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I specialise in the social and cultural history of English, and am really interested in language change and standardisation, language attitudes, and the different kinds of evidence we might use.
I am nearing the end of a research project called the ‘Words in War-Time’ project (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) which examines language change in WWI through the archival collections of Andrew Clark.
I am Convenor for English language in the Faculty of English.
I usually teach first-year undergraduates in Trinity for Paper 1; English Language, in which we explore language in areas such as news discourse, politics, advertising, and in relation to issues such as class, gender, place, and identity etc.
I lecture on the English language side of the English course, covering aspects of language history, language change and codification, language and identity, language and diversity. I run a third-year special option on ‘Language, persuasion, People, Things’, which spans Middle English to Goop! I also supervise undergraduate and graduate work on English language. Recent topics include gender and lexicography, gender ideologies and news discourse, and the ‘cookie’ as new linguistic text type.
I have published widely on the social and cultural history of English, with particular reference to lexicography, lexical history, and the history of spoken English (and ideas of ‘talking proper’). I am interested in dictionaries as repositories of cultural opinion, and sites of cultural change, and am always fascinated by what gets included – and what doesn’t. An earlier project looking behind the scenes at the making of the OED – and the words that didn’t make the cut – was very rewarding, as was looking as Samuel Johnson’s annotated books made as he gathered material for his own Dictionary in 1755.
While Johnson remains one of my research interests, my current project on language in WW1 examines the lexical scrapbooks which Andrew Clark constructed between 1914-1919, and his decision to focus on popular discourse in news and advertising as prime resources for living and often ephemeral language history. Advertising, and the diverse language tactics that this deploys, is another aspect of my current work. I co-curated the ongoing ‘Art of Advertising’ exhibition at the Bodleian Library in Oxford (and wrote the relevant chapter in the accompanying book), and am writing a number of language-focussed blogs for this.
Writing a War of Words; Andrew Clark and the Search for Meaning in WWI (forthcoming, Oxford University Press)
‘Stranded in Time. Andrew Clark and the Language of WW1’, forthcoming in Stranded encyclopedias: broken dreams of complete knowledge (1700–2000) ed. Linn Holmberg and Maria Simonsen (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2020).
Samuel Johnson and the Journey into Words (Oxford University Press, 2018)
‘The Values of Annotation: Reading Johnson Reading Shakespeare’, in ed. Anthony Lee, Revision and Revaluation: New Essays on Samuel Johnson (University of Delaware Press, 2018), pp. 3-24
‘The language of advertising’, in ed. Julie-Anne Lambert, The Art of Advertising (Oxford: Bodleian Publishing, 2020), pp. 45-68
‘Gissing and the Auditory Imagination: Language, Identity, and Estrangement in Born in Exile’, Victoriographies 10 (2020), 132-146
Language history is everywhere; there are no limits.