Celebrating 50 Year of Linguistics at the University of Reading

The University of Reading has been teaching linguistics for 50 years this year. To celebrate the English Language and Applied Linguistic and Clinical Language Science Departments put on a day of events for Year 12 students interested in pursuing the subject at University.

Throughout the day students took part in interactive workshops giving them a taste of university lectures and seminars. The first seminar was run by Dr Christiana Themistocleous on English Language in Society, based on a compulsory first year English language module. Christiana took the group through a number of exercises looking at gender and languages and global languages. We discussed how some words and grammatical structures seem more masculine or feminine. For example ‘Close the door.’ is seen as masculine for its directness, whereas ‘ That’s an adorable dog!’ is seen as feminine due to the adjective ‘adorable’. Similarly the phrase ‘They did the right thing, didn’t they?’ is seen as feminine due to the tag question at the end of a statement. During the global languages section of the workshop, the group looked at words English has borrowed from other languages such as ‘ketchup’ from Chinese and ‘rucksack’ from German. Christiana then guided the group though a debate on whether one language spoken globally would be a positive or negative change. Participants spoke about the loss of culture, identity and knowledge this would cause over enhancing learning and working opportunities and perhaps lead to reductions in world conflict.

The Clinical Language Science workshop was run by PhD students Laura Spencer and Laura McFiggans. The group watched two videos of patients and then spoke about the kind of speech and language therapy work they would do with each patient.  This reflects the hands-on approach of the Clinical Language department at Reading whose BSc students work on clinical placements and spend at least 600 hours observing, working and treating children and adults with communication and swallowing problems. Reading also has an on-site clinic for children and adults run by University and NHS staff, which students learn from.

50 years event

Visiting students enjoying Dr Christiana Themistocleous’ workshop on English Language in Society

In the afternoon some of our students gave talks about being a student at Reading highlighting the fantastic Student Union (RUSU), societies, halls and support here at Reading.   Zoë, a final year English Language student, highlighted the 200 + societies at reading ranging from sub aqua and debating to Harry Potter and Russian, not forgetting the English Society!  Katie, also a final year English Language student, mentioned the support students are given. In English Language there is a first year compulsory module which helps you with the transition between A-levels and university focusing on academic writing, assignments and sourcing reading for modules. The Student Services Centre on campus can help with most things including financial support, student loan queries, applying for jobs and counselling.  Student Support can also help with health, welfare, study support, disability support and students with children.

Visitors were interested in the dissertation topics our students are completing, for example Zoë is looking at representations of gender in the lyrics of popular music in the 1990s, early 2000s and recently. Katie is studying how homosexuality has been written about in the English media before and after the legalisation of same sex marriage and Jess, a third year Clinical Language Science student, is thinking of looking at autism when she completes her dissertation next year.

At the end of the day visitors were given a tour of our beautiful Whiteknights campus including the Humanities building, student union, lake and Clinical Language Science clinics. We hope those who came had an enjoyable experience and learnt more about what makes Linguistics at Reading so special.

Sarah Robertson and Katy Green

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