Although social media is ubiquitous, variationist sociolinguistics has yet to seriously integrate social media data into analyses of language variation and change. My PhD research aims to integrate CMC and variationist perspectives, in studying what social media can tell us about the social meaning of variation in the speech community, taking a third-wave approach.
I completed a 12 month ethnography (2016-2017) at a youth group in East London, where I collected corpora comprising of self-recordings, interview and social media data (Snapchat and Instagram posts). I use statistical, distributional and interactional analyses to examine a range of variables in the data (variation in the interdental fricatives, the man pronoun, the attention signal 'ey') to explore the social distribution of these features. I then go on to use the social media data to explore the social meaning of these features and the local identity of the 'gully', by examining issues of ethnicity, social class and masculinity in East London.
STANDARD LANGUAGE IDEOLOGY
In my fieldwork, based in a youth-group in East London, I have increasingly encountered narratives of standard language ideology. The speakers I record and work with often describe their language as 'slang' and in opposition to 'standard language' - even though, as linguists, we maintain that the notion of 'standard language' is an ideological construct. In research with Shivonne Gates, we have sought to explore these metacommentaries and evaluations that arise from our interviews with adolescent speakers. We have linked these issues more broadly in terms of a neoliberal agenda that maintains non-standard speech as linguistic 'deficit'. In March 2017, we received funding from the ESRC (~£4000) for an event that brought together academics and educators to discuss the topic of 'language variation in the classroom'. Event details can be found here.
RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS
In recent months, I have been involved in developing resources for those who teach A-level English Language. More information related to these resources can be found here. In February 2019, we hosted a workshop for teachers that gave them an introduction to these resources, with talks aimed to give hands on demonstrations of how to use these resources in the classroom. As part of this workshop, which I co-hosted with Devyani Sharma & Jenny Cheshire, I gave a talk on 'why the internet isn't ruining language'. More information can be found here.
Whilst computational methodologies are increasingly being integrated into sociolinguistic analyses of language variation and change, it remains to be answered as to what extent stylistic variation poses an issue for such methods. Whilst in traditional variationist analyses of speech the researcher, in circumscribing the variable context, removes instances of stylistic variation, in macro-scale computational approaches to orthographic variation this is not possible.
In this line of work, I have been exploring how users do not simply represent their own linguistic system but also appropriate enregistered features of specific styles to deploy personae and related characterlogical figures. My main focus here has been on the use of AAVE (African American Vernacular Features) by White, British-born and residing, gay men. To find out more about this research, please visit my academia page. This paper has been accepted subject to revisions.
From early 2016 to late 2018 I was a research assistant on the project '"Múin Béarla do na Leanbháin" 'Teach the Children English' Migration as a Prism for Viewing Ethnolinguistic Vitality in Northern Ireland (PI: Professor Karen Corrigan, Newcastle). The project addressed the socio-cultural and linguistic impact on Northern Ireland of its changing population. Specifically, it sought to compare the experiences of contemporary immigrants with those of Northern Irish emigrants who themselves fled abroad in response to historical conflicts, famine and economic depressions.
As one of three research assistants, my main role was to extract and code data and run (statistical) analyses. This included conducting variationist analyses on the following variables: quotatives, relative clauses and the verb phrase (epistemic knowledge).