Projects

Archive of Endangered and Smaller Languages

My online archive of Endangered and Smaller Languages was funded by the British Academy and features short background descriptions and audio samples from my fieldwork on a variety of languages including Lekoudesch (Jewish Cattle Traders Jargon from the Black Forest area in Southwest Germany), Jenisch (in-group vocabulary of the itinerant showpeople of southern Germany), Ladino, Jiddish, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, North Frisian, Low German, Domari, Kurdish and Romani.

Dialects of Kurdish

The Dialects of Kurdish project, which I launched in 2012 at the University of Manchester, created the world’s largest accessible online comparative database on Kurdish based in fieldwork from over 150 locations in the Kurdish regions, carried out with the help of Kurdish language assistants and in collaboration with Salih Akin (Rouen) and Ergin Öpengin (Hewler/Erbil). The project produced publications and student research dissertations documenting for the first time the Kurmanji dialects of northern Syria, and a flagship publication with Palgrave-Macmillan publishers covering structural and typological variation in Kurdish, which I co-edited with Geoffrey Haig and Ergin Öpengin. The project’s civic engagement included input into consultancy, in particular around the use of language analyses in asylum procedures.

Dialects of Arabic

The Dialects of Arabic project was a pilot initiative to create the world’s first online resources offering a systematic comparative overview of the structures of dialects in Arabic. The pilot was carried out with the help of research students specialising in the documentation and analysis of Arabic dialects working under my supervision at the University of Manchester, between 2015-2020. The resource contains database based on an extensive questionnaire for which entries were obtained from speakers in some fifteen difference countries across the Arabic-speaking world. The resource also includes information on the Arabic language community in Manchester, on the use of Arabic in Language Analysis for the Determination of Origin in asylum assessment procedures, as well as student theses written under my supervision at the University of Manchester.

LinguaSnapp

LinguaSnapp is the world’s very first mobile app created in order to document linguistic landscapes. It allows registered users to take images on their mobile phones, tag them for key information (languages, scripts, outlet, arrangement and so on) and upload them onto a database, from where they are released onto an online map that displays the photos with their location and accompanying information, and can be filtered by any number of criteria. The resources was first introduced for Manchester in 2015 with tailored versions following for Melbourne, Jerusalem, Birmingham, Hamburg and St Petersburg. I created the concept for LinguaSnapp in 2015 and the design was implemented by the technical support team at the University of Manchester, with later localisations implemented by the technical support teams at the partner universities.

Romani Project

I founded and led the Romani Project at the University of Manchester between 1999-2017, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Open Society Foundations, the British Academy, the European Science Foundation, the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, the Council of Europe, Manchester City Council, and Oldham Council. The project set up the Romani Morpho-Syntax database drawing on fieldwork and published sources, to date one of the most comprehensive dialectological databases on any language. It also hosted a research project on Angloromani (the in-group variety of Romani Gypsies in English) which produced an online dictionary, and the collaborative projects Romlex (a comparative dictionary of Romani), RomIdent (on language standardisation and nation building in Romani), RomaniNet (an animated online language course for Romani) and MigRom (on the migrations of Romanian Roma to Western Europe), as well as producing audio-visual materials, scientific publications and student research. Project partners included the universities of Graz, Aarhus, Verona, Granada, and the Institute for Research on National Minorities in Cluj and Higher School for Social Sciences in Paris, the Council of Europe and European Roma and Travellers Forum, Manchester City Council and Oldham Council.

Manchester Working Group on Language Contact

The Manchester Working Group on Language Contact, which I founded at the University of Manchester in the early 2000s, brought together postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers working on a variety of language contact and bilingualism settings in East Asia, Europe and the Middle East including aspects of codeswitching, contact-induced change, and language policy. The group hosted an AHRC-funded project on Convergence and Linguistic Areas and produced a series of descriptive and theoretical publications on contact-induced grammatical change and the pragmatics of multilingual repertoire management.

Multilingual Manchester

In 2010 I launched Multilingual Manchester (MLM) which I led until I left the University of Manchester in 2020. The project piloted an ambitious agenda of civic engagement, involving students in research and outreach, and adopted a new epistemology of research into urban multilingualism, where research questions were guided by the practical challenges that face practitioners, communities and public service providers in the multilingual city. MLM set up the world’s largest online archive of undergraduate student research devoted to the city’s multilingualism, a student volunteer scheme that supported local stakeholders, and a support platform for the city’s language supplementary schools. It created a mobile app, LinguaSnapp, to document linguistic landscapes and a Data Tool to compare statistical datasets on language use in institutions across the city, and launched a commercial consultancy service to support language analyses in asylum procedures as well as other forensic linguistic practice. Pursuing an agenda of direct and bold activism, MLM introduced a new mode of public engagement, campaigning on policy initiatives at local and national levels, setting the foundations for an international civic movement, and putting multilingualism firmly on the city’s public agenda. Aspects of the MLM model have been replicated in various universities around the world including Melbourne, Hamburg, Moscow, Sydney, Tallinn and Berlin. The project produced a series of publications by staff and postgraduate students theorising multilingual urban practice and policy with an emphasis on the negotiation of repertoires, agency and linguistic citizenship, as well as critical reflections on the civic engagement model and the risks of the corporate university’s impact and social responsibility agendas. MLM received a series of small grants from the British Academy and the Economic and Social Research Council as well as university strategic investment in support of its social responsibility agenda, as well as the promise of a major investment of £500k. It was also at the centre of Manchester’s successful bid to the Arts and Humanities Council’s Open World Research Initiative in 2016, and hosted the Manchester-based research strand of that project under my direction.