The Language and Communication Research cluster is delighted to welcome the distinguished linguist and literary scholar Professor Jane Hodson (University of Sheffield) for a presentation on what people are doing when they discuss the representation of accents in film and television.
When? Wednesday 7 February 2018, 16.00 – 17.30
Where? Room TBC, Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT
In an influential chapter, Rosina Lippi-Green explores the representation of different accents of English in animated Disney films. She finds a repeated pattern where “characters with strongly negative actions and motivations often speak varieties of English linked to specific geographical regions and marginalized groups” (1997: 80). This, she argues, serves to establish and disseminate stereotypes of specific linguistic groups to children. Lippi-Green herself does not attempt to investigate the uptake of these stereotypes among film viewers, but some recent work has begun to investigate the ways in which viewers respond to the representation of different language varieties in film, often using the comments thread on YouTube videos as data (see for example Androutsopoulos 2013 and Cecelia Cutler 2016).
In this paper, I attempt to build on this work by focusing on the question of what people are doing when they discuss the representation of language varieties. To do this, I draw on three different sets of data: online discussions of film and television accents, a project where I recorded an undergraduate seminar on language variation in literature, and an experiment conducted in collaboration with a student where we manipulated the voices associated with animated characters and elicited responses from participants. I conclude that these data sets suggest that people are often performing highly complex acts when they discuss the representation of accent. At the same time, however, I think about whether or not these explicit discussions are rather different in nature from what people do when they simply watch film and television, and I ask if the findings from such studies get us any closer to understanding the effect of linguistic stereotyping in film.
Jane Hodson is Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests lie at the interface of language and literature, and she is particularly concerned with the way in which style is contested at an ideological level. Her current area of research is the representation of dialect in English literature. In 2013 she completed the AHRC-funded project `Dialect in British Fiction 1800-1836‘. Her monograph, Dialect in Literature and Film, was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. She edited a collection Dialect and Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century, which was published by Routledge in 2017. She has an ongoing interest in the way in which Yorkshire English has been represented in film and literature over the past 200 years and has worked with a number of artists, poets, schools and archives on projects to engage the wider public with this work.
Androutsopoulos, Jannis. 2013 Participatory Culture and Metalinguistic Discourse: Performing and Negotiating German Dialects on YouTube. In: D. Tannen & AM Trester (eds.) Discourse 2.0. Language and New Media , 47-71. Washingtoin, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Cecelia Cutler. 2016. “ Ets jast ma booooooooooooo ” : Social meanings of Scottish accents on YouTube. In: Lauren Squires (ed.) English in Computer-Mediated Communication : Variation, Representation, and Change, 69-98. De Gruyter. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1997. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology and Discrimination in the United States. London: Routledge.
The Language and Communication Research Seminars are free and open to all staff, students and guests. For any questions or if you would like to lead a session, contact Anna Charalambidou.