I am a sociolinguist working on English and globalization in Asia. My "Asian Englishes and globalization project" is concerned with the rapidly expanding population of young and mobile speakers of English in Asia. These speakers negotiate multiple kinds of input from both formal teaching and contemporary media in an unprecedented way. They wish to position themselves as global citizens, yet at the same time they need to reflect other national, regional and local affiliations.
Like other aesthetic codes such food, dress or music, accents can provide insights into how these new hybrid identities are formed. Sociophonetic analysis can finely calibrate the similarity or distance of certain vowels and consonants to Western varieties such as British English and American English, Asian varieties such as Indian English, and Singapore English, and also to substrate languages such as Tamil or Cantonese. The international students that are drawn to the University of Edinburgh are ideal candidates for this research. A Carnegie incentive grant funded the recording of experiments and informal interviews with students from India in 2017, and further interviews were conducted with students from India in 2018 with the support of a CAHSS Global Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh.
The research design has already been adapted to produce dissertations based on Mandarin speakers, and we anticipate further dissertations, particularly from South and South-east Asian linguistics students interested in researching the production and perception of their own varieties. Our interviews and questionnaires are also an opportunity for participants to feed back to Edinburgh Global on their application process and student experience. The demographic profiles that we build of these students, and the information we gather about their goals and outlook, can help us to support them in the future.
Past research interests
I am interested in what happens to varieties such as Indian English in contact with L1 Englishes, mostly specifically in call centre communication. My current research examines the convergence of Indian agents towards American callers. I use experimental methods to generate dialogues in which phonological variables can be measured to determine convergence. My earlier work was concerned with beliefs about accents and attitudes towards accents in the Indian call centre industry. In order to better understand the variables of Indian English, I am also conducting sociolinguistic fieldwork on urban Indian English in local settings.