Welcome to our newest CASS PhD student!

It’s the start of a new academic year, and the offices of CASS continue to get busier and busier! This week we welcomed our newest PhD student, Ruth Byrne, to the team. Here’s a bit aout Ruth and her research, in her own words:

Ruth ByrneI’ve just begun the first year of my ESRC-funded PhD, and will be using the British Library’s 19th Century newspaper collection to explore historic attitudes to immigration. I completed my undergraduate and masters’ degrees within the History department at Lancaster.

I’ve always been an avid reader and thrived on close textual analysis. So, although my background has firm roots in History, and not Linguistics, the study of language has naturally woven its way through much of my research. The main focus of my undergraduate study was the shifting media language surrounding the struggle for Indian Independence. Without realising it, I effectively conducted a manual hunt for collocates within lines of concordance. Terms I was not to encounter until I heard about the work of CASS during my MA. Unaware of Corpus Linguistics as an approach, and of how it could have hugely increased my efficiency and rapidity, I was frequently frustrated at the laborious nature of the process which I had chosen to undertake.

Perhaps because I’ve found my own work and interests so hard to categorise, I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of interdisciplinary research. I was thrilled to find out that I’d be joining an experienced team who are pushing the boundaries of Corpus Linguistics as an interdisciplinary research tool, and that I’d be working at the intersection of two departments. I am keen to compare the challenges which face researchers working with corpora to those traditionally faced by historians working with large archives.

Some extra-academic trivia: I’m from a family of wine-merchants and spent most childhood holidays being dragged unwillingly around vineyards. As a result I’ve accumulated a lot of odd knowledge about grape varieties and whisky distilleries. When not working on my thesis, I’ll most likely be hiking up a hill in the Lake District.

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.