Language in the form of speech or signs is key to what it means to be human. Not only does this remarkable capacity drive our thought processes but it enables communication between individuals and societies. Language is also central to maintaining social relationships and for transferring information from one generation to the next. Linguistics is the scientific study of this uniquely human talent. We explore how language is structured, how this capacity evolved and how it is learned and exploited (across individuals and contexts as well as time and space). In Speech and Language Sciences we explore ways to tackle speech, language and communication disorders from both developmental and acquired perspectives.
Research Context and environment
The Linguistics pathway in NINEDTP is offered by scholars from NU and QUB whose research, teaching and supervision activity is undertaken within six dynamic Schools. At NU, these include Education, Communication and Language Sciences, English Literature, Language and Linguistics, and Modern Languages and at QUB they include Education, English and Modern Languages. A large number of academics in this pathway are Social Scientists whose research falls directly under the ESRC’s remit.
NU’s community of researchers in Linguistics and Language Sciences forms one of the largest such units nationally and the environment it provides was key to UoA26 being awarded a score of 100 for ‘research power’ in REF2021. We have collective expertise across the disciplines of applied linguistics, clinical linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and theoretical linguistics, but it is also a platform for the cross-fertilisation of inter- disciplinary research and methodologies. Experimental Linguistics at Newcastle has dedicated space and facilities, including specialised hardware and software such as Ultrasound Tongue Imaging, Electro-palatography, Electro-glottography, E-prime, and corpora such as the Chinese Treebank, ICE suite and the Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English.
Our research in Linguistics and Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle falls into six primary themes. Across these themes, staff and students work on a wide range of languages, methodologies and theoretical perspectives. The activities of our research groups closely involve PG and Post-Doctoral Fellows, who: (i) are an essential and very active part of our research culture, and (ii) are frequently co-supervised across disciplinary boundaries. Below we provide more information on our main research groups.
Acquired Speech and Language Disorders
Our work covers a range of areas related to communication in adults and psycholinguistic processing. Specific areas of research interest include:
• Assessment and intervention in acquired communication disorders
• Aphasia Motor speech disorders
• Cognitive communication disorders of progressive as well non-progressive medical aetiologies
• Developing theoretical understanding of speech and language processing in adults
There is more detail about our research in the individual staff pages and in the Aphasia Centre website : https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/language-disorders/).
Applied Linguistics and Communication
The work of the Applied Linguistics & Communication Research Group encompasses a range of research interests related to language and communication and the application to professional and everyday contexts.
Our main areas of research expertise are:
• Language Education, including second language teacher education (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/language-education/)
• Intercultural Communication (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/intercultural-communication/)
• Social and Professional Interaction
• Language and Technology (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/technology-education/)
Our researchers draw upon a wide variety of research approaches, including various forms of discourse and interaction analysis, corpus linguistics, multimodality, social psychology, quantitative statistical analysis, interview-based research, mixed methods, interventions and ethnographic fieldwork.
More information about our group can be found here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/intercultural-communication/
The group conducts research on typical and atypical speech and language development in monolingual and bilingual children and young people. Our interests include:
• Development and evaluation of assessments
• Development and evaluation of interventions
• The impact of speech and language development on academic achievement
• Service delivery models for speech and language therapy
Staff research interests can be found here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/childrens-speech/
Language Evolution, Acquisition and Development (LEAD)
The LEAD interdisciplinary research group has expertise spanning typical and atypical child and adult language acquisition, cognitive science, information theory and psycholinguistics. Members study the acquisition and evolution of language which exists universally in every human society, enabling our unique cultures. Yet, no other species on the planet communicates in such a complex way, using an intricate, rule-governed system of symbols. We address the ‘big’ questions about language: How and why are humans the only species that speaks or signs, and how do most children acquire this complex linguistic system so effortlessly while adults rarely do? Our methodological tools range from corpora and computational models to behavioural experiments. Since our research overlaps with anthropology, cultural evolution, complex systems science and developmental psychology we collaborate with the Language Variation and Change research group (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/elll/research/linguistics/variation/), Language evolution (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/elll/research/linguistics/lead/) and researchers from the cross-faculty Centre for Behaviour and Evolution (www.ncl.ac.uk/cbe/) as well as colleagues in the School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/research/research-themes/childrens-speech/).
Experimental Phonetics and Phonology
Our research has focused on themes such as:
• Laboratory phonology approaches, particularly in relation to the links between production, perception and learning/acquisition
• The nature of phonetic variability and implications for phonetic theory
• Articulatory to acoustic mapping
• The role of fine phonetic detail in describing phonological patterns
• Monolingual and bilingual phonological acquisition
• Systematic properties of speech in its social context; socio-phonetics
• Quantitative methods in experimental phonetics and phonology; quantitative methods in statistics
• The nature of speech in populations of speakers with impaired speech production
More info about the staff and student research interests can be found here: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/phonphon/
The Linguistic Theory research group brings together researchers in phonetics, phonology, (morpho)syntax and the lexicon. Our research also explores cross-linguistic variation, the architecture of the language faculty and its place in human cognition as well as the philosophy of language and linguistics. We take both generative and post-generative perspectives using introspective and acceptability judgement methods alongside data and tools from language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and the experimental cognitive sciences.
More information about our group can be found here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/elll/research/linguistics/theory/
The activities of the QUB linguistics cluster are very similar to those at Newcastle and include a visiting speaker series, a student-led postgraduate conference where keynotes have been presented by scholars such as Deborah Cameron, Paul Kerswill and Ruth Wodak, and the organisation of numerous prominent international conferences. Much of this activity is managed through the recently-established Centre for Research in Linguistics within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science. The Centre shares and promotes activity in Linguistics across the structurally separate areas (for REF purposes) of English, Modern Languages and Education. Information about current research projects at QUB can be found here: https://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/ael/Research/ResearchinLanguages/.
The linguists at NU and QUB have international reputations in their fields, with a substantial record of funded projects (see examples below) and of successful (and timely) doctoral supervisions. The research profile of the proposed pathway is very varied and combines synergies (e.g. in clinical linguistics, corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, educational linguistics, language variation and change, phonetics and phonology) with areas of unique expertise. QUB researchers, for example, have research strengths in computational linguistics and in languages not represented at NU (e.g. Portuguese) while NU staff have specialist expertise in areas such as atypical language development and the linguistics of ageing as well as Non-European languages such as Arabic.