Accent Bias in Britain

I am Principal Investigator on the Accent Bias in Britain project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (Co-Investigators: Devyani Sharma, Dominic Watt and Christina Perry; Researchers: Amanda Cardoso, Yang Ye and Christian Ilbury).

Despite the pivotal role that accent plays as a signal of social and ethnic background in the UK, we know surprisingly little about the relationship between accent and life outcomes. The Accent Bias in Britain project aims to address this by examining the extent to which accent interferes with a listener’s ability to objectively evaluate a job candidate’s suitability for employment. Bringing together insights from sociolinguistics, social psychology and labour market economics, the project involves a number of different experimental studies designed to identify the presence and impact of accent bias in the real world. We are also developing tools and training materials to help tackle accent bias in different professional contexts. For further details about the project and our findings, see the Accent Bias Britain website.

Language, Sexuality and Nation

I have a longstanding interest in the relationship between gender, sexuality and nationalism and in how this relationship is played out through language. This was the subject of my prior research in Israel, and has been the focus of a number of recent collaborative projects.

For example, I have recently done collaborative research with both Tommaso Milani and Roey Gafter on sexuality, citizenship and discourses of belonging in Israel. From 2015-2019, I also led a British Academy funded project (with Tommaso Milani and Quentin Williams) looking at representations of gender and sexuality in the English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa print media. Prior to this, I conducted collaborative work with Paul Baker on gender and ethnicity in the UK, and with Ian Bekker on language and gender ideologies among White English- and Afrikaans-speaking South Africans. See my publications for further details.

Variation in Southeast England

In recent work, I have been examining patterns of phonological change in the London area. This research has included an examination of the spread of “uptalk” in London, and how the use of this feature is perceived in the region. I have also been conducting research with Sophie Holmes-Elliott on /s/-variation in London and on the changing shape of the London vowel system. See my publications for further details.

Perception and Social Meaning

I am very interested in how variation comes to be associated with social meaning, and what these perceptual patterns can tell us about the mechanism of social cognition. This was the topic of my NWAV plenary in October 2018. I have published a number of studies on this topic over the past five years, including work on the role of stereotypes in sociolinguistic processing, on the functioning of the sociolinguistic monitor (with Sue Fox), and on salience across different levels of linguistic structure (with Isa Buchstaller). See my publications for further details.