Research projects

Language policy and attitudes in Quebec

A component of the habilitation project "Language planning and policy in Quebec: A comparative perspective". Funded by an EU Marie Curie Actions International Outgoing Fellowship (327100 LPAQ) for the period September 2013 to August 2015, it focusses on the interaction, in the québécois context, between language policy measures (typically concerned with safeguarding the status of French as the main language in as many domains as possible, which translates into restrictions on the use of English, e.g. in the education system) and actual language use by young Québécois/Quebeckers. A pilot phase of the fieldwork took place in Montreal in September 2012, gathering data from Anglophones, Francophones, and Allophones (i.e. speakers of languages other than English, French, and Aboriginal languages). The project investigates linguistic repertoires and attitudes towards languages and policies, which are expected to give a picture of the policy–use interaction.

Output: several conference papers to date (see publications for more details).

How multilingual are Singaporeans really? Language repertoires in Singapore’s vocational training schools

Led jointly with Peter Siemund (Hamburg) and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, LE3136/2-1), this project, to begin in late 2015, is a follow-up study of Siemund et al (2014), which gathered linguistic and sociological information from 300 Singaporean university and polytechnic students and was the first larger-scale survey to take a sociolinguistic approach. It included an examination of speaker attitudes towards the varieties spoken in Singapore, as well as towards the various government language policies in place. The present project seeks to enhance the validity of this study by extending the informant base beyond university and polytechnic students, to include students of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). By doing so, it is argued that a more representative cross-section of the population would be mobilized to further inform our understanding of the language dynamics in the city-state. Specific differences expected among ITE students include a larger array of language profiles, with a more multilingual repertoire, as well as a more balanced ethnic sample, resulting in turn in more Malay and Indian languages. While general attitudes towards languages and policies are not expected to differ greatly from those gathered among university and polytechnic students, it is expected that non-official languages enjoy greater vitality in the ITE sample.

Measuring 'viewing' in linguistic landscapes with eye-tracking methods

Linguistic landscapes, the visible manifestation of language in public space (eg billboards, traffic signs, etc), have received increasing attention in the past few decades. Initiated together with Debra Titone (McGill), this project attempts to capture the way in which people read naturalistic linguistic landscape (LL) signs, particularly multilingual ones, with the help of methods from the eye movement toolkit. In a first study, bilingual Anglophones and Francophones from Montreal were presented with bilingual signage, and their eye movements are being tracked to investigate gaze and fixation patterns, with a view to find tendencies with respect to L1 and language placement on the sign.

Output: two conference papers, one article under review, on chapter in preparation.

Imperfectives in Indian Singapore English

A joint projcet with Lavanya Sankaran (QMUL), focussing on the use of -ing-constructions in Singapore English, with special emphasis on how the Indian community uses it. Preliminary results from fieldwork carried out in 2011 suggests that Indians (Tamil speakers) are more likely to judge as grammatical non-delimited habituals inflected with -ing than the other ethnic groups. Ongoing research is trying to capture this in more detail, with a larger sample.

Output: one poster at ISLE 2011 in Boston, one book chapter.

Variation in Singapore English

My DPhil project, which I never fully left behind. I'm interested in the way language variation (both between English and Singlish but also between the various official and non-official languages) in Singapore is dealt with, in terms of language planning and policy, linguistic landscaping, language attitudes, and generally in how the various groups of speakers interact in daily life.

Output: DPhil thesis, one monograph and three peer-reviewed articles to date; see publications for more details.

Indexicality and authenticity

A topic that grew out of the DPhil research. I'm curious about how linguistic variation (in its traditional sense) can be used as a resource in 'creating' (ie indexing) authenticity, and how this ostensible authenticity is perceived in interaction. Implementing this in multilingual settings is an additional challenging area I want to venture into.

Output: a conference on 'Indexing authenticity', with an edited volume containing its papers.