“Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker’s intentions; it is populated – overpopulated – with the intentions of others. Expropriating it, forcing it to submit to one’s own intentions and accents, is a difficult and complicated process.” (Bakhtin 1981: 294)
Hello. My name is Gerry and I’m a Sociolinguist.
In my current research, I work with Roma adolescents attending high school in Manchester. I am interested to see whether they acquire the local accent and whether they become sociolinguistically competent. Where they do, I want to know what social factors impact upon this.
Our sociolinguistic competence is the conscious and subconscious knowledge that enables us to use language that’s appropriate to the situation we’re communicating in. In other words we know to speak differently depending on what we’re saying, what situation we’re saying it in, and who we’re saying it to. (This is a very oversimplified explanation, but I hope to be able to go into more detail on this in another post)
I have completed just over 2 years of ethnographic fieldwork in a Manchester high school. Towards the end of my fieldwork, I did a number of recordings with some of the Roma students in school, and I’m currently finishing transcribing my recordings. At the same time, I’m completing a large spread sheet of items that the Roma teens say that may be of interest to me later. The more I go back and listen again to my recordings, the more fascinated I become by how these young people, most of whom have only lived in the UK for about 4 years, deftly manipulate their language to suit a range of styles and purposes (hence the quotation at the start). Of course, this is what I’m meant to be studying, and I can’t wait to get stuck into doing my analysis proper as soon as my transcriptions are completed.
The research I’m doing is for my PhD which I should complete some time next year. I’m a Sociolinguist especially interested in Phonetics and New Language Acquisition. This is my first attempt at blogging and I hope to update regularly (once a week is the plan), talking about what I’m doing in my research, general phd experiences, and other PdD/research/sociolinguistics related matters.
I’d love to receive any comments, suggestions, or thoughts on what I’ve written here. You can also find me on twitter: @gerryhowley
Thanks for reading!