Language and Culture

The Language and Culture satellite focuses on intimate connections between how we communicate and the cultures and worlds we create.

Central to our research is our interest in what happens when these worlds collide. We ask, ‘How do people of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, worldviews, past memories, present practices and future visions meet and engage with their differences?’ Language and Culture brings together linguists, artists, philosophers, and educators to examine how these aesthetic and ethical questions play out in the practical tasks of communal meaning making across diverse domains of social life: in schools, workplaces and families, in markets and service encounters, in music and dance rehearsal rooms, theatres, museums, art galleries, and in local communities and digital spaces.

Language and Culture

We also study how the arts can contribute to our capacity to honour our linguistic and cultural diversity. Can the language of arts, such as literature, dance, music, theatre, or visual arts transport us beyond our cultural consciousness and enable us not simply to tolerate but actively engage with the cultural consciousness of those who are not like us?

Language and Culture researchers use a wide range of analytical tools of linguistics (especially ethnography of communication, discourse analytic approaches, narrative inquiry, oral history, corpus linguistics and philosophical inquiry) to produce understandings of what it takes to build inclusive civil societies.

People and projects

Maggie Kubanyiova – Language & Culture Convenor

Language & Culture Flagship Project: AHRC Research Network: Ethics and Aesthetics of Encountering the Other: New Frameworks for Engaging with Difference
  • Maggie Kubanyiova, University of Leeds (PI)
  • Angela Creese, University of Stirling (Co-I)
  • Start date: 1 May 2020 (18 months)

This research network asks: ‘How do people of conflicting worldviews, memories and future visions encounter each other?’ Cultural, civic and educational organisations are expected to create a platform for such encounters and their public value is increasingly assessed on how well they reflect societal diversity in their core activity, outreach and governance. While some improvement on diversity measures, such as gender, age, ethnicity or disability, is evident within these sectors, less is known on what meaningful engagement across and within these categories looks like, why and how it matters and what it takes to foster it. The Network brings together artists, linguists and philosophers to examine aesthetic and ethical questions of what it means to encounter the other in the practical tasks of social life. In partnership with Opera North and Leeds Museums and Galleries, we aim to develop interdisciplinary tools and modes of inquiry for researching and orchestrating genuine encounters with difference across domains of social life. The network will build capacity of doctoral and early career researchers. It will fund a UK PhD Researcher in Residence internship and an international Early Career Researcher bursary to attend each Network event and apply evolving methodologies into practice. The outcomes will support cultural, educational and civic organisations in their commitment to make an impact on social life in complex, changing conditions.

Ruth Swanwick

I am interested in issues of language and inclusion in the context of childhood deafness, mobility and ethnolinguistic diversity recognising the disabling nature of deafness as well as the cultural and linguistic practices that situate deaf people as a linguistic and cultural minority. The intersecting precarities of deafness, mobility and ethnolinguistic diversity can inhibit children’s right to live full and individual lives, and impact on those responsible for their growth and well-being. The exceptional language and communication precarities associated with childhood deafness and the subsequent risks to empowerment and equality are intensified for children and families from ethnolinguistic minorities, and marginalised communities where access to information, support, and appropriate technologies may be problematic.

British Academy’s GCRF Early Childhood Education Programme. £255k (2 years)

This research builds understandings of the social-cultural and resource dynamics surrounding the developmental precarities of childhood deafness in the Global South to support early education programming. As a new interdisciplinary research partnership between the Leeds SoE and the University of Education, Winneba we investigate these challenges in Ghana where early child development and inclusive education for all is a development priority. We will co-produce case studies in rural and urban environments and survey extant practices and policies to inform a contextually situated and intersectoral approach to early education that builds on the proximal and external resources around the child.

The project will be led by Ruth Swanwick with Co-Is in Ghana and will develop future research partnerships and capacity. The strong scholarship element that will involve working with teachers and parents will be led by Jackie Salter. The start date is November 2019.

Communication for Children with Hearing Impairment to optimise Language Development (Comm4CHILD); €4,094,955.00
  • Start date: 1 September 2019
  • End date: 30 September 2022
  • Funder: EU Horizon 2020 · Co-investigators: Professor Ruth Swanwick
  • External co-investigators: Universite Libre De Bruxelles (PI), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique, Linkopings Universitet

Comm4CHILD is a consortium implementing an innovative approach for optimising the communicative skills and social inclusion of children with HI. The project addresses the large inter-individual heterogeneity in brain plasticity, cognitive resources, and linguistic abilities, and takes full advantage of this heterogeneity to support efficient communicative skills in children with HI. A group of 15 ESRs will be trained in research an intervention in a cross-sectoral conceptualized within the tree areas of biology, cognition and language.

Impact: The ESRs will become the paediatric hearing care entrepreneurs of the future, thanks to the collaborations between academic, industrial, clinical, and community-based partners. The output of this unique consortium is expected to have an impact across all aspects of HI children’s everyday life. Specifically, Comm4CHILD will provide a significantly improved understanding of communicative and social skills that will underpin the development of innovative future treatment and rehabilitation measures.

Elisabetta Adami 

Project: Leeds Voices 

Janet Watson 

BA Project: Yemen in Conflict: Popular literary heritage as expression of conflict and tool for conflict resolution
  • PI: Professor Deryn Rees-Jones, University of Liverpool
  • Co-I: Janet Watson, Leeds & Mohammed Shormani
  • £49,830

This is a new, multidisciplinary initiative that builds on several projects of longer standing. The project aims to provide long-term protection to traditional and new popular literature, and investigate popular literary responses to conflict in the different regions of Yemen, comparing responses to, and expressions of, traditional conflict with those to the new externally fuelled conflict. The novelty lies in the focus on literary expressions of conflict and conflict resolution, and the bringing together of projects dealing with the diverse regions of Yemen and relating to all languages spoken in Yemen. The project will also ask, in its engagement with diasporic Yemeni communities in the UK, how storytelling might heighten and enhance both political and public awareness of the situation in Yemen, lead to wider cultural understanding of diaspora and refugee communities in the UK

Events and News from this Satellite

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This Thursday’s Conversation is jointly organised by the Centre for Language Education Research (CLER) and the Centre for Global Development (CGD) at Leeds...


As part of the Yemen in Conflict project, LAAF in partnership with Writing on the Wall brings together four Yemeni...


Panel on Counter-Narratives in Language Education Research Toward a Raciolinguistic Genealogical Perspective on Language Education Policy  Dr Nelson Flores  (University...


This seminar is the first of a series as part of the AHRC-funded initiative “Ethics and Aesthetics of Encountering the...


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The first newsletter of this inspiring AHRC-funded international research network is now available.  It includes (among many things) information about...


Diane Nelson (Linguistics & Phonetics) gave a public lunchtime talk at Leeds Art Gallery (3rd of May) on work by...


Some of Language@Leeds’ activity was represented at the Festival of Interdisciplinary Research, under the Culture Theme. Taking place on 3...


Diane Nelson was in Budapest in July 2017 to present a talk on ‘Evidentiality in Meadow Mari’ at the Conference...