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October 2015

Feature series: SR in the Curriculum

(15 October 2015)

In support of the priority to encourage socially responsible graduates, Humanities provides funding to course leaders through the annual Social Responsibility in the Curriculum competition. The aim is for Humanities students to be encouraged to think how their enthusiasm for their subject can communicate, connect or be relevant beyond the immediate demands of their course. The call for 2016-17 is now open.

Each month we will be featuring a project which has benefited from the competition. This issue, we introduce you to Dr Laurel MacKenzie’s project to map the linguistic landscape of English in the UK.

Laurel is using the funding to continue to develop a project which started last year. This year’s research will run during semester two and will involve students who are studying for an English Language degree. They will be surveying friends and family about their usage of English regionalisms.

Each year students collect nearly 2000 responses from respondents all over the country, which provide an up-to-date picture of the linguistic landscape of English in the UK. Questions have included ‘what is the name for a soft round bread: barm, bap or roll?’ and ‘do the words foot and strut rhyme?’.

This information will be processed and used to help update the interactive website ‘our dialects’. When the website launched last year it received over 10,000 page views in its first week.

Students will then create interactive activities to help educate GCSE and A-level students on their findings. These students will go into local high schools to teach pupils about local dialects and regional variations. This is an invaluable experience for the English Language students, as many go on to become teachers.

The project will increase awareness of regional dialects and regional identity through its outreach projects as well as through the media.

Laurel said: “The funding is keeping this successful project going. It allows our project team to maintain our one-of-a-kind online resource, which not only benefits academics studying variation in English in the UK, but also engages and educates the public on the subject of linguistic diversity. The funding also supports our successful schools outreach programme, which provides valuable teaching experience to our student volunteers and gives local pupils a chance to learn something new about language and the research process. All in all, SRC funding has helped this project take academic research beyond the University walls to excite and inspire our community.”