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

The ESRC Summer School in Corpus Approaches to Social Sciences was inaugurated in 2013; the 2014 event is the second in the series. It will take place 15th to 18th July 2014, at Lancaster University, UK.

This free-to-attend summer school takes place under the aegis of CASS (http://cass.lancs.ac.uk), an 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.

Programme

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 Tony McEnery, Paul Baker, Jonathan Culpeper, and Elena Semino.

The CASS Summer School is one of the three co-located Lancaster Summer Schools in Interdisciplinary Digital Methods; see the website for further information:

http://ucrel.lancs.ac.uk/summerschool

How to apply

The CASS Summer School is free to attend, but registration in advance is compulsory, as places are limited.

The deadline for registrations is Sunday 8th June 2014.

The application form is available on the event website as is further information on the programme.

 

Dispatch from YLMP2014

YLMP

I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Poland to attend the Young Linguists’ Meeting in Poznań (YLMP), a congress for young linguists who are interested in interdisciplinary research and stepping beyond the realm of traditional linguistic study. Hosted over three days by the Faculty of English at Adam Mickiewicz University, the congress featured over 100 talks by linguists young and old, including plenary lectures by Lancaster’s very own Paul Baker and Jane Sunderland. I was one of three Lancaster students to attend the congress, along with undergraduate Agnes Szafranski and fellow MA student Charis Yang Zhang.

What struck me about the congress, aside from the warm hospitality of the organisers, was the sheer breadth of topics that were covered over the weekend. All of the presenters were more than qualified to describe their work as linguistics, but perhaps for the first time I saw within just how many domains such a discipline can be applied. At least four sessions ran in parallel at any given time, and themes ranged from gender and sexuality to EFL and even psycholinguistics. There were optional workshops as well as six plenary talks. On the second day of the conference, as part of the language and society stream, I presented a corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of the UK national press reporting of the immediate aftermath of the May 2013 murder of soldier Lee Rigby. I was happy to have a lively and engaged audience who had some really interesting questions for me at the end, and I enjoyed the conversations that followed this at the reception in the evening!

What was most encouraging about the congress was the drive and enthusiasm shared by all of the ‘young linguists’ in attendance. I now feel part of a generation of young minds who are hungry to improve not only our own work but hopefully, in time, the field(s) of linguistics as a whole. After my fantastic experience at the Boya Forum at Beijing Foreign Studies University last autumn, I was happy to spend time again celebrating the work of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and early-career linguists. There was a willingness to listen, to share ideas, and to (constructively) criticise where appropriate, and as a result I left Poznań feeling very optimistic about the future of linguistic study. I look forward to returning to the next edition of YLMP, because from what I saw at this one, there is a new generation of linguists eager to push the investigation of language to the next level.

Rude Britannia – what our politeness says about our nation

Britain is still a nation of polite people and fears that texts, tweets and Facebook are making people ruder is a myth, according to research from Lancaster University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). The British are famous for their reserve, indirect way of saying things and a love of queuing. However, new research shows that what we find polite, and what we find rude is unique to our culture and can be very different to notions of rudeness in other cultures.

The research carried out by Professor Jonathan Culpeper, an expert in linguistic politeness, will be presented at an event as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s annual Festival of Social Science, which runs between 2-9 November 2013.

Read more…

Notes from the 3rd annual Boya Forum 2013 Undergraduate Conference

If, six months ago, you had told me that an assignment I was writing during my undergraduate degree would eventually send me to China for the weekend, I wouldn’t have believed you. However, that is exactly what I found myself doing last weekend, when I travelled to Beijing Foreign Studies University to present at the 3rd annual Boya Forum 2013 undergraduate conference. I was one of two students from Lancaster University sent there to present at the event, which aimed to celebrate the undergraduate research abilities of students in the areas of English literature, translation studies, media and communication studies, cultural studies, international and area studies and, most relevant to my work, language studies. The participants represented a total of 27 universities, and coming from Lancaster I was from one of only three universities from outside of China; the others being Columbia University in New York and Rollins College in Florida.

