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.’



I jog therefore I sleep

Image from Nathan Rupert

Image from Nathan Rupert

I recently watched a fantastic speech that Tim Minchin made at a graduation ceremony. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look. In the speech, he gives some excellent advice, and one suggestion was to ‘run, my beautiful intellectuals, run’.

I know already from twitter that a lot of my fellow linguists gain benefits from regular exercise, and it’s no secret that it can lower the risk of some chronic diseases, cancers, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise can also boost self-esteem, mood, energy and sleep quality, and reduce stress and depression.

So, after having a short period when I wasn’t sleeping well at night, I asked myself: why aren’t I doing some exercise?!

I’m now coming into the writing up year of my PhD, and things feel very different from my past nearly 5 years studying (2 years part time for my Masters and now nearly 3 years of PhD). While I did my Masters, I taught at an English language school. For the first three years of my PhD, as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, I taught at university. As well as teaching and lesson planning, my days were kept busy with fieldwork and the usual meetings, supervisions, seminars, library visits etc. However, this year, I’m not teaching and I’ve finished my fieldwork. I’m working from home with only my lovely dog, Lola, for company in the daytime. It’s a much more sedentary and solitary life than what I’m used to.

Basically, I need to get out more.

So, just under two weeks ago I started running (again), and I have to admit I really feel it’s making a difference. So far, I’ve been sleeping much better, I’m feeling much more focused and able to concentrate on my work, and I feel determined each day to complete my tasks. I even started this blog for goodness sake!

It’s early days, I know. It’s now October and here in Manchester, the days are getting shorter, greyer, colder, and wetter, so it’s not always going to be easy. I just hope I can keep motivated and continue to see the benefits.

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.

kids' shoes

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!