Plenary Speakers

 Prof. Paul Kerswill (University of York):

Bio: Paul Kerswill’s research is in language variation and change, with an emphasis on phonetic but also grammatical and discourse variation. He has an extensive list of publications which include more than twenty articles in international journals, books and collections. His most recent work looks at Multicultural London English, a new ‘contact variety’ which has emerged in London’s East End and elsewhere in the capital. Paul Kerswill is also the editor of two book series on sociolinguistics: Studies in Language Variation and Change (Benjamins, with Peter Auer and Frans Hinskens) and Edinburgh Sociolinguistics (Edinburgh University Press, with Joan Swann). (Adapted from:

Presentation title: “The objectification of Jafaican: the discoursal embedding of ‘Multicultural London English’ in the British print media”

Abstract: Over the past 30 years, there has been scholarly discussion about a new youth variety in London’s multiethnic inner city. Writing about the early 1980s, Hewitt and Sebba both refer to a ‘multiracial vernacular English’ which allowed common linguistic ground to be forged across ethnicities. From their descriptions, we can deduce that this way of speaking had a London phonological and grammatical base, while its speakers used a wide range of mainly Jamaican slang as well as Caribbean-influenced pronunciations of certain words. According to both scholars, this variety was distinct from other vernaculars, including London’s Cockney, the ‘London Jamaican’ spoken by British-born African Caribbeans, as well as languages such as Punjabi or Turkish. In our studies (e.g. Cheshire et al. 2011 in Journal of Sociolinguistics), we argue that by the early 2000s this relatively clear-cut repertoire had been gradually replaced by one in which young working-class Londoners in boroughs such as Hackney were drawing on a ‘pool’ of linguistic features drawn from various L2 Englishes as well as local dialect and Standard (i.e. school-learnt) English. We labelled this spectrum of varieties ‘Multicultural London English’. The print media, however, appear to have coined the term ‘Jafaican’ to refer to this phenomenon. The existence of such a multiethnic variety has not reached public consciousness to the same extent as in Germany (‘Kiezdeutsch’) or Sweden (‘rinkebysvenska’). In this paper, I use the LexisNexis database to investigate every occurrence of ‘Jafaican’ since it first came on the scene in its present meaning in April 2006. Since then, it has appeared in 58 newspaper articles, with a steep increase since the August 2011 London riots. I investigate the discourses in which the word is embedded. These range from ‘Jafaican is pushing our noble Cockney dialect out’, through ‘Jafaican as natural language change’, to ‘Jafaican is associated with danger and criminality’.

Dr. Catrin Rhys (University of Ulster):

Bio: Catrin Rhys began her academic life as a syntactician working on the syntax-semantics interface in Chinese. Her current research however focuses on ethnomethodological perspectives on social interaction, in particular Conversation Analysis and Membership Categorisation Analysis.  Her research within these perspectives ranges from linguistically informed conversation analytic study of the adaptation of linguistic resources in aphasia to the study of how a fine-grained examination of participants’ moment-by-moment orientation to inference rich categories in everyday talk is highly revealing of a shared taken-for-granted cultural/moral order.

Presentation title: “Hegemonic femininity as an interactional accomplishment in the mundane interactions of women who smoke”

Abstract:  Work in Membership Categorisation Analysis (MCA) has clearly shown that restricting our analytical focus to participants’ orientations can provide a very powerful demonstration of how social and cultural categories are not only produced for local rhetorical effects but are also oriented to by the participants as short cuts to shared cultural and moral knowledge of the norms for appropriate behaviour (Stokoe 2003, 2012). This talk draws on MCA to examine a corpus of naturally occurring talk about smoking by women smokers, addressing the conference themes of culture and context from an ethnomethodological perspective. The analysis shows how taken-for-granted cultural knowledge about smokers and smoking is invoked in the women’s categorisations of themselves and other women who smoke. Moreover, in talk that is ostensibly about smoking and not about gender, participant orientation to the impact of smoking on their performance of gender/femininity lays bare tacit knowledge of gendered norms and ideologies that are interwoven and negotiated across turns at talk.

