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Understanding language, dialect, and their role in building our sense of self.

Language and dialect play a vital role in building our sense of self, belonging and ultimately our identity.

NTU research developed by Natalie Braber, David Wright and Laura Coffey-Glover is deepening our knowledge of speech, re-evaluating how it is understood and reimagining how it can be used.

This spans many projects, such as examining how accents can more accurately be used to recognise and identify individuals. This work can improve the quality and accuracy of earwitness line-ups, reducing the risk of miscarriages of justice.

Other research projects examine the part local language plays in building communities and how this can reconnect us with our past, such as documenting dialects unique to workers in the East Midlands’ coal mines.

Natalie, David and Laura are bringing knowledge of language to the NTU Museums of the Future Project; a research initiative helping to build narratives and engage audiences with culture and heritage through digital media.

When the focus is so often on what is said, our researchers are listening to how it is said, and in doing so helping to preserve communities and justice.

This research was submitted to the Communication, Cultural & Media Studies, Library & Information Management Unit of Assessment in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, where 100% of the research impact was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of quality.


Professor Natalie Braber, Programme Leader for the Linguistics:

"Language is really interesting because we all use language every day, and language is constantly changing.

And having a dialect is a really positive thing, speaking your own variety, it's a really important part of your identity of your culture and of your heritage, it makes you who you are.

I started interviewing different people and was doing lots of work with school children and sixth form college students, finding out about their perceptions of local language which are often quite negative, which I thought was quite a shame.

But when I was interviewing people one of the women I interviewed said that miners have a language all of their own her grandfather had been a miner.

So I interviewed a few miners to really talk about the language they used when they were working, the tools that they used the job descriptions the processes.

So in the East Midlands the miners' strike of 1984-85 is still quite a sensitive topic.

Lots of mining groups won't talk to each other, but one thing that all these mining heritage groups have in common is that they want this information to be passed on to younger generations, they're very worried that younger people will know nothing about what coal mining is or what work they did.

So a lot of the work I've been doing is trying to get people to work together and one way of doing that is with working with younger people, but also by engaging other things.

So we've been working a lot with things like poetry, creative writing, art and music, because that's a more sensitive way into quite a touchy topic that's difficult for a lot of people to work with.

One of the miners that I spoke to who did one of the creative writing workshops said that this was the first time he felt he'd been able to write using his own dialect and that was a valid language variety to use, and that to me is a great thing."

Global Heritage

This research is drawn from the strategic research theme of Global Heritage.

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Centre for the Study of Inequality, Culture and Difference

The Centre for the Study of Inequality, Culture and Difference provides a focus for research that theorises and analyses how the representation, practice and experience of difference produce inequality.

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