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Language Lab

word cloud showing languages of Britain and Ireland

Welcome to the Department of Applied Linguistics Language Lab, a weekly discussion of a linguistics paper starting on Friday 15th May 2020 This is aimed at people aged 16+ who are studying or are interested in English Language, and who want to learn more about research within Linguistics and Language. Every week we'll look at a different piece of academic research together.

Doing research - what does it involve?

Once linguists have completed a piece of research (either after finishing an experiment working on original data, or by completing a theory or establishing a new model or idea), they write up their findings in an article and submit it to a scientific journal. Here it is reviewed by a panel of scientists who would be in some way familiar with the work. Their job is to question its findings, question its methods, and suggest where it could be improved. If it is accepted, the research is then published in the journal for the wider scientific community to read.

How to read research

Here we will show you some key linguistics and language papers. All the articles we will look at together have had a big impact on linguistics and have forced linguists to really think about the way they carry out research and the way they think about language. We will also make sure that the articles are accessible to you, though you should be prepared to have a dictionary to hand and to make some notes about each paragraph as you read through (this is also what academic linguists do).

What is different about research papers?

Academic papers in the field of language and linguistics have their own structure which is different from fiction, news reporting, a blog post and even from linguistics textbooks. We will give you some questions to help you read them. You can simply answer the questions from the web page, or try to think of some problems you can see with what the academic is arguing in the paper. Try and answer the questions we give as you go along to make sure you understand what's being said. You may need to stop every so often and check what a certain term or theory is all about. That is absolutely fine and should be encouraged!

Engaging with research papers

You should be thinking hard about the writing to assess for yourself whether you agree with it, whether it makes sense and whether it is useful. You are unlikely to read the paper in one sitting because it should take you time to mull over the implications of what's being said. This is completely normal too! It’s usual to read a paper a few times, and to make a summary of the main ideas in the paper in your own words.

Summarising and responding to research

At the end of each paper, there'll be a chance to summarise what you think are the main ideas of the paper. When a new paper is released, we'll also release the answers to the comprehension questions of the previous paper and a few examples of the best summaries that have been written.

We hope you all find these activities useful and enjoy reading about some of the major linguistic theories and methods. If you have any suggestions for how we could improve journal club, or a topic you would like us to cover, whether you're a student or a teacher setting this as work for their class, please let us know by emailing

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