When thinking of the common settings in which English is used as a lingua franca (ELF), you probably think of the Big Three – academia, business, and international organisations/diplomacy. It’s easy to forget that English is also a lingua franca of love, a common language of relationships in which neither partner shares a first language, and neither are native speakers of English. Looking over the body of research on ELF, it’s clear that the use of ELF in intimate relationships is largely unexplored territory.
Though the ELFA project is focused on ELF in academia, we’re fortunate to welcome Kaisa Pietikäinen, a new PhD student investigating this widespread phenomenon of ELF couples. She presented her PhD research plan at the last ELFA seminar of the academic term, which was held on May 6. Her ongoing data collection opens a window into the personal lives of eight ELF couples who are recording their use of ELF in everyday, informal settings such as at the dinner table or in the car. With this data, Kaisa will explore how ELF couples achieve successful communication, and how their communication tactics might differ from other ELF contexts.
Kaisa has already broken new ground with her MA thesis on ELF couples’ use of code-switching in interview data. Her thesis was completed at Newcastle University under the direction of Peter Sercombe and Alan Firth, who introduced her to the study of ELF and Conversation Analysis (CA), which will be her main methodology for the doctoral research. Unlike this earlier study, which drew its data from Kaisa’s interviews with six ELF couples, her PhD research will broaden this analysis to naturally occurring ELF interaction recorded by the couples themselves.