IMLR Graduate Forum

IMLR Graduate Forum
3 March 2020, 6.00pm - 7.30pm
Research Training
Room 234, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

The IMLR Graduate Forum is a friendly and informal space to meet other MA, PhD and PostDoc researchers, share your ideas and work-in-progress and get constructive feedback from peers across languages and institutions. 

All presentations are followed by a Q&A with free wine and nibbles.

Session 5: Channelling Narratives

1. Lydia Hayes 'The performative creation of audiovisual identities through accent: How to be Spanish in English'

This paper posits the existence of dialectal memes, which are the associations attributed to an individual’s identity according to the accent with which he or she speaks. These memes are specific to lingua-cultural communities and to individual experience, in such a way that exposure to speech varieties and to their textual representations determine audience perception of accent. When accentual variation is perceived by a listener, the dialectal meme for that accent is activated in his or her psyche, from which point an image of identity is formulated therein. As such, it can be said that the accentual layer of the utterance is a performative speech act that is realised at the speaker-listener –and therefore audiovisual– interface. Given that perception is a top-down process, screenwriters take advantage of those most prominent dialectal memes prevailing in their target audience and direct the use of specific accents by actors in order determine the creation of their characters’ identities (Hayes, forthcoming).

To illustrate the hypothesis that the ideological load of accent is memetic and its utterance performative, an empirical study has been designed to survey audience perception of accent, in general, and Hispanic accents in English dialogue, in particular, using audio files exclusively. The hypothesis underpinning the study is that degrees of perceptual specificity vary according to the geographical and linguistic distances between the speaker and the listener as well as individual experience, which together determine that the level of authenticity required to be Spanish in English is [relatively] low. It is anticipated the study may bring to light the characteristics of the Spanish meme in English dialogue and that successful attempts at being Spanish in English may be a function of certain phonological realisations as well as other audiovisual factors such as celebrity, physical appearance and setting.

The paper will also reflect on how the results of this questionnaire can inform dubbing research and practice. The question of how to use memetic strategies to dub fictional Spanish and Hispanic accents into Castilian Spanish will be considered vis-à-vis the reality of standardisation practices– a particularity of the prefabricated orality of audiovisual texts and of dubbese or the register of dubbing generally.

2. Sophie Bayer 'The Ernst Levin Collection'

Many scholars have worked on historical persons’ letters and used them as a source of history, cultural history or literary work. Especially in Holocaust Studies plenty of research has dealt with diaries of those, who had been persecuted by Nazi Germany. In addition to diaries there is another so called ‘ego source’, namely letters, and they can give enlightening insights into history of daily life and the use of language and its changes over time.

My PhD Project is based on research inside a collection of personal papers created and collected by Jewish neurologist Ernst Levin, who emigrated from Germany to Scotland in 1933. The Ernst Levin Collection is held in the Lothian Health Service Archive in Edinburgh and contains letters and personal documents of Ernst as well as his wife Anicuta and spans a time period from the 1890s to 1975.

My thesis will be able to address the issue of linguistic and narratological developments and changes in the correspondence throughout time with a comparative approach. I will be looking at what language the Levins’ intellectual friends used to describe the atrocities of the Third Reich, the wartime in Germany and the immediate post-war-years in Munich and Berlin. I will compare the language of their letters during the Weimar era with the one used in their correspondence after 1945.

I argue that each letter and its text is ‘activated’ every time it is read. Each reader, including every researcher working with the material, adds various aspects to the story told and thus makes it a different text every time. In conclusion, this project sheds new light on the little recognized issue of a letter ‘s recipient and an archived collection’s reader and her or his contribution to the written.


Kremena Velinova
020 7664 4884