Poster: ‘Roma acquisition of the Manchester lettER vowel’ presented at UKLVC10, University of York, 1-3 September 2015

Follow link below for a PDF version of my poster which was presented at UKLVC10, University of York, 1-3 September 2015:

‘Roma acquisition of the Manchester letter vowel.’

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The wonder of you, Twitter

Things  got away from me a little bit in the last week which was hectic to say the least. So, the greatly-imagined blog post I wanted to put up has not as yet materialised. I decided instead to write a brief, light-hearted one about just how great I think Twitter is.

Now, I’m sure for many of you who may be reading this, I’m preaching to the converted. However, I know that among certain of my friends, Twitter comes in for quite a bit of grief. Most of the complaints I hear involve something like ‘I just don’t get it’ and ‘It’s just a bunch of media idiots shouting about themselves’. So, I think my beloved ‘Twitterverse’ deserves a bit of appreciation and TLC from time to time.

It did take me a while to ‘get’ Twitter. I wasn’t sure who to ‘follow’ at first and wasn’t entirely sure why stalking had apparently become so popular. But once I decided to use it pretty much exclusively for work and found other people working in the same areas and with similar interests to me, I was quickly able to build up a network that provides me with an informative and stimulating set of tweets on my timeline whenever I go on.

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As I said, I do only use Twitter for work. As with Facebook, I believe you create the cyber world around you. So, for example, my husband’s Facebook and Twitter worlds look very different from mine. He is a drummer and uses both Facebook and Twitter for social and work purposes. This manifests itself in him having a lot of enviable posts and tweets from amazing drummers playing somewhere awesome and lots of close ups of drum kits (seriously, how many drum kits does one man need to see?!). Whereas, my Facebook is primarily social – lots of status updates about what people are having for breakfast – and my Twitter is work – in general this means academic questions and articles and socio-political information about Roma affairs and migration.

However, the bare information traffic that passes through my timeline is only the start. The thing that I have really come to appreciate is the support and real sense of community that I find on Twitter. I am studying for my PhD in relative isolation. I’m the only sociolinguist at my uni and, being in my writing up year, I don’t always get out of the house as much as I should. Through Twitter, I am able to contact and have conversations with people involved in my field from all around the world. There is no way that I could have chatted so regularly and informally and on so many topics with these people without Twitter. Email just wouldn’t be the same.

I haven’t met most of my ‘Tweeps’ face-to-face, but still the support is there. If someone needs a research paper, there’s sure to be another person on there who can send it to them, and when we’re having PhD related crises, there are people out there who can understand and help (I adore my husband and he supports me greatly, but there are some things you just don’t get unless you’ve been through it yourself!). We can have a joke, and some people have even set up their own long-distance film nights!

So, to all those Twitter doubters out there, if any of you are reading this: firstly, there is no right or wrong way to use it, but if it helps, decide what purpose you want to use Twitter for and build your Twitterverse around that; go on regularly and contribute; show your own personality; and most of all have fun with it. My last word, in a very uncool, hip-hop stylie, goes out to all my Tweeps. Thanks for your ongoing support, entertainment, and advice (not necessarily in that order).

Introducing me – my first attempt at blogging

“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.

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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!