What do you mean? UWE conference asks how language reveals who we are

Issue date: 11 April 2013

A major international conference at UWE Bristol is set to explore the relationship between language and identity.

Topics to be covered include the use of language in the current financial crisis and age-related language issues such as the way children construct an identity in early childhood and older workers' use of language. There will also be locality-based topics ranging from bilingualism in Wales and accent and identity in Stoke-on-Trent, to the colloquial use of the word 'like' by Poles in Ireland.

Called i-Mean@UWE, the conference starts on 18 April and will welcome scholars from across UK and the world. They come from a wide range of disciplines and linguistic traditions, all with a shared interest in the links between language and identity.

One of the conference organisers, Dr Jo Angouri, said, “It is through language that we construct and negotiate our self and social identities. It is through language that we index, directly and indirectly, who we are, how we wish to be perceived and where we want to belong.”

The three-day conference will showcase over 160 papers, including two main panel discussions. One of the papers, by Harry Parkin of the Family Names of the UK research project based at UWE, will be on 'Wooltrade' surnames in the Cotswolds – the links between occupations and names such as Shepherd and Walker.

The panel led by Dr Beeching will cover the role of identity in language change and variation. She said, “Short-term fashions in language may reflect regional or social affiliations, friendship groups or identities, while long-term changes may reflect more generalised shifts in societal beliefs, manners and mores.”

The second panel, Identities in Crisis, about the ways language has been used to discuss the financial crisis, will be convened by Jo Angouri, conference organiser from UWE, and Ruth Wodak from Lancaster University.

Jo said, “Recent events, statistics and technical discourses have led to individuals positioning themselves and others as good guys and bad guys, perpetrators and victims, experts and lay persons. Media panic leads to blaming and shaming, and the construction of 'scapegoats' that have to be punished and brought to justice.

“Against this backdrop, the aim of this panel is to focus on common-sense, lay and everyday representations of the current financial crisis.”

i-Mean@UWE is the third conference on meaning in social interaction that has been organised by UWE.

For more information on the conference see i-Mean@UWE

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