Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speakers: Stuart Dunmore (University of Edinburgh), Tom F. Wright (University of Sussex) and Arlene Holmes-Henderson (University of Sussex, University of Oxford)

Title: Speaking Citizens: Historical and sociolinguistic perspectives on oracy, multiculturalism and bilingual development in UK schools

Abstract: Based at the University of Sussex and funded by the AHRC, the Speaking Citizens project launched in early 2020 to provide new evidence for how citizenship education can be taught through a focus on speech. Oral skills are being increasingly sidelined in British state schools, with automation, digital technology and the Covid-19 pandemic all contributing to a decline in face-to-face communication. This also poses a crisis of citizenship, at a moment in which ordinary people's voices need to be heard more than ever before. We are a group of historians, linguists and social scientists working together to discover what a deeper knowledge of the past, present and future of speech education can bring to these problems.

The development of speaking proficiency or oracy in children often becomes a matter of heightened political and emotional significance in minority language settings. Formerly Gaelic-dominant communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland have continued to attenuate in recent decades, in spite of official policy to revitalise the language since the 1980s. Conversely, policy initiatives which aim to grow the language, such as Gaelic-medium education (GME) continue to expand in urban settings. Yet numerous obstacles impede the growth of immersion education provision in Scotland, including teacher recruitment and lack of continuity in availability at secondary school. As has additionally been recently emphasised by GME students and parents from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, people of colour in Gaelic communities in urban settings often face distressing challenges arising from systemic racism. This paper will explore the inter-relationship of oracy, citizenship and multiculturalism in UK education, based on ongoing fieldwork and qualitative interviews with former GME students, parents, and teachers.


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Stephen McNulty

Sarah Van Eyndhoven

Co-ordinators of LinC

Feb 05 2021 -

Language in context seminar

2021-02-05: Speaking Citizens: Historical and sociolinguistic perspectives on oracy, multiculturalism and bilingual development in UK schools

Online via link invitation