1. STRAND A: LINGUISTICS (LANGUAGE USE IN A NARROW SOCIAL CONTEXT)
People working in pragmatics increasingly recognise that while language is a code, and coding and decoding do have a role to play, such an account is over-simplistic. Models of linguistic communication should reflect the fact that it is an intelligent, inferential activity involving the expression and recognition of intentions.
On a micro-level, the shift to an inferential model of communication has a range of implications for the study of meaning, and, in particular, how we conceive the distinction between semantics (the study of linguistic meaning) and pragmatics (the study of speaker meaning).
This research is fostered across the staff base. For example Ken Turner is the editor of a series of books, Current Research in the Semantics-Pragmatics Interface (CriSPI) (http://www.brill.com/publications/current-research-semantics-pragmatics-interface) and, with an academic background in linguistics, philosophy and anthropology, takes a multidisciplinary approach to the examination of ‘meaning’ in natural language. Dr Jelena Timotijevic has worked on ‘contextualism’, a theoretical approach that construes the semantics-pragmatic distinction in a particular way.
Professor Raf Salkie’s research focuses on translation, modality, tense, and reported speech, on which he has published widely. He has recently co-edited a book of new papers on semantics and pragmatics with a colleague in France.
Dr Tim Wharton is concerned with how natural, non-linguistic behaviours, such as prosody, facial expressions and gesture, interact with the linguistic properties of utterances (broadly speaking, the words we say). His 2009 book outlines his approach and the ramifications it has for work on the semantic-pragmatics distinction. His research project bid with the Leverhulme Trust was unsuccessful, but he and his colleagues are revisiting it and considering resubmitting to UKRC. He is also planning a project on expressivity and meaning in collaboration with the University of Neuchatel and the American University of Athens. He currently has three PhD students, working on metaphor, pragmatic competence and the interpretation of Brechtian theatre respectively.
Dr Pamela Perniss is not directly concerned with semantics or pragmatics, but her work remains on a micro-level. She focuses in particular on the role of the visual modality and iconicity on shaping language structure and processing. Currently, her research spans four main strands which highlight the multimodal nature of language: (i) integration of multiple channels of information (e.g. hands and mouth) in signed and spoken language comprehension; (ii) effects of (audio-) visual language input on action simulation in language comprehension; (iii) the role of iconicity in establishing referentiality in language learning; and (iv) the role of the visual modality in shaping communicative expression in sign and co-speech gesture.
2. STRAND B: LINGUISTICS (LANGUAGE USE IN A WIDER SOCIAL CONTEXT)
This strand is concerned with language use at a sociocultural, macro-level.
Dr Chrystie Myketiak’s research explores discourse, narrative, and text across contexts and settings, with a focus on language, positioning, and framing in relation to contemporary culture and society. She studies the discourses that emerge in and through speakers’ words, the stories that they tell, how they are told and to whom, and relate this to social and cultural theories. Her active research has two main strands. (1) The social performance of sex talk, which combines a discourse analysis of naturally occurring conversations about sex, sexuality, and desire with advancement in gender and sexuality theories; in this respect CM’s work has obvious tie-ins with the gender and sexuality research network (active, CM tells me, across the entire south of England) and LGBT research. (2) Medical error language and blame discourses in news reporting and incident reports. In this CM has worked with computer science people on so-called ‘health-informatics’.
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