Category Archives: Conference report

Souvenirs from Athens: recollections from ELF7

ELF7 Doctoral workshop. From left: Roxani Faltzi, Haibo Liu, Yumi Matsumoto, convenors Barbara Seidlhofer and Henry Widdowson, Talip Gulle, Miya Komori-Glatz and Kaisa Pietikäinen.

ELF7 Doctoral workshop. From left: Roxani Faltzi, Haibo Liu, Yumi Matsumoto, convenors Barbara Seidlhofer and Henry Widdowson, Talip Gulle, Miya Komori-Glatz and Kaisa Pietikäinen.

by Kaisa Pietikäinen

For an inexperienced conference-goer such as myself, the prospect of giving two separate presentations under the watchful (and no doubt evaluative) eye of several distinguished ELF veterans made my stomach turn. In spite of my anxiety, I packed my most formal business jacket and flew to Athens for the 7th International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca, better known as ELF7, hosted by DEREE, The American College of Greece, during 4–6 September.

By the end of the first fully-packed ELF day, my anxiety had levelled, and I was able to present my first talk rather successfully, or at least the small, heat-exhausted audience seemed quite interested in the topic: misunderstandings in private conversations among ELF couples, and how miscommunication was skilfully pre-empted by using various comprehension-enhancing tactics. I will post about this study later in more detail.

But, the real reason why I wasn’t so nervous anymore was perhaps not so flattering. During the first day, I was surprised that so many presenters actually didn’t seem to know much of ELF. Often there was no distinction made between ELF (English as a lingua franca) and EFL (English as a foreign language), and every time a presenter began his/her 20-minute presentation with a 10-minute intro on what ELF is, I thought: “Oh, here we go again!”

First day: student questionnaires

Although I obviously didn’t get to see all the presentations I wanted – at times there were as many as seven parallel sessions, and unfortunately many of the ones that sounded interesting coincided – I also noticed the copy-paste problem Ray took up in his posting on ELF6. But, here the duplication disease infected entire studies, not just data. The trendiest theme in the conference seemed to be students’ attitudes towards ELF. These studies were identical to many already conducted here, there and everywhere, but when this was pointed out to the presenters, the common response was: “Yes, but it hasn’t been studied in my country!” Keep reading…

ELF corpora in the mainstream: notes from the ICAME 35 conference

Nottingham Castle, the site of the conference excursion dinner.© Sebastian Hoffman

Nottingham Castle, the site of the conference excursion dinner.
© Sebastian Hoffman

Last month I presented a paper at the ICAME 35 corpus linguistics conference at the University of Nottingham, and I was happy to find that I wasn’t the only one there combining an ELF research perspective with a corpus methodology. Two other major ELF corpus projects were also represented at the conference, and it was nice to hear about the different research questions and ELF data that are being investigated. Though ELF research is still seen as controversial in some quarters, our papers and poster seemed to be well-received. Other researchers can see that lingua franca data is linguistically relevant and can be fruitfully investigated without foregrounding ideological concerns.

My own paper was drawn from my PhD research, a corpus-based study of fluency in spoken academic ELF. This data is drawn from ELFA corpus and SELF project data, all of which is naturally occurring spoken ELF from university settings. In addition to this data from relatively formal settings, a new corpus of informal academic ELF talk is being compiled at the University of Saarland. In their paper at ICAME 35, Stefan Diemer, Marie-Louise Brunner & Selina Schmidt shared early findings from CASE (Corpus of Academic Spoken English), made up of recorded interactions on Skype. But first, I want to discuss a project from Linnaeus University in Sweden, where an ELF research perspective is integrated into a corpus-based study of ongoing change in English.

ELF & the big picture: ongoing grammatical changes in English

Click to view the poster presented by Mikko Laitinen, Magnus Levin & Alexander Lakaw at ICAME 35, 30 April–4 May, 2014.

Mikko Laitinen, Magnus Levin and Alexander Lakaw presented a poster entitled “Ongoing grammatical change and the new Englishes: Towards a set of corpora of English use in the expanding circle” (link to pdf, or click on the image at left). Their project, led by Prof. Laitinen at Linnaeus University, is compiling two corpora of contemporary English in Sweden and Finland. Laitinen’s linguistic roots are in the VARIENG research unit here in Helsinki, and this background in the diachronic study of change in English (change over time) is here directed toward the “Expanding Circle” – the growing number of second-language users of English in countries like Sweden and Finland, and who are increasingly likely to both reflect and influence ongoing changes in English. Their research tests the applicability of some of the methods and theories used in empirical historical linguistics to the study of present-day ELF use and language contact. They ask questions such as to what extent global ELF uses contribute to language variability and whether ongoing grammatical changes are accelerated or slowed down by ELF speakers/writers. Keep reading…

When in Rome: thoughts from the ELF6 conference

The open dome of the Pantheon casting light on the entrance to the temple.© Nina Valtavirta

The open dome of the Pantheon casting light on the entrance to the temple.
© Nina Valtavirta

I returned this week from Rome, where I attended the 6th annual conference of English as a lingua franca (ELF6) held at Roma Tre University. I’m not much of a conference lover, so it helps when they’re held in interesting places I haven’t been before. Following the ELF5 conference at Bogazici University in Istanbul, I’ve enjoyed my tours of the capitals of the Roman Empire. I also managed to squeeze in some academic distractions as well.

The ELFA project was well-represented in Rome with six members presenting their work. Project director Anna Mauranen spoke in the “ELF in higher education” colloquium convened by Jennifer Jenkins. Anna’s talk, entitled “ELF for academic publishing – the remaining taboo”, discussed the gap between spoken and written ELF research and the need for empirical description of written forms of ELF interaction. She highlighted our compilation of the written WrELFA corpus, the current status of which I’ll update here next week.

Among the ELFA doctors, Niina Hynninen gave a paper based on her PhD, entitled “How do speakers regulate language in English as a Lingua Franca interaction?” I’m currently blogging through her doctoral thesis (parts 1 and 2 here), with a final post in the works. Also, Jaana Suviniitty’s talk on “Interactional Features and Lecturing in ELF” was based on her PhD thesis, which you can also read about on this blog (parts 1, 2, and 3). Keep reading…