Category Archives: Day Trips

(h)U(w)LAB in Aberdeen

“Thank God you’re here”  said the Taxi Driver, leaving the Train station. “Thank god someone’s here, the Oil’s gone, the businesses gone with it, and now the students have buggered off for easter.”
“What even is a linguist when they’re at home anyway?”

In 2016, on the northern coast of bloody freezing Scotland, the Undergraduate Association of Britain assembled upon the great and grey granite city that is Aberdeen, and I was with them. Founded in 2011, ULAB is the undergraduate conference – where students have the chance present their, surprisingly professional projects in seminar and/or poster form – receiving feedback from fellow students of linguistics.

There are about 30 universities that offer linguistics as a course in the UK, about 15 of which were represented in ULAB – and it strikes me that we are a very diverse and broad church as a subject. It was unique how each university presented itself as experts in their own area of research: be it Cambridge’s hardcore understanding of pure generative semantics & syntax, SOAS’ unique understanding of international phonology & sociology, UoY’s specialism in forensic linguistics, or The YSJ’s confidence in Conversational Analysis.

Each university had something to offer, and students were able to share and exchange their knowledge of different parts of our mutually loved topic, language.

As a first year, I had nothing to present to ULAB and thus could only listen to the amazing talks: Investigations into the minimalist merger of Semantics and Syntax, into the gendered aspects of Korean Honorific, pioneering studies of Bermudian English and investigations into the phonology of north Bornean languages, a study into Singaporean language policy, study of managerial language, and studies of Trans representation in the media – the list could go on and on, but the point remains: ULAB enabled me to gain a wider understanding into the breadth of linguistics – and allowed me to see effective, and  subjects that I could look into further in my studies for projects or perhaps even my own dissertation. ULAB gets you thinking, and opened my mind to different ways of viewing linguistic science.

The tradition of academic forum, explaining ideas and discussing ideas to reach a truth, stays strong in linguistics, but nowhere more-so (imho) than in the Undergraduate conference. Why? Because conference is largely subsidised by the Linguistic Association of Great Britain, and organised by the local university hosts. Since conference prices are extortionate, you won’t find such accessible discussion from people with such independent ways of thinking derived from widely separate academic courses anywhere else.

ULAB introduced me to like-minded individuals from across the country, and even as a lone traveller I felt welcomed by my fellow conference attendees during the social events, going to the bar, and going to the conference dinner.

As you can see, I’m rather converted. ULAB next assembles at Cambridge, Spring 2017 – I’d strongly encourage your visit – come for a fun time, a new understanding of linguistics, an opportunity to present research and discuss it with some of the brightest young linguists in the UK – and if not that, just to see what Cambridge is actually like.


Owen Jones and Lindsey Stirling, 22nd July 2014

Last night, I went to see Sarah Pascoe do a stand-up gig in Bristol’s Tobacco Factory in prep for the Edinburgh Fringe. She was amazing, much-vagina-based-humour. Today, I  got on a Megabus (Gold, oh how exciting) to London, I wandered about a bit, saw the Elgin Marbles and China Town and a SOAS exhibition about the forgotten Sikh-Soldiers of WW1.

I then popped into The Guardian Headquarters to go to a lecture on column writing by Owen Jones. Done the day after he completed his book ‘The Establishment‘. That man is such a fricken amazing orator. He spoke sadly of the death of investigative journalism and the rise of much cheaper and more commercially beneficial opinion pieces. He spoke about how unpaid internship have ruined journalism and created a decline in local newspaper industries. Something that Andrew Marr seems to wholeheartedly agree with judging from the contents of his book, Head of State. Owen talked of the need for regular article writing in order to practice the art of journalism, the need for crisp introductions, and reducing long sentences, paragraphs, and verbose language… all things I’m yet to master.

He advised when pitching articles to find a new slant on a broad issue, or a new issue with a niche, and to always send the email at 8am just when the editors read their emails.

I was in utter awe of Owen Jones, he’s just such a pure and decent socialist voice.

The next morning before going home I bumped into Lindsey Stirling on South Bank, where she was performing in order to do a video advertising her upcoming music tour. That was also quite a fortunate accident.

Bristol Pride, 12th July 2014

Today, was Pride. I went last year, but this year I was going alone. At first I was apprehensive and scared, but in the parade the feeling of respect and love was so strong in the community that it was impossible to frown. Sure enough, I saw some people in the year below who I knew and they quickly welcomed me into their group. A person who will remain anonymous and his stunning boyfriend in drag also turned up and gave us a bottle of coke laced with much vodka. Some old man started groping our butts, and I filmed a thing for Bristol’s Rife Magazine. I love Pride.

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Linguistics Day Course in SOAS, London.

Seaton to London, 30th June 2014

Today,  was my last day in Seaton as I took the train to London at 12.
I managed to book the wrong train, so instead I stole the reservation of about 3 people… Opps.

At 7:30 I met up with my cousin at another cousin’s London Townhouse in Southwark. He was all suited and booted for his new job in HR and he took me to a pub for dinner and paid. 

London, 30th June 2014

At 8am,  I got ready for my Taster Day for Languages and Cultures at SOAS.

The Itinerary was: 

P1 Introduction to SOAS

P2 Linguistics

P3 Basic Japanese

P4 Basic Korean

P5 Middle Eastern Culture

P6 Arabic Taster Day

In the linguistics talk I leant about language variation, particularly in syntax
(Subject Verb Object, Object Verb Subject, and Verb Object Subject). The guy told us the tale of Babel, which seems compulsory in introductions talks, however this one had a difference… it was told to us in ancient Babylonian (Aramaic) ~ this was indeed awesome.

He recommended that I read Pinker’s “The Language Instinct”, which I hope to do over the summer.

I spent my day with a Cambridge linguist wannabe who scared the fuck out of me with her extensive knowledge of language. She told me that SOAS was “a bit too ghetto”, after which I quickly decided to make haste away from her company.

Japanese was weird, because most of the class already had extensive knowledge of the language. Korean was confusing to learn because the lecturer didn’t repeat herself and spoke very quietly and quickly. Where as I really enjoyed the lectures on Arabic and Middle Eastern Culture because they were just so interesting and well taught. Every second seemed so relevant today and furthered my want of extended knowledge in the subject. As soon as I got home I took about books from the UWE library in Arabic, which turned out to have been written by the lecturer who had just taught me.

Addition: In the end I applied to SOAS on UCAS, I absolutely loved it, and got an offer of AAB. However, I ended up rejecting the offer, because I slightly preferred the idea of living York as a city to London (for Now).