A message from Cambridge Editors

We hope that you are all keeping safe and well during these strange times. It’s a shame that current circumstances prevent us from meeting in person at conferences this year. Just a brief note to say that if you have any ideas for new books that you’re planning to write – whether it be a book about a ‘key topic’ in your field, or a reference volume for Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics, or perhaps an idea for a student textbook to support course teaching at undergraduate or graduate levels – please do get in touch and let us know.


Andrew Winnard, Executive Publisher (sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology)

Rebecca Taylor, Commissioning Editor (applied linguistics)

Helen Barton, Commissioning Editor (formal and theoretical linguistics)

Language as Symbolic Power

 Written by Claire Kramsch, author of Language as Symbolic Power

When twenty years ago I decided to teach an undergraduate course on Language and Power in my German department at UC Berkeley,  I didn’t have any other purpose in mind than to share my newly acquired insights into post-structuralist approaches to language study with students who were learning a foreign language. As they were working hard to acquire French or German and to develop the ability to communicate with foreign others, I wanted to show them how much more there is to language than just grammar and vocabulary. Why, behind their choices of what to say, what not to say, and how to say it, there was a whole power game going on!

Many students had never thought about what it took to play that game, neither in their native nor in the foreign language. They still believed the old adage “Sticks and stones/ can break my bones/ but words/ can never hurt me”. I was determined to deflate their bubble and to show them how and why words can hurt – they can make you laugh and cry, and can lead you to action. How often have I been taken in by the sound of someone’s voice, their accent, their choice of words, that have either endeared me to them or turned me off.  Many people fall in love with native speakers because of the way they talk –  I know I have. How often have I been unable to truly understand what a person meant by a word because I didn’t know the word’s history in that person’s culture – the word “people” in English for example vs. “le peuple” in French and “das Volk” in German.  But then, how can we know whether someone is speaking through their culture or through their own unique self?,  I wondered.

As the course gained in popularity and I was invited to teach it for the campus at large, it grew into a full-fledged interdisciplinary course on language as social and political practice and was ultimately transformed into a book, Language as Symbolic Power, soon to be published by Cambridge University Press.

While the class was becoming more and more multilingual and multicultural, so did the examples that the students provided to illustrate the theories we were reading. For example, their examples of child rearing practices from different parts of the world confirmed or disconfirmed Bourdieu and Foucault’s views on the power of discourse and discourses of power.

Over the years the course also became more and more relevant to the current political situation: the fall-out from the 2001 attack against the World Trade Center and the way the media discussed the event; the rhetorical strategies that preceded the war in Iraq and Bush’s “Mission Accomplished”; the Obama years  “Yes we Can” and, after the police killing of Trayvon Martin,  “If I had a son, he’d be like Trayvon”.  Indeed, as Panagiota Gounari writes in her introduction to a special issue of the L2 Journal (2020) on Critical Pedagogy and Language Learning and Teaching in Dangerous Times, “language as a site of power, ideological tensions, political and financial interests, hierarchies, and symbolic and material violence, is most definitely a war zone.”

Now that we have lived through four years of Donald Trump’s language warfare, language as symbolic power will be having a field day at the ballot box. No speech act will be more important than the vote we will cast on November 3. The results of the election will show what value we still give to words like “democracy” and “truth”, and how we are to use language on social and other media in the future. They will certainly affect how the readers of Language as Symbolic Power understand the book when it comes out in November.

How a #CheekyNandos became more acceptable

By Laura R. Bailey (University of Kent) and Mercedes Durham (Cardiff University)

Our recent article, A cheeky investigation: Tracking the semantic change of cheeky from monkeys to wines describes the behaviour of cheeky in British and American English.

For Mercedes, growing up in French-speaking Switzerland but speaking American English at home meant having to ‘relearn’ English at school with her classmates. They were learning British English, which, for Mercedes, often led to confusion. Confusion sometimes turned into hilarity, particularly the time she was confronted with a picture of a dog stealing sausages and the exclamation ‘What a cheeky dog!’. Cheeky, for people or dogs, just wasn’t in her vocabulary. Fast forward a couple decades when she moved to the UK, and found that not only was cheeky all over the place but it was used for drinks and food too. #CheekyNandos, so baffling to Mercedes and other American-English-speaking internet users, was commonplace and unremarkable for Laura and other British-English-speakers. Being good linguists, we set up a study.

We knew that cheeky applied to food and drink was newer than cheeky for sausage-stealing dogs, so we wanted to know whether this newer form of cheeky had spread to North America, despite the fact that the older form was known to be used less there. It gave us the opportunity to examine how language changes and how the internet might in some cases spur this on.

It’s no surprise to sociolinguists to find differences when the same language is spoken in different regions, and we know that changes can happen at different times in different places, or simply only happen in one place. But in our highly connected world there are cases where the internet can help spread language, particularly in the case of specific words or phrases spreading via memes.

What’s in a meme?
While our article focuses on existing differences between linguistic varieties that memes and language play can bring to light, memes themselves are language change in action.

Memes are cultural shortcuts: often jokes or satirical social comment, they provide the setup so the memer just needs to find a funny punchline. Part of the joke then consists of the template itself, such as the ‘distracted boyfriend’ meme:

the ‘distracted boyfriend’ meme, consisting of a woman looking at her boyfriend angrily as he turns to leer at a passing woman. The distracted boyfriend is labelled ‘me’, the passing woman ‘a nap’, and the girlfriend ‘multiple pressing matters and responsibilities’.

As memes become popular and enter the general consciousness of a group of users, they can be modified, illustrating language change processes familiar from the ‘real world’. Soundcloud, for instance, is a site for musicians to host their music. It became popular for a Twitter user to follow up a viral tweet with a reply saying something like ‘Oh wow, this blew up, here’s a link to my Soundcloud if you want to check my music out!’. So many people did this that the text became pretty formulaic and began to be mocked. Now, ‘Soundcloud’ has travelled through a process of trademark genericisation (where the brand name became used as a generic term for any music site), abstraction (where the generic term became a metaphorical term for something to promote, such as a charity) and verbification (it has become used as a verb meaning ‘to promote something under a viral tweet’).

Memes that rely only on a specific sentence construction or phrase, and don’t need the scaffolding of an image or social media platform can break out into the ‘real world’. This has happened in recent months with shortcuts for generational or socioeconomic groups such as ‘snowflake’ and ‘boomer’. While these terms have been around for some time (‘boomer’ has been used to describe the generation born between the World War II and the early 60s since at least its first attestation in the OED in 1976), within the last year the use of the phrase ‘OK boomer’ has, well, boomed. With the help of TikTok it became a meme, and now an utterance of ‘OK boomer’ condenses reams of intergenerational discord into a convenient verbal eyeroll.

The cheeky nandos meme did two things: it highlighted the regional difference that we already suspected was there, given Mercedes’ own experience, and it revealed a linguistic change in progress that is spreading from the UK to the US, at least in part via this meme.

We asked 372 people to rate sentences using the word cheeky. We were especially interested in their answers to the sentences that included ‘old-fashioned’ cheeky, such as He’s a cheeky boy, and the newer use, as in Let’s go for a cheeky nandos after work. We call these Type 1 and Type 2 respectively. Type 1 are the blue squares in this graph, and Type 2 are the orange dots:

Graph illustrating the mean rating (1-6) of sentences containing two types of cheeky. Type 1 are rated between 4 and 5.5 out of 6, and Type 2 are rated at around 4.

You can see that Type 1 and Type 2 (old and new cheeky) are pretty distinct, especially if you only consider the Type 1s that refer to humans and not animals (it turns out Americans think you have to be human to be cheeky, while Brits are familiar with cheeky dogs).

The biggest difference between the UK and North America is revealed if we look at Type 2, the #CheekyNandos type. Cheeky to refer to food, drinks and illicit activities is very much a UK thing, it turns out:

Graph showing that while Type 1 is rated at around 4.5 by both regions, Type 2 is rated at 4.6 by British respondents and 2.8 by North Americans.

We also suspected that the new use of cheeky would be more acceptable among younger people. If it is, this indicates it’s a change in progress (so-called ‘apparent time’). And it is, in both regions: the orange line in both graphs below dips as the age of the respondents goes up. In the UK but not North America, new cheeky is at least as acceptable as the original one, if not more so, for younger speakers. Many respondents said the original meaning seemed old-fashioned, and like something their grandma might say.

Two graphs, showing the relative rating of the two types of cheeky by age group in Britain and Ireland and in North America.

We also looked at whether cheeky was expanding further into contexts such as ‘Let’s go for a cheeky ride’ (we called this type 3). You can see what we found about them, and more about what we’ve talked about here in the full article describing the study in more detail, published in English Today.

Laura R. Bailey (@linguistlaura) and Mercedes Durham (@drswissmiss)

The Karen Stereotype

written by Karen Stollznow, Griffith University, Queensland

Karen is a first name, in fact, it’s my first name, but online, “Karen” has evolved to mean so much more than just a name. In recent years, “Karen” has also become a negative stereotype, a meme, and an insulting epithet. The colloquial meaning of “Karen” is multi-faceted and complicated. The term typically refers to a middle-class, middle-aged white woman who is obnoxious and entitled in her behavior, and she is often racist. She is angry, aggressive, and a bully. Her catch-cry is demanding to “Speