Seminar: Tracing and exploring community and identity in language

Seminar: Tracing and exploring community and identity in language

Tracing and exploring community and identity in language

Elaine Vaughan (TESOL/Linguistics)

School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics Research Seminar

Wednesday 14 October, 5.15pm, Venue: SG21


This seminar focuses on language data from naturally occurring contexts of interaction in order to explore ideas of ‘community’ and ‘identity’. Of course, these are intricate concepts, with everyday currency as well as specialised understandings, but here the extent to which they are indexed in linguistic patterns and choices is unpacked. The ‘fingerprint’ of a community, it is argued, is retrievable in the examination of frequent items, often otherwise overlooked ‘small’ words – a particular use of now or sure in Irish English, for example; or the amplification of features of particular varieties of English in media representations, like television drama or sitcoms (‘go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on!’). Equally, the complexity of reference within the pronoun we in a workplace context can reveal a lot about how it is used strategically to include and exclude people, providing evidence of conceptions of us and them

In order to identify these items, their patterns and possible significance, principled collections of electronically stored texts, corpora (sing. corpus), are mined using specially designed software, and the iterative method of sifting and sorting the language data using corpus linguistic methodologies is described (panning for gold!). Findings from analyses based on small and large spoken language corpora will be presented. These corpora include the Limerick Corpus of Irish English (LCIE; Farr et al. 2004), a one-million-word corpus representative of spoken Irish English, and a specialised corpus of meetings involving English language teachers (C-MELT; Vaughan 2007) amongst others. Social theories provide robust and malleable models for the discussion of community and identity, one that is familiar to many is the communities of practice model (Wenger, 1998). This seminar will demonstrate how a blend of models such as these with a corpus linguistic methodology provides researchers with a mutually beneficial synergy whereby theory is enriched by reference to evidence of authentic, naturally occurring data.



Please note: SG21 is now the confirmed venue for the remainder of this semester’s MLAL research seminars (even weeks, Wednesdays, 5.15pm)