinsed Text A in Question 1 and Text B in Question 2 for all the inspiration you could find and now you’ve got to go back and compare them. Why not just do that in the first place? Well, that’s a good question but have a look at Question 3 on Paper 2 and you can see that’s actually quite a tough thing to do. What you’re doing here is a slightly more staged process of exploring the two texts and actually a bit more straightforward. 

So, what can you talk about in Question 3? The question is marked using AO4 which is the connections AO (you’ll see it in Question 3 on Paper 2 and in the NEA commentary too) so it’s important to think about the kinds of connections you can make between the two texts and how you can do that. 

If Questions 1 and 2 are largely about avoiding too much unnecessary contextualising and cutting to the chase to analyse what the texts are about and what they are saying (and I think that’s the usual message about them), then Question 3 is a chance to talk more about some of those other contextual things. In other words, if the topic is broadly similar (and both texts are always on the same theme) then how and why do the two texts handle that theme in similar and different ways? What is it about the types of texts they are, the modes they are in, the purposes and audiences that they have, the time that they were produced in, that makes them do that differently. And how does their use of language show that? 

While there’s bound to be some discussion of context in your answers to Questions 1 and 2 (because the AO3 requires you to talk about meanings in context), there’s more chance to develop that focus here. And as long as you use specific features of language to do that, you should be able to hit Level 3 or above. 

A quick look at the mark scheme should reveal that Levels 1 and 2 are largely about spotting and identifying quite implicit and basic (Level 1) or quite literal (Level 2) connections without focusing on the language itself. This will probably be quite descriptive, so perhaps saying that a text is written and formal without identifying an example of this, or noting that the texts have different audiences but not illustrating how you can tell or how the address to those audiences is different in the language choices being made. 

Levels 3 and above require you to discuss language, “compare use of xxx” being the key descriptor here, where the xxx will be the specific language features that you think are relevant. And here it’s about linking these to a specific aspect of context such as how an adjective helps describe flat-sharing/the rules of boxing/goths/how a runner missed her lane, or how a sentence function is used to engage or address the audiences. Comparison is important too because that’s what AO4 is all about, so make sure your language points are ones that can be used to discuss similarities and differences across the two texts. 

For example, if you think pronouns are being used in a way that strikes you as interesting – lots of direct address in one text but often quite impersonal address in the other – that’s a good AO4 point to base a paragraph around. Equally, there’s this semantic field used in one text and that one used in the other – to describe the same topic – so that could be another good comparison. This text has been scripted to be spoken so there are frequent discourse markers to structure it, while that one has been laid out as a webpage so the structuring comes from its subheadings as part of its graphology. 

At Levels 4 and 5 you’re taking this further. Level 4’s buzzword is connect and Level 5’s is evaluate so you’re engaging much more here with the ways that language is linked to mode, genre, purposes and audiences, and the historical and social contexts to each text. I’ve often reminded my students that it’s not just the older text that has historical context; the contemporary one does too and that’s also worth focusing on, even if that history feels very ‘now’. This doesn’t mean just offloading a lot of historical knowledge or trying to summarise all the social movements of the last 100 years, but instead it means discussing ways in which the texts themselves have been produced and consumed within a historical and social context and how that might have affected or even shaped them. 

What is there in the text about student flat shares that makes you realise that going to university has only become an opportunity for a large minority in the last 30-40 years? What tells you that while vegetarianism has been around for well over a hundred years, it’s still treated as something of a food fad? What tells you that in 1743, boxing was relatively new to the public and therefore had to have its rules explained? These things could all be relevant to the contexts of the texts and to the language used within them and what that language is used to do. 

But the other thing to notice is that as you work your way to the top of the mark scheme you’re expected to think less literally and more holistically. What’s the significance of these connections that you’re starting to see? Why are these texts treating the same material in different ways? By the time you hit Level 5 you should be evaluating all of that and also placing these texts within their wider discourse, taking the AO4 beyond just the connections between the texts themselves and into the texts’ connections to the wider world.  

If you’re looking for a few ways to do this as practice for Paper 1, then this post from 2021 should offer you a few ways in.  

Black British English vs MLE

The latest episode of Lexis is out and it features an interview with Ife Thompson about lots of issues connected to Black British English, i...