Registration open for free upcoming event: “Language matters: communication, culture and society”

CASS is excited to announce an upcoming event at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester on Thursday 12th November from 4pm-9pm.

“Language matters: communication, culture and society” is a mini-series of four informal talks showcasing the impact of language on society. The timely themes will be presented in an approachable manner that will be accessible to a general audience, stimulating to novice language researchers, and interesting to social scientists. Topics include hate speech, myths about impoliteness, and online aggression. Each talk incorporates an element of social science research beyond linguistics and we will take this opportunity to emphasise the importance of interdisciplinary work.

Afterwards, the audience will be invited to a drinks reception, during which they will have the opportunity to engage further with speakers and to network with guests.

In a single event, participants will have the opportunity to hear renowned scholars talk about their lives, their work, and what they find most interesting about the relationship between language and society. Talks are short, energetic, and pitched for a general audience.

Speakers

  • “Impoliteness: The language of offence” – Jonathan Culpeper
  • “Vile Words. What is the case for criminalizing everyday hate speech as hate crime?” – Paul Iganski
  • “The ethics of investigating online aggression: where does ‘virtual’ end and ‘reality’ begin?” – Claire Hardaker
  • “Spoken English in UK society” – Robbie Love

This free event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2015. Please register online to book your place.

For a taste of what’s in store, please see this video recap of a similar event held in London last year. For more information, please visit the ESRC website.

New CASS project: Big data media analysis and the representation of urban violence in Brazil

A new project in CASS has been funded jointly by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and the Brazilian research agency CONFAP. The project will involve a collaboration between two Lancaster academics (Professors Elena Semino and Tony McEnery) and two Brazilian academics: Professor Heloísa Pedroso de Moraes Feltes (University of Caxias do Sul) and Professor Ana Cristina Pelosi (University of Santa Cruz do Sul and Federal University of Ceara). The team will employ corpus methods to investigate the linguistic representation of urban violence in Brazil.

Urban violence is a major problem in Brazil: the average citizen is affected by acts of violence, more or less directly, on a daily basis. This creates a general state of fear and insecurity among the population, but, at the same time, may promote a sense of empathy with the less privileged classes in Brazil. Urban violence is also a regular topic in daily conversations and news media, so that people’s perceptions of the nature of this phenomenon are partly mediated by discourse. In particular, daily press reports of acts of violence may affect people’s views and attitudes in ways which may or may not be consistent with the actual incidence, forms and causes of violence.

This collaborative project will investigate the linguistic representation of urban violence in Brazil by applying the methods of Corpus Linguistics to two corpora:

  1. The existing transcripts of two focus groups on living with urban violence conducted in Fortaleza, Brazil, for a total of approximately 20,000 words;
  2. A new 2-million-word corpus of news reports in the Brazilian press, to be constructed as part of the partnership.

The linguistic representation of urban violence in the two corpora will be investigated by means of the analysis of: lexical and semantic concordances, collocational patterns and key words.  A comparison will also be carried out between the two corpora, in order to identify similarities and differences with respect to what types of violence are primarily talked about and how they are linguistically represented.

The comparative analysis of the two corpora will make it possible to explore in detail the relationships between official statistics about urban violence, media representations and citizens’ views. A better understanding of these relationships can help to alleviate the consequences of urban violence on citizens’ lives, and to foster attitudes conducive to the solution of the social problems that cause the violence in the first place.

Participate in our ESRC Festival of Social Sciences “Language Matters” event online

We are very pleased like to announce an event that we are live streaming on YouTube and Google+ next week. We hope you can find time to attend online*; if not, the recording will be available on YouTube afterwards.

From 1730 – 1900 GMT on 4 November, the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science is hosting a live event in association with the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences and in tangent with our popular FutureLearn course. We would be thrilled if you could ‘tune in’ and collaborate with us during “Language Matters: Communication, Culture, and Society”.

This evening is a mini-series of four informal talks showcasing the impact of language on society. These are presented by some leading names in corpus linguistics (including the CASS Principal Investigator, Tony McEnery) and their talks draw upon the most popular themes in our corpus MOOC:

– What can corpora tell us about learning a foreign language? (with Vaclav Brezina)
– A ‘battle’, a ‘journey’, or none of these? Metaphors for cancer (with Elena Semino)
– Wolves in the wires: online abuse from people to press (with Claire Hardaker)
– Words ‘yesterday and today’ (with Tony McEnery, Claire Dembry, and Robbie Love)

Though we pride ourselves on bringing interesting, accessible material to people on the go, what really brings these events to life is the interactions that we have with attendees. That’s why we invite you to log in and contribute to the discussions taking place after each presentation.

