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7th February, 2018

“No one talks like that. Sorry.” What are people doing when they discuss accents in film and television?


Event Details

7th February, 2018
16:00 - 17:30
Room C110 (College building)
Middlesex University
The Burroughs

The Language and Communication Research cluster is delighted to welcome the distinguished linguist and literary scholar Professor Jane Hodson (University of Sheffield) for a presentation on what people are doing when they discuss the representation of accents in film and television

In an influential chapter, Rosina Lippi-Green explores the representation of different accents of English in animated Disney films. She finds a repeated pattern where “characters with strongly negative actions and motivations often speak varieties of English linked to specific geographical regions and marginalized groups” (1997: 80). This, she argues, serves to establish and disseminate stereotypes of specific linguistic groups to children. Lippi-Green herself does not attempt to investigate the uptake of these stereotypes among film viewers, but some recent work has begun to investigate the ways in which viewers respond to the representation of different language varieties in film, often using the comments thread on YouTube videos as data (see for example Androutsopoulos 2013 and Cecelia Cutler 2016).

In this presentation, Professor Jane Hodson builds on this work by focusing on the question of what people are doing when they discuss the representation of language varieties. To do this, she draws on three different sets of data: online discussions of film and television accents, a project where she recorded an undergraduate seminar on language variation in literature, and an experiment conducted in collaboration with a student where they manipulated the voices associated with animated characters and elicited responses from participants. She concludes that these data sets suggest that people are often performing highly complex acts when they discuss the representation of accent. At the same time, however, she thinks about whether or not these explicit discussions are rather different in nature from what people do when they simply watch film and television, and she asks if the findings from such studies get us any closer to understanding the effect of linguistic stereotyping in film.

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