Christian Ilbury



I am a sociolinguist who is principally interested in exploring the social meaning of linguistic variation.

My primary research interest is the interrelation of digital culture and language variation and change. My work explores the relationship between people’s digital engagements and their linguistic practices.

In essence, I'm interested in topics such as "is there a TikTok accent?", "what is the function of <lol> in WhatsApp conversations?", and "does social media cause language change?". Most of my research has focussed on the digital and linguistic practices of young people.

A secondary strand of my work concerns topics related to language, politics, and globalisation. I have published on the sociolinguistic dynamics of gentrification, the effects of standard language ideology and youth language, and the impact of accent bias on perceptions of professional competence.

Prior to this appointment, I held teaching and research positions at Queen Mary University of London, the University of Sussex, the University of York, Newcastle University, the University of Suffolk, and Regents University London.


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PhD Linguistics, Queen Mary University of London

MA Linguistics, Queen Mary University of London

BA Linguistics, the University of Sussex

Responsibilities & affiliations


  • Ethics Committee member for LEL 
  • Department Lead for Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI)
  • Recruitment and Outreach Co-ordinator
  • School Lead for the Centre for Data, Culture and Society
  • Cohort Lead for all 3rd year degrees owned by LEL  


  • Research Associate, Speaking Citizens
  • Visiting Research Fellow, the University of Suffolk

Undergraduate teaching

During 2023-24, I am teaching on the following courses:

LASC08023: Linguistics and English Language 1B (Pre-Hons)

LASC10002: Sociolinguistics (Organiser, Hons)

LASC10085: Dialects of English in Britain and Ireland (Hons)

LASC10102: Language Variation and Change (Hons)

LASC10112: Guided Research - The Sociolinguistics of Digital Communication (Organiser, Hons)

Postgraduate teaching

During 2023-24, I am teaching on the following courses:

LASC11180: Sociolinguistics (Organiser)

LASC11141: Language Variation and Change 

LASC10117: Guided Research - The Sociolinguistics of Digital Communication (Organiser)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am happy to receive applications for PhD supervision on a number of sociolinguistic topics including: Language + technology, ethnography, language variation & change (particularly youth language), queerness+language, & Language-social-class-ethnicity. I particularly welcome proposals from minoritized students and those who are first-gen/state school educated.

Please note, I do not supervise projects on EFL/ESL/TEFL/TESOL. 

Current PhD students supervised


Shutong Han (PPLS funded, first supervisor, with Sumin Zhao)

Ashley Xing (first supervisor, with Guy Puzey)

Ryan Shaw-Hawkins (SSGSS funded - with Jane Stuart-Smith, Glasgow & James Scobbie, QMU)

Zhaoxi Yan (second supervisor, with Lauren Hall-Lew)

Bonnie Liu (Funded, second supervisor, with Sumin Zhao)

Tiffany Pang (second supervisor, with Sumin Zhao)

Past PhD students supervised

Ashley Xing (MScR)

Angel Garmpi (MScR) 

Research summary

Sociolinguistics ∙ sociolinguistic variation ∙ ethnography ∙ digital communication ∙ linguistic appropriation ∙ gentrification ∙ ‘youth’ language ∙ accent bias ∙ language-gender-sexuality ∙ Digital Culture ∙ social media ∙ language and media ∙ affordances and constraints ∙ society and technology ∙ youth online ∙

Research activities

View all 22 activities on Research Explorer

View all 13 publications on Research Explorer

In the press

  • 2024, April, Lexis Podcast, Episode 55: Online language
  • 2024, April, BBC Morning Live, Accent bias and linguistic discrimination 
  • 2024, April, The Guardian, Bait, ting, certi: how UK rap changed the language of the nation
  • 2024, Jan Fox News, ‘TikTalk?’ Language expert explains the new accent people are noticing their favorite influencers speaking
  • 2024, Jan BBC Futures, How TikTok created a new accent – and why it might be the future of English
  • 2024, Jan Pedestrian TV, Australia, We Asked A Linguist To Explain What Is Going On With Those ‘Slay The Cuntocracy’ Tweets
  • 2023, Dec The Conversation, They’re serving what?! How the c-word went from camp to mainstream
  • 2023, Nov BBC Today Radio 4, ‘Rizz’ is named Oxford ‘Word of the Year’
  • 2023, Aug Dazed Magazine, Why does everyone on TikTok talk like that?
  • 2023, July Times Higher Education, Researchers welcome easier access to TikTok data ‘goldmine’
  • 2023, July Canvas8, Fank yew, luv! The science of hun culture
  • 2023, April Vice Magazine, Why Does Everyone on TikTok Use the Same Weird Voice?
  • 2022, Oct BBC News radio, Accent Bias and discrimination
  • 2020, Feb Language Matters Podcast, Accent bias and discrimination
  • 2020, Feb Catch yerself on Podcast, How does accent affect your future?