The conference ran four concurrent panels of talks at any given time, meaning that in just one day we produced a total of 70 individual presentations. It was an intense day of talks and discussions that ran from the early morning right through into the evening, and my talk was right at the end of the day so I knew I would have a job of trying to keep my audience’s attention. I presented a corpus-based critical discourse analysis of a Parliament debate about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which seems to have been my party trick over the summer (I gave a poster of this at the Corpus Linguistics 2013 conference in July and presented about it at a PhD course in Copenhagen in August). Afterwards I was posed some really interesting questions about my work from both the professor who acted as “commentator” for the session and from other students in attendance. It was a great opportunity to reflect on my work and think about what I might do differently the next time I do a similar piece of analysis. It was also really great to see four or five other presentations from Chinese students who had used corpus-based techniques in their research, and to be able to discuss how our approaches differ.

At the end of the day there was a closing ceremony where the professors from BFSU awarded prizes for the best presentations of the conference, based on the ratings of the commentators from each panel. I was very happy to be one of nine recipients of a “First Prize for Best Presentation” award and an official BFSU jacket to match. I wore it proudly on the journey back to Lancaster.

The organisers of the Boya Forum 2013 undergraduate conference should be proud of what they are doing. As a recently graduated BA student I completely agree that the research potential of undergraduate students, particularly in arts and social science-based disciplines, should be valued and celebrated more. Events like this are a brilliant way of showing undergraduate students that their work is valued beyond the difference between a first and a 2:1. This was the first year of the conference’s short history that students from outside of China had contributed to the event, and it was great to hear that the organisers hope to invite an even wider international presence next year. Though, unfortunately, I will no longer qualify to present at next time, I look forward to hearing about more undergraduate students from Lancaster and elsewhere travelling to Beijing to present at Boya Forum 2014. It certainly was a fantastic experience, and I am extremely grateful to CASS and BFSU for jointly funding my visit.

CASS affiliated papers to be given at the upcoming 5th International Language in the Media Conference

In two weeks, several scholars affiliated with the Centre will be heading south to attend the 5th International Language in the Media Conference, taking place this year at Queen Mary, University of London. We are particularly excited about the theme — “Redefining journalism: Participation, practice, change” — as well as the conference’s continued prioritization of papers on “language and class, dis/ability, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality and age; political discourse, commerce and global capitalism” (among other important themes). As a taster for those of you who will be joining us in London and an overview for those who are unfortunately unable to make it this year, abstracts of the CASS affiliated papers to be given at the conference are reproduced below.


“I hate that tranny look”: a corpus-based analysis of the representation of trans people in the national UK press

Paul Baker

In early 2013, two high-profile incidents involving press representation of trans people resulted in claims that the British press were transphobic. For example, Jane Fae wrote in The Independent, that ‘the trans community… is now a stand-in for various minorities… and a useful whipping girl for the national press… trans stories are only of interest when trans folk star as villains” (1/13/13). This paper examines Fae’s claims by using methods from corpus linguistics in order to identify the most frequent and salient representations of trans people in the national UK press. Corpus approaches use computational tools as an aid in human research, offering a good balance between quantitative and qualitative analyses, My analysis is based upon previous corpus-based research where I have examined the construction of gay people, refugees and asylum seekers and Muslims in similar contexts.

Using a 660,000 word corpus of news articles about trans people published in 2012, I employ concordancing techniques to examine collocates and discourse prosodies of terms like transgender, transsexual and tranny, in order to identify repetitive patterns of representation that occur across newspapers. I compare such patterns to sets of guidelines on language use by groups like The Beaumont Society, and discuss how certain representations can be enabled by the Press Complaints Commissions Code of Practice. While the analysis found that there are very different patterns of representation around the three labels under investigation, all of them showed a general preference for negative representations, with occasional glimpses of more positive journalism.


“I think we’d rather be called survivors”: A corpus-based critical discourse analysis of the semantic preferences of referential strategies in Hurricane Katrina news articles as indicators of ideology

Amanda Potts

In times of great crisis, people often rely upon the discourse of powerful institutions to help frame experiences and reinforce established ideologies (van Dijk 1985). Selection of referential strategies in such discourses can reveal much about our society; for instance, some words have the power to comfort addressees but further oppress the referents. Taking a corpus-based critical discourse analytical approach, in this paper I explore the discursive cues of underlying ideology (of both the publications and perhaps the assumed audience) with special attention on journalists’ referential and predicational strategies (Reisgl and Wodak 2000). Analysis is based on a custom-compiled 36.7-million-word corpus of American news print articles concerning Hurricane Katrina.

A variety of forms of reference have been identified in the corpus using part-of-speech tagged word lists. Collocates of each form of reference have been calculated and automatically assigned a semantic tag by the UCREL USAS tagger (Archer et al. 2002). Semantic categories represented by the highest proportion of collocates overall have been identified as the most salient indicators of ideology.

The semantic preferences of the referential strategies are found to be quite distinct. For instance, resident prefers the M: Movement semantic category, whereas collocates of evacuee tend to fall under N: Numbers. This may prime readers to interpret Gulf residents and evacuees as large, threatening, ‘invading’ masses (often in conjunction with negative water metaphors such as flood). The highest collocate semantic category for victim, displaced, and survivor is S: Social actions, states and processes, indicating that the [social] experiences of these referents—such as being helped or stranded, or linked to social identifies such as wife—are foregrounded rather than their numbers or movement.

Finally, the plummeting frequency of refugee following a unique debate in the media over the word’s meaning and even its semantic preference will also be discussed as an illustrative example of how unconscious language patterns can sometimes come to the fore in contested usage and influence the journalistic lexicon. Following from this, a more considered use of referential strategies is recommended, particularly in the media, where this could encourage heightened compassion for- and understanding of those gravely affected by catastrophic events.


Journalism through the Guardian’s goggles

Anna Marchi

‘Journalism is an intensely reflexive occupation, which constantly talks to and about itself’ (Aldridge and Evetts 2003: 560). Journalists create interpretative communities (Zelizer 2004) through the discourses they circulate about their profession, the meaning and role of journalism are constituted through daily performance (Matheson 2003) and can be studied by means of the self-reflexive traces in texts. That is, they can be detected and studied in a newspaper corpus.

This paper proposes a corpus-assisted discourse analysis (Partington 2009) of the ways journalists represent their trade in their own news-work. The focus of the research in one newspaper in particular: the Guardian. Previous research (Marchi and Taylor 2009) suggested that among British broadsheets the Guardian is by far the most interested in other media, as well as the most inclined to talk about itself. Using newspaper data from 2005, a particularly relevant year in the newspaper’s biography (it changed format from traditional broadsheet to berliner) and rich with self-reflexivity, I examine the discursive behavior of media-related lexical items in the corpus (such as journalist, reporter, hack, media, newspaper, press, tabloid) exploring the ways in which the Guardian conceptualises the role of the news media, how it represents professional values and the divide between good and bad journalism, and, ultimately, how it constructs its own identity. The study relies on the typical tools of corpus linguistics research – collocation analysis, keywords analysis, concordance analysis – and aims to a comprehensive description of the data, following the principle of total accountability (McEnery and Hardie 2012: 17), while keeping track of the broader extralinguistic context. From a methodological point of view this work encourages interdisciplinary contamination and a serendipitous approach to the data and wishes to offer an example of how corpus-based research can contribute to the academic investigation of journalism across disciplines.


Visit the conference website for more details, including a list of plenary speakers.

Challenging Homophobia and Homophobic Bullying through Children’s Literature: a Parliamentary event

On July 16th 2013 I hosted an event supported by ESRC/CASS and the Lancaster University FASS-Enterprise Centre on Challenging Homophobia and Homophobic Bullying through Children’s Literature.

The event aimed to start a conversation about the use of children’s literature as a resource for effectively challenging homophobia and homophobic bullying and included attendees ranging from MPs and charity spokespersons to prominent academics and educational practitioners to children’s publishers and literature retailers. All who attended were experienced in issues of homophobia and homophobic bullying or with issues relating to inclusive children’s literature.

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The 2-hour event, which took around 6 months of organisation to bring together, included 6 presentations and a roundtable discussion, and turned out to be a success both in terms of an opportunity for knowledge exchange and networking.

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The presentations were structured into 2 sessions. The first session focussed on issues of homophobia and homophobic bullying. The second session focussed on issues of using children’s literature as a means for addressing issues of inclusion.

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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.

Programme

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.