Linguistics Research Seminar


9 December 2021, 2pm

Dr Laura Wright
(University of Cambridge)
On Vardles and Vennels: Anglo-Norman lexis in supralocal regional Englishes

Dr Laura Wright’s is a member of Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge. She has published extensively on the history of English, and has also co-hosted, with Michael Rosen, Word of Mouth, a programme about language, on BBC Radio 4.


20 February 2020, 3 pm, M46 (main building)

Prof Wendy Anderson
University of Glasgow

The metaphorical threads of English: a digital humanities approach

The semantic domain of Textiles is a very productive one for metaphor in English, and some of its metaphorical connections are long-standing, traceable back to Old English. Things that are unimportant can be gauzytinsel or fluff, while behaviour may be fustianhomespun or silky. Stories may be spunembroidered, or even quilted together. This talk will use the Metaphor Map of English (, in conjunction with several corpora of English, to explore the place and function of textile metaphors in English, tracing their threads across the history of the language, and revealing the lexical and metaphorical options open to speakers at particular times. It will also use the domain of Textiles as a canvas for investigating apparently bidirectional metaphors.

19 March 2020

Dr Charlotte Taylor
University of Sussex

Metaphors of migration in the British press 1800-2018

This paper aims to cast light on contemporary migration rhetoric by integrating historical discourse analysis. While there has been extensive analysis of migration discourses in a contemporary time frame, we have relatively little understanding of how longstanding these discourse frames are, how they have developed over time, or what alternative framings might have been lost through time. This is where the kind of long-scale diachronic study made possible by combining corpus linguistics and (critical) discourse analysis can make a vital contribution to understanding contemporary language use. In the paper, I will focus on continuity and change in metaphorical framings of emigration and immigration in the Times newspaper from 1800-2018. I will discuss longstanding metaphors of migrants as liquid, commodities, animals and guests, as well as the more recent migrants as invaders and burdens, and unpack the discourse functions of these metaphors at different points in time. I will conclude by reflecting on what we can learn about present-day migration discourses through this kind of approach.

30 April 2020

Dr Bethan Benwell
University of Stirling

The role of affiliation in responses to complaints to the NHS

In this paper I use Conversation Analysis to examine telephone complaints to the NHS which focus on a variety of issues raised by patients or their families.

Previous analyses of the activity of complaining have demonstrated how complaining occurs in extended sequences that emerge in a collaborative stepwise fashion in which complainants may engage in elaborate interactional work oriented to securing recipient affiliation (Drew and Curl 2008). While callers to the NHS complaints helpline are overarchingly oriented to “telling their story”, the call handlers are oriented to the institutional requirement to gather information and identify an appropriate outcome. Intricately enmeshed within these orientations is the participants’ negotiation of the normative preference for alignment and affiliation (Stivers et al. 2011).

The analysis presented here focuses specifically on the sequential environments and forms of talk through which callers pursue affiliation and call handlers display or withhold affiliation. One of our key observations is that the receipt of complaints is not simply a matter of gathering information. The act of complaining in this particular institutional setting is socially and emotionally consequential for callers. Our data shows that a range of often quite subtle interactional resources are employed by complaints handlers to affiliate with the caller but in cases where affiliation is pursued but not forthcoming, complaints are often heightened and the grievance escalates.


  • Drew, P. & Curl, T. (2008) Contingency and Action: A Comparison of Two Forms of Requesting. Research on Language and Social Interaction. 41(2): 129-153.
  • Stivers, T., Mondada, L. & Steensig, J. (2011) The Morality of Knowledge in  Conversation. Cambridge: CUP.

Wednesday 27 March 2019, 2 pm

Dr Hae-Sung Jeon
University of Central Lancashire

The rhythm typology tales

Rhythm in speech and language has been a popular topic for theoretical debates and empirical investigation in linguistics and cognitive psychology for decades. In linguistics, the dichotomy between stressed-timed languages and syllable-timed languages was proposed and the rhythm typology has been influential across disciplines. However, more recently anti-rhythm-typology views emerged. Some scholars claim that speech is rhythmic only metaphorically and arhythmicity matters more than rhythmicity. In the meantime, some psychologists argue that auditory regularities have a significant effect on people’s behavioural synchronisation. In this talk, various approaches taken in the study of rhythm will be discussed. In particular, the verse structure and results of a word-spotting experiment in Korean, which had been claimed to be mora-timed, stress-timed and syllable-timed, will be presented as examples demonstrating the complexity of language rhythm.

Thursday 14 March 2019, 2pm, M39 (Main Building)

Martin Barry
Forensic Voice Services

Forensic phonetics and the likelihood ratio

I give an overview of activities in the discipline of forensic phonetics, with some examples from cases that have made the headlines. The forensic phonetician’s main activity, that of forensic speaker comparison, has been caught up in a paradigm shift that has transformed the forensic sciences in recent years, namely the use of ‘Bayesian’ reasoning and the logic of the likelihood ratio. I hope to show how this has changed what a phonetician can say to a jury, and why this has made forensic phonetics a more reliable and valuable branch of the forensic sciences.