There are two ways to virtually attend.

First, via Google Hangout if you have a Google account. Sign up at https://plus.google.com/events/ca15afbicmmeiu6d25pn1qbverg and then log in from 17:15 GMT  on 4 November to greet your fellow participants.

If you don’t have a Google account, you can watch us on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF_fl95tiSk with no registration.

We’ll be taking questions from the Google Hangout and from the #corpusMOOC hashtag on Twitter (particularly for those viewing on YouTube) and mixing these in with questions from our live audience.

We hope that you can take advantage of this event by participating online.


* If you are available, located in the London area, and would like to attend in person, please visit our event website to register.

iCourts and CASS formalise collaboration, begin first joint project

Last week, I had the honour of returning to iCourts, a centre of excellence for international courts dedicated to investigating the role of international courts in globalising legal order, as well as their impact on politics and society. iCourts is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation and located at the University of Copenhagen. During this visit, I signed the Memorandum of Agreement that iCourts and CASS have concluded, formalising collaboration between the two centres based on our joint interest in the corpus investigation of language in the context of law.

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The first joint CASS-iCourts research project, “Decoding the rule of law: Corpus-based discourse analysis of the construction of achievements of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia” has just received funding from the University of Lancaster’s Research Committee under the ESRC’s Radical Futures in Social Science programme. On this project, Anne Lise Kjær (associate professor, iCourts) and I (senior research associate, CASS) are digitising U.N. documents, updating semantic lexicons to deal more effectively with field-specific terminology, and then analysing millions of words of legal language to investigate constructions of abstractions such as ‘the truth’. Some of our findings will be presented at CADAAD 2014 in Budapest, in a paper titled: “Key semantic domain analysis as a method of exploring underlying ideologies and self-representation strategies in legal texts”.

While I was at iCourts, I also delivered a three-hour workshop on the topic of “Corpus Tools in Legal and Social Science Research”. The first hour of this was dedicated to a lecture introducing fundamental techniques in corpus linguistics, suggesting ways in which these might be helpful in analysis of legal texts. Three tools developed at Lancaster University – CQPweb, Wmatrix, and VARD – were introduced, and a walkthrough was provided demonstrating their basic functionalities. In the second hour, participants partook in guided exercises with provided data sets of legal language, designed to familiarise them with the tools and techniques. In the final hour, participants were welcomed to either continue on the advanced sections of the guided exercise, or to begin work on their own data. At this point, several participants were guided in the installation of AntConc, an additional tool that has been updated in association with the corpus linguistics MOOC and optimised for learners. Using this tool, attendees were able to experiment with techniques in non-English data, specifically in Norwegian, Spanish, and French.

Check back periodically for the latest developments on the collaboration between iCourts and CASS, and for early access to research findings.

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…

ESRC Summer School in Corpus Approaches to Social Science 2013: feedback

In the week of 16th – 19th July 2013, CASS organised the first Summer school for PhD students and post-doctoral researchers in social science disciplines with an interest in the methods of corpus linguistics. Twenty participants from 15 different Higher Education institutions form the UK and overseas (Israel, Brazil, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy) attended the event.  The following is a summary of the feedback we received from the participants at the end of the event (this summary is based on 16 returned surveys).

  • All participants agreed that the quality of the Summer School sessions was high.
  • All participants agreed that the Summer School had a friendly atmosphere.
  • All but one participant said that they were confident to apply corpus methods in their own work after having attended the Summer School.

In particular, the participants appreciated the practical, hands-on approach (including lab sessions), engaging lectures, and the fact that the Summer school was free of charge.

Did you miss this year’s summer school? Check back regularly for information on dates for next year, as well as information on how to apply.

Elena Semino, Veronika Koller, and Zsófia Demjén investigating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ deaths in interviews with hospice managers

What is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ death from the point of view of health professionals who work in hospices? As part of the CASS affiliated project ‘Metaphor in End of Life Care’ at Lancaster University  (funded by the Economic & Social Research Council), we tried to find out. We conducted interviews with 15 hospice managers based in the UK. Amongst other things, each interviewee was asked: ‘How would you describe a good and a bad death?’

Almost all interviewees stressed that different people will have different ideas about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the experience of death. As a consequence, their own job involves finding out and fulfilling the wishes of patients and their families. The difference between good and bad deaths is partly expressed via contrasting metaphors.

To find out what they said, read the full post on the European Association for Palliative Care website. For more information on the project, visit the MELC website, http://ucrel.lancs.ac.uk/melc/.