The analysis thus follows Schegloff’s advice that ‘rather than beginning with gender ideologies … the analysis might begin by addressing what the parties to the interaction understand themselves to be doing in it’ (1998: 415). In so doing, the analysis reveals how the participants orient to the local production of a hegemonic femininity (Schippers 2007) as a resource to manage their own problematic categorisation as a smoker. This realigning of the concept of hegemonic femininity in line with the EM/CA emphasis on participant orientation draws on Housley and Fitzgerald’s (2002) reworking of Membership Categorisation Analysis to focus on the “in-situ and locally occasioned character of members’ category work”. Hegemonic femininities and pariah femininities in this perspective are understood as in situ practical interactional achievements that are nonetheless oriented to achieving relationships of ascendancy that legitimate gendered power relations.

Prof. Ruth Wodak  (Lancaster University):

Bio: Ruth Wodak’s main research agenda focus the development of theoretical approaches in discourse studies (combining ethnography, argumentation theory, rhetoric, and text linguistics); organizational communication; identity politics and politics of the past; language and/in politics; racism, prejudice and discrimination. She has also published extensively on language change in Austrian German (from 1970 – 2010), while exploring several genres in various social fields. Currently, her research focuses on the discourse, rhetoric and argumentation of populist rightwing politicans across Europe. Ruth Wodak also participates on the advisory boards of two 7th EU-framework projects, which both started in the spring 2010: ACCEPT (coordinated by Anna Triandafyllidou, EUI); and ELDIA (coordinated by Anneli Sarhimaa, Helsinki).  Recent book publications include The Politics of Exclusion. Debating Migration in Austria (with M. Krzyżanowski, 2009), The SAGE Handbook of Sociolinguistics (with Barbara Johnstone and Paul Kerswill, 2010) and The discourse of politics in action: ‘Politics as Usual’ (Palgrave), revised edition (2011). Click here for more information on on-going research projects and recent publications.

Presentation title: “Decision-making in meetings in political and business contexts: Different genres – similar strategies?”

Abstract: This paper will compare various instances of everyday routine meetings in political institutions (such as the European Parliament and the European Commission) with meetings in business organizations, with the aim of, first describing similarities and differences in the genre (and subgenres) of meetings across organizations and social fields; and of secondly investigating the impact of organizational knowledge of the genre on presuppositions and context models of the participants related to the interaction and intended outcome of the meetings. Most importantly, I ask the questions: how do meeting chairs get ‘people on board’? And how do participants make sense of topics and arrive at a consensus?

Meetings in institutional spaces are increasingly seen as sites where organizing and strategic change takes place (Kwon et al. 2009; Wodak et al. 2011). Boden observed that meetings “play an oddly central role in the accomplishment of the organization” (1994:82), while Mumby (1988:68) claimed that meetings “function as one of the most important and visible sites of organisational power, and of the reification of organisational hierarchy”. A number of studies have looked at how talk is organized in workplace settings and how it is regulated and enabled through a range of linguistic, pragmatic and rhetorical devices (Bargiela-Chiappini & Harris 1997, Bargiela-Chiappini et al. 2007, Holmes & Stubbe 2003, Krzyżanowski & Oberhuber 2007, Sarangi & Roberts 1999, Wodak 2000). Kwon et al. (2010) have compared away days with routine meetings in business organizations while Wodak et al. (2012) have analyzed interactions in multilingual contexts, such as the European Parliament and the European Commission.

To date, the impact of specific rules and conventions underlying the genre of meetings across institutions, organizations, and social fields, as well as the influence of hierarchies, gender, politeness, contextual constraints, the meeting agenda, and so forth, on the choice of specific discursive strategies in spontaneous interaction have not been investigated in systematic ways. Moreover, analyses of ‘problems’ in interaction (such as conflict or miscommunication or even the inability to reach decisions) have not taken the specific characteristics of the genre and related context models as well as the expectations and presuppositions of the participants sufficiently into account.

While drawing on transcribed data of 36 meetings in the European Parliament and European Commission, on the one hand, and of 6 meetings (2 away days, 4 regular) in one large business organization, I will illustrate the salience of the genre characteristics on the interaction and their intended, expected, and actual outcome. I claim that organizational knowledge (Wodak 2009, 2011) of the genre is part and parcel of successful interaction strategies; and that much miscommunication and problems could be avoided if manifest and latent genre conventions would be sufficiently acknowledged.