This talk will interest anyone concerned with the law, phonetics, or forensic science.  Martin Barry served as Head of the Department of Linguistics, University of Manchester and now works as a forensic phonetician, with frequent forays to the Old Bailey.

Wednesday 6 March 2019, 2pm, W10 (Wilson Building)

Prof. Jonathan Culpeper
Lancaster University

Shakespeare’s language: New perspectives from corpus linguistics

The study of Shakespeare’s language has not made full use of corpora and their related methods, despite the fact that corpus linguistics infuses the making of today’s dictionaries and grammars, and indeed much of historical linguistics. The Encyclopedia of Shakespeare’s Language project embraces those very methods. This presentation will give the flavour of what the project has been doing, and will include a whistle-stop tour of some of the results flowing from it, along with associated methodological issues. It will discuss: Shakespeare’s neologisms (with a digression on counting words); word-meanings and collocations; the idiolects of characters; and, time permitting, a spin-off study on the language of emotion.

Wednesday 13 February, 2pm, M46 (Main Building)

Dr Helen Faye West
University of Chester

How ‘Scouse’ are Ormskirk and Southport?

Sociolinguistic studies that have focussed on identity have argued that speaker identity is accentuated in border regions due to speakers’ desire to project a strong sense of distinctiveness (Watt, Llamas, Docherty, Hall, & Nycz 2014, Llamas 2007; 2010, Britain 2010). Following the Local Government Act in 1972, the creation of the administrative county of Merseyside provides us with fertile ground for the study of the relationship between language variation and regional identity. Southport (Merseyside) and Ormskirk (Lancashire) are well connected to Liverpool via frequent transport links and, given the high levels of contact between people, it has been predicted that phonetic features of the Liverpool accent will diffuse to the towns in the surrounding region (Grey & Richardson 2007). However, Liverpool’s negative stereotype is a complicating factor (Montgomery 2007), which may act as a barrier to the spread of Liverpudlian accent forms. This paper analyses the diffusion of Liverpool accent forms – fricated /t/ and /k/ (Watson 2007), and fronted Liverpool NURSE (Wells 1982) – in speech from a corpus of 39 speakers stratified by age, gender and socio-economic status. This paper concludes that Ormskirk may be adopting Liverpool features more readily than Southport, despite Southport’s administrative links with Liverpool (West 2013). Possible explanations for this are explored with particular reference to speaker attitudes in relation to the negative perception of the Liverpool accent.


  • Britain, D. (2010) ‘Supralocal regional dialect levelling’, In C. Llamas and D. Watt (eds.), Language and Identities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 193-204.
  • Grey, C. and B. Richardson (2007) ‘Our friends in north: Relic dialects in the area between Southport and Preston’, in A. Grant and C. Grey (eds.), The Mersey
    Sound: Liverpool’s Language, People and Places, Ormskirk: Open House Press, pp. 73-105.
  • Llamas, C. (2007) ‘”A place between places”’: Language and identities in a bordertown’ Language in Society. 36(4): 579-604.
  • Llamas, C. (2010) ‘Convergence and divergence across a national border’, in C. Llamas and D. Watt (eds.) Language and Identities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 227-236.
  • Montgomery, C. (2007) ‘Perceptions of Liverpool English’, in A. Grant and C. Grey (eds.), The Mersey Sound: Liverpool’s Language, People and Places, Ormskirk: Open House Press, pp. 164-185.
  • Watson, K. (2007) The phonetics and phonology of plosive lenition in Merseyside English, Ph.D. Thesis: Edge-Hill University.
  • Watt, D., Llamas, C., Docherty, G.J., Hall, D. and J. Nycz, (2014) ‘Language and identity on the Scottish/English border’. In Watt, D. & Llamas, C. (eds.). Language, Borders and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 8-26.
  • Wells, J. C. (1982) Accents of English (3 vols.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • West, H. (2013) ‘A town between dialects: Accent levelling, psycho-social orientation and identity in Merseyside, UK’, in P. Auer, J. C. Reina and G. Kaufmann (eds.) [SILV 14] Language Variation – European Perspectives IV. Selected papers from the Sixth International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 6, Freiburg, June 2011). Benjamins, pp.247-265.

Wednesday 23 January, 2pm, Stanley 9 (Main Building)

Prof. Paul Baker
Lancaster University

Lovely Nurses and Rude Receptionists: A corpus analysis of  NHS patient feedback.

This talk reports on the analysis of a 29 million word corpus of over 200,000 patient comments posted on the NHS Choices website between 2013 to 2015. The study was funded by an ESRC Knowledge Exchange Grant and involved answering questions that were set by Patients and Information Directorate, NHS England. In this talk I address one area of the research project which aimed to examine key differences in patient’s experiences across different types of healthcare providers (e.g. dentists vs GPs). Taking a corpus-based approach we identified frequent forms of positive and negative evaluation for different types of NHS staff, as well as considering the most frequently associated collocates and keywords in different sub-sections of the corpus. Concordance analyses helped to interpret and explain the patterns we found. The findings from the analysis reveal insights into both the underlying nature of patient feedback and the current state of the NHS.

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