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Lecture series at Latymer Sixth Form

A great tradition at our school.

Last week, the Latymer School hosted its first after-school lecture of the academic year.

The lecture, aimed at Year 12 and Year 13, attracted an amazing turnout of 42 students. Professor Sharma, a professor of sociolinguistics from Queen Mary, University of London, gave an insightful introduction to the human language and its relationship with society, emphasising how everyday “small sounds have big consequences”.

In the lecture, Prof Sharma covered four topics: phonetics, psycholinguistics, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics.

Prof Sharma began by discussing phonetics, the study of language sounds and how all individual sounds are not always produced in the same way. She introduced the "McGurk effect", demonstrating how our perceptions of sounds can be influenced by visual cues. 

Next, Prof Sharma delved into psycholinguistics, revealing the power of socially-embedded perceptions. She explained how our biases can shape the way we hear language, often leading to judgments about a person's background based on their speech patterns. An example of such bias is how seeing an Asian speaker could sometimes lead the listener to perceive a more pronounced accent.

Historical linguistics was the next topic, where the Great Vowel Shift and its influence on the diversity of English dialects were explored. Prof Sharma also discussed how older forms of English are associated with prestige, introducing the world of accent attitudes. These attitudes are quite prominent in our current society.

In the final part of her lecture, Professor Sharma delved into sociolinguistics, emphasising its role in understanding language bias and attitudes. She highlighted the societal biases toward certain forms of language and their implications on social interactions and perceptions of status.

The lecture offered students an insightful introduction to sociolinguistics, giving them a chance to expand their horizons and discover something new. We look forward to future lectures organised by Dr Koestle-Cate and Sixth Form students.

Article written by Fiona, Year 12 student.