Newby Fellow appointed to CASS

The Department of Linguistics and English Language has recently appointed a Newby Fellow, Dr. Helen Baker, to work on the CASS project entitled ‘Newspapers, Poverty and Long-Term Change. A Corpus Analysis of Five Centuries of Texts’.

Dr. Baker is a social historian who was awarded her Ph.D. in Russian History at the University of Leeds in 2002. Her thesis examined popular reactions to the Khodynka disaster, a stampede which took place during the coronation celebrations of Nicholas II in 1896. She taught Russian and European history at the University of Bradford before working as a teaching assistant in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Leeds between 2003-2007.

Helen Baker has previously worked as a transcriber and historical researcher for the Department of Linguistics and Language, completing a historical chronology of the Scottish Glencairn Uprising of 1653 for the British Academy funded ‘Newsbooks at Lancaster’ project. This research sparked an interest in early modern history and she went on to investigate the lives of seventeenth-century English prostitutes. Her first book, co-authored with CASS Centre Director, Professor Tony McEnery, is forthcoming and uses the study of early-modern prostitution as a case study to illustrate that historians and corpus linguists have much to gain through academic collaboration.

The project ‘Newspapers, Poverty and Long-Term Change’, which is funded by the Newby Trust, aims to assemble the largest ever corpora of newspapers and related material from 1473 to 1900 and use this to investigate changing discourses on poverty across this period. Dr. Baker will officially join the project on 1 July 2014, working with Professor Tony McEnery, Dr. Andrew Hardie, and Professor Ian Gregory.

The appointment will mean something of a home-coming for Helen Baker, who studied for her undergraduate degree in the History Department at Lancaster University between 1994-1997.

Introducing CASS PhD student Amelia Joulain-Jay

joulainI am Amelia Joulain-Jay and I have just started some corpus-based doctoral research on the representation of places in nineteenth-century British newspapers. I grew up in Belgium, the daughter of an American mother and a French father, and this multi-lingual and multi-cultural environment fed my curiosity about the way people interact and communicate. After some post-secondary school volunteer work in India, Ecuador and Spain, I started studies in the Dalcroze pedagogy of music in Brussels before realizing I wanted to go to university.

My desire to unpick the relationship between language and society brought me to Lancaster University to study sociolinguistics and sociology. Once there, I discovered Corpus Linguistics and was impressed by its ability to handle volumes of textual evidence. The opportunity to further develop my skills in Corpus Linguistics by undertaking PhD research under the supervision of Andrew Hardie and Ian Gregory was too exciting to overlook, and I am delighted to be working surrounded by researchers in the CASS centre.

My research project is part of the ERC-funded Spatial Humanities project which aims to develop ways of analysing text using the affordances of Geographical Information Systems to benefit fields in the Humanities. The research for my PhD will be the first large-scale application of a method combining Corpus Linguistics and Geographical Information Systems to uncover spatial patterns in a large quantity of text. The material under study will come from the British Library’s recently digitized archive of nineteenth-century newspapers; hence the research is expected to make a valuable contribution to the field of nineteenth-century history.

Extra-academic facts about me you may find interesting: I am Baha’i; this year is the second year that I am one of the Lancaster University Music Society Choir’s conductors; my husband and I have recently set up a jazz band in which I sing.

Call for Participation: ESRC Summer School in Corpus Approaches to Social Sciences

We are very pleased to issue the first call for participation for our ESRC Summer School in Corpus Approaches to Social Sciences, which will take place at Lancaster University 16th-19th July 2013. This event takes place under the aegis of CASS, a new ESRC research centre bringing a new method in the study of language – the corpus approach – to a range of social sciences. CASS is investigating the use and manipulation of language in society in a host of areas of pressing concern, including climate change, hate crime and education.

Who can attend?

A crucial part of the CASS remit is to provide researchers across the social sciences with the skills needed to apply the tools and techniques of corpus linguistics to the research questions that matter in their own discipline. This event is aimed at junior social scientists – especially PhD students and postdoctoral researchers – in any of the social science disciplines. Anyone with an interest in the analysis of social issues via text and discourse – especially on a large scale – will find this summer school of interest.

Note: This summer school is aimed at beginners who have little or no experience using corpus tools in their work. Those  who have at least some introductory experience of analysis using language corpora, and who wish to expand their knowledge of key issues and techniques in cutting-edge corpus research, will be more interested in the UCREL Summer School in Corpus Linguistics.


The programme consists of a series of intensive two-hour sessions, some involving practical work, others more discussion-oriented. Topics include: Introduction to corpus linguistics; Corpus tools and techniques; Collecting corpus data; Foundational techniques for social science data – keywords and collocation; Understanding statistics for corpus analysis; Discourse analysis for the social sciences; Semantic annotation and key domains; Corpus-based approaches to metaphor in discourse; Pragmatics, politeness and impoliteness in the corpus. Speakers include Paul Baker, Jonathan Culpeper, and Elena Semino.

The CASS Summer School is part of three ‘Lancaster Summer Schools in Interdisciplinary Digital Methods’, see the website for further information. There are additional daily plenary lectures shared with the other two Summer School events, each illustrating cutting-edge digital research methods using corpus data. The confirmed plenary speakers are Tony McEnery, Ian Gregory, and Stephen Pumfrey.

How to apply

The CASS Summer School is free to attend, but registration in advance is compulsory, as places are limited. For more details, see the website.