New Senior Research Associate in CASS: Isobelle Clarke

My name is Isobelle Clarke. I am the newest member of CASS. This is my first academic position outside of education. I am so excited about being a part of CASS, not just because I can tell all my family that I FINALLY have a job, but also because the research environment here is buzzing and thriving (but I don’t need to tell you that)! My major research areas include corpus linguistics, forensic linguistics, discourse analysis and uncovering patterns of language variation and change. Lancaster University, especially CASS is certainly the place that covers all of these areas… I can honestly say I feel at home.

I have been appointed here as a Senior Research Fellow on the project investigating the Discourses of Islam in the press with Tony McEnery and Gavin Brookes that is partially funded by the Aziz foundation. Our task is to extend on the work of Baker, Gabrielatos and McEnery (2013) and Baker and McEnery (2019) that investigated the Discourses of Islam in the UK National Press from 1998-2014. We will be bringing that research up to the present day, examining the extent to which the Discourses have changed and how. Then, we will be comparing the representation of Islam in the national press with the local press and tracking the representations over time. We will also be looking at the representation of Islam on Twitter using various corpus and computational techniques. I am very excited to be working on this important project and in partnership with the Aziz foundation. The aim is not just to scrutinise the media’s representation of Islam, but to also be proactive, making suggestions about the ways in which the media can report on Islam in a more neutral way. It is hoped that the findings from the project will also help to provide British Muslims with the tools to critically engage with public narratives, as we identify and describe why and how particular depictions of Islam can be biased and damaging.

I am passionate about understanding language that harms and so most of my research has focused on online abuse. I have just submitted my PhD dissertation under the supervision of Jack Grieve. I investigated and compared the major communicative styles of trolling tweets and general tweets. Spoiler alert: they are considerably more similar than they are different.  “Why?” You may ask. I have a few theories but I’ll save them until I hear the opinions of my examiners!

I have conducted research with Jack Grieve looking at the major communicative styles of abusive language and hate speech on Twitter, and we have also investigated the major communicative styles of Donald Trump’s tweets and tracking their use over time, especially during the campaign.

On a more personal note, here are some facts about me: I love hummus… like big time! I make my own and I have a recipe, which can be found here. My other love is birds. My favourite bird is the marsh warbler because it is the bird that can mimic the most bird songs. Essentially, it is the bird version of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (“I do voices”) or Ariana Grande (for the younger generation who haven’t seen Mrs. Doubtfire – #shameonyou).

I also love Harry Potter – for any language lover let me take you to the scene in the final deathly hallows film where Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter are in the spiritual world (Kings Cross Station) after Harry has come to his fate with Voldemort. Dumbledore says the most amazing thing. He says: “Words are in my not so humble opinion our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

 

So long story short… Spread hummus not hate!

References

Baker, P., Gabrielatos, C. and McEnery, T. (2013) Discourse Analysis and Media Attitudes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baker, P. and McEnery, T. (2019) The value of revisiting and extending previous studies: The case of Islam in the UK press. In R. Scholz (ed.) Quantifying Approaches to Discourse for Social Scientists, pp. 215—250. Palgrave Macmillan

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