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Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

Some research stuff!


Ok, so I know it’s been ages since I last posted, something which is particularly embarrassing given the fact that my last post mentioned that I would be updating more regularly. And that hasn’t happened. Ugh. Part of the reason for this is because I’ve been settling back into my life in Birmingham after my Fulbright life in Pittsburgh came to an end, and to be totally honest, I’m still kind of finding my feet. It’s amazing how despite living in a city for years, even a short time away can make everything seem so new again. I mean, I spent nearly 10 years in Glasgow and now when I visit there, I hardly recognise the place, and the same happened a wee bit with coming back to Brum.

But after a few months back, things are slowly coming together. I’m back teaching, I’m back sitting in meetings, I’m back driving back and forth to work, and I’m gradually getting to grips with this UK life, but I think it’ll take another few months before I can honestly say things are back to the way they were before I left. What’s a bit worrisome is that I still find myself pining for Pittsburgh, about the places and people I met there, and while I had that a bit with Tucson, it’s more pronounced this time. I’m sure it will pass, but being melancholy about it certainly won’t help!

In other news, there’s been quite a lot happening in the world of sociolinguistics recently. For example, we had Lindsay Johns banging on about the power of the spoken word and how we should all be speaking Standard English. We had the banning of slang words in a high school in south London. There was the story about declining literacy rates in the UK and the slump in foreign language learning at university level. Oh, and there was also the story that ‘huh’ might be a linguistic universal. All of this, and more, continues to show how language is still very much front and centre on the national and international stage, although bizarrely, there’s not much in the way of input of actual linguists… That’s probably a story for another post, particularly as it relates to my own research on social media and the reporting of sociolinguistic research (I gave a talk about this at the recent Language in the Media conference in London).

Lastly, I’m happy to announce that I’ve had a flurry of things getting published recently, including an article on TH-fronting in Glasgow, which will be in English World-Wide and my own chapter on what ethnography can tell us about sociolinguistic variation over time, which will be in my edited volume Sociolinguistics in Scotland (and you can now buy it on Amazon!). Both of these pieces of work have been a wee while in the making, so as you can imagine, I’m pretty chuffed to have them done and dusted (especially the edited volume!). /blatentselfpromotion (!)

So yeah, I’ll try try try to start updating this more regularly, especially because it is quite good fun and it’s something a bit different from the usual academic-y kind of writing that I have to do. If only I could use some of my blog posts as REF outputs…

The Social Linguist

It’s been one of those weeks…


This week was the last week of teaching before the Easter break, and true to form, it simultaneously felt like it was never going to end and went by in a flash… But it also seemed to be the week of ‘bad news’, namely:

  1. My dodgy knee prevented me from doing BMF.
  2. On Friday, I found out that the power steering pump in my car was on its way out.
  3. (Saving the best for last), I got locked out of my flat on Saturday.

Because it was such a busy week, I ended up missing my Tuesday update, which kind of sucked, and I had all the best intentions of posting on Saturday until I went to the market and left my keys in the flat. This normally wouldn’t have been a problem, but Rebecca went out to see a friend and I ended up waiting in a local cafe for four hours waiting until she got back. The conversation kind of went like this:

  1. Me: Hey, are you still at home?
  2. Rebecca: Um, no, I left about 10 minutes ago…
  3. Me: Oh, no worries. When do you think you’ll be home?
  4. Rebecca: Maybe a couple of hours?
  5. Me: Ah right, because I’ve left my keys and I can’t get in…
  6. Rebecca: Oh no! You’re joking?? Do you want me to come home?
  7. Me: No it’s fine, I’ll just hole myself up in a cafe somewhere and over-dose on caffeine and muffins.

So that was my Saturday afternoon wasted in a cafe reading The Independent for about three hours and doing Suduko (which I had to borrow a pen from the cafe for). I was lucky I still had some money left over from the market otherwise I would have been wandering around Birmingham with my reusable Tesco bags looking more than a little bit vagrant-y. So that’s why the blog is being updated on a Sunday.

This week also marked a week since TEDxBrum went ahead and I should probably take a little bit of time to comment on the day. I suppose the first thing to say is that the organising team did a great job in pulling it all together and in such a short space of time as well. It really was testament to how far a good idea goes to making a day a success and the way the organisers were able to galvanise community support for the day was great to see.

In terms of the speakers, there was a good variety of ideas presented and many of the talks were engaging and interesting. The vast majority of them dealt with issues of direct relevance to Birmingham (how to feed it in the future, the development of pioneering medical procedures, etc etc), and (I think) most of the speakers were from Birmingham and the Black Country. All presented in a passionate and motivated way and got the heart of their subject matter quickly and efficiently. The audience, similarly, hailed mostly from Birmingham (one chap came all the way up from Bristol to attend because he had grown up in Birmingham and wanted to see what kind of changes had happened in the city) and the people that I spoke to were community-minded and wanted to contribute to making Birmingham better.

For me, the biggest bug-bear was that it was a shame speakers only got about 10 – 12 minutes per slot to give their talk and I got the impression that just as they were getting to the interesting points, they had to finish up. The second thing I didn’t particularly agree with was that there was no Q&A session, and even though there were a good number of long breaks (like, 45 minutes long), with everyone clamouring to speak to the presenters, there wasn’t space for in-depth discussion or debate. These are, unfortunately, enshrined in the TED manifesto, so the organisers couldn’t go against these edicts, even if they wanted to. It’s all about protecting the brand, see?

So, some good connections were made, I got to meet some interesting people, hear some interesting talks, I got a free chocolate bar and pen, and the day was lovely and sunny as well, so the pros outweighed the cons in the end. Oh, just one more thing; check out this twitter analysis by @AndyPrike who datamined all the live tweets that came out of TEDxBrum. I love data visualisation and this is a stellar example of how it can be used.

– The Social Linguist

TEDxBrum: TED goes local


Very quick update for today (come back on Tuesday if you want to read about how I got into linguistics Part II): I’m at my first ever (and Birmingham’s first ever) TED event, TEDxBrum and listening to a whole bunch of innovative talks about the city. Wonderful stuff and I’ll hopefully get time later today to do a fuller report (or update this as the day unfolds).

Categories: Conferences, Random Tags: , ,