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Dr Christiana Themistocleous specialises in Sociolinguistics and is passionate about the way languages are used in the society.  

"I have always been interested in multilingualism, being multilingual myself and living in a multilingual community. In Britain, it is particularly interesting because there are more and more people coming from various places, creating superdiverse communities where an array of different languages are used.”

Languages on public signs

Using the Linguistic Landscape approach Christiana investigates the presence of different languages on public signs e.g. street and shop signs, billboards, advertisements, posters, stickers, graffiti and protest signs.  She explores which languages are included or excluded on the signs and identifies ideologies, which may relate to migration, conflict, tolerance and social cohesion. She recently published two papers looking at language and conflict in the Linguistic Landscape of Nicosia (Cyprus), the only divided capital in Europe.

Multilingualism and the media

Christiana is also interested in the representation of multilingualism in the media and she published a paper with Dr Sylvia Jaworska (University of Reading) on this topic. Their research showed that newspapers project positive and negative ideologies about multilingualism which often influence the general public's opinions towards living in a multilingual speech community.

Mixing languages in spoken/written discourse 

Living in superdiverse, multilingual communities means that many people end up speaking two, three, four or even more languages. Having all these different resources in their linguistic repertoire enables people to mix features from different languages when they speak or write.

Christiana is interested in finding out what motivates people to mix different languages in discourse and also what kind of identities and ideologies they project by doing so. Christiana recently published two papers exploring this phenomenon in digital communication, collecting her data from platforms like Facebook and IRC.

Research-led teaching

Christiana's research feeds directly into her teaching through the Sociolinguistics module in Year 2.  

"I think students are very excited about sociolinguistics because they can understand how language is used in the society by exploring aspects that directly relate to them in real life. From the power of the media, to how people speak differently from one another, to how languages are used on signs and walls to divide or unify people, to how people mix different languages when they speak or write.”

"I want students to go out into the community and talk to real people who speak different languages, to conduct interviews, or take photos of multilingual signs and then develop and present their work in creative ways”. 

Christiana asks students to collect their own data in groups and to create their own website or poster presenting their findings. Through this process students gain valuable skills in conducting research, working as part of a group and presenting their work in front of an audience. All these skills are essential for future employment. 

"These tasks help students develop their knowledge and insights into Sociolinguistics but also enable them to develop valuable skills for their future." 

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