Mid-term Update!

Hello! I’ve made it to the end of Week 5 which means I’m now half way through my first term as a postgrad student. Simply typing that is hard to believe since the last month has been so busy and, as you might expect, gone very quickly! Anyway I thought it was about time for a little update on what I’ve been up to since starting the MA in Language and Linguistics at Lancaster University.

Current happenings

In my last blog at the start of the term I mentioned the modules I’m taking this term, and now I’m very much under way with the research projects that I’ll be submitting for these modules around Christmas time. Each one has a 5,000 word limit, which is twice that of the kind of work I was doing during my undergraduate degree, but it is incredible how even a figure twice as large suddenly still feels like not enough for a really thorough bit of work. Originally I was going to do research based on topics that would help me prepare for my MA dissertation (and, eventually, PhD project) about spoken corpus collection methods…but then I decided to have a bit of fun and explore a few weird and wonderful ideas before I get lost in corpus design, ethics, transcription schemes and what not in the New Year.

  • For the module on Discourse Studies I’ve reached way back into my childhood and adolescent (and, admittedly, to an extent ongoing…) obsession with American professional wrestling, and more specifically the largest pro-wrestling company in the world, the WWE (formerly WWF until 2002 – yup, 11 years ago folks!).  I’m interested in the language of the commentators who develop the characters and build the storylines all while describing the performance that is taking place in the ring. I thought it might be interesting to transcribe a few matches and look at what kinds of metaphors the commentators use when they’re getting all excited about headlocks and dropkicks. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the presence of a least a thin layer of academic enquiry about some aspects of pro-wrestling, and particularly the quite incredible-looking Comparative Media course taught in 2007 at MIT!
  • For the Sociolinguistics module I just this week came up with an idea for a nice study involving Starbucks and the ways people order drinks. I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to pan out yet but there’s definitely something in the oven and I’m going to let myself treat this is a bit of an experiment while I’ve got the chance!
  • And for the Corpus Linguistics module I’m just about a day or two’s work away from finishing an analysis of the representations of Muslim people and Islam in the press during the aftermath of the Woolwich attack earlier this year. I’m already at finishing point for this one because I started work on this in my first week as an independent project for a media awareness group called iEngage. I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of it. The idea with this one in the long-term is to work with Tony to flesh this one out some more and try to get it published somewhere – exciting indeed!

I’m also ticking along with a bit of work for Amanda looking at comments on online newspaper articles – very interesting so far and certainly a valuable learning experience.

In other news…

So, what else have I been up to in the first few weeks of post grad life? To name a few…

  • The same-sex marriage paper I had been working on with Paul Baker over the summer has now been sent off to the journal and we are awaiting to hear back for whatever happens next at this stage! Fingers cross it goes down well enough to get published in the Spring next year.
  • For the “practice assignment” of the MA I submitted a short review of a study about doctor-patient interaction, which got a mark of 70. Nice to get off to a good start!
  • I recently had the pleasure of updating Geoffrey Leech‘s Wikipedia page for him. And yesterday I had my first chance to see him give a talk, at the UCREL corpus research group. What a great guy all round!
  • I’ve submitted a couple of abstracts for conferences that are taking place in the UK and (very much) beyond next year, so I’m hoping to hear some good news about those over the next couple of months.
  • I have also been invited to return to my high school, where I took my GCSEs and A Levels, to visit the A Level English Language class there and chat about all things uni and all things linguistics. I’m really looking forward to going back there just before the Christmas holidays and likely feeling very nostalgic and very old.

So as you can see it’s been a bit of a plunge into a very different way of working compared to what I was used to during my undergraduate degree. But I feel like I’m more or less keeping up with things so far and I’m sure the routine will only get easier as I get more and more into the different kinds of research I’m getting on with. I’ve already made friends with some wonderful new people on the MA course and I really love how diverse the cohort is. It’s great to hear about the very many different backgrounds and experiences that people have brought to the course and it feels like we’re all in it together to help each other through the year. So far, so good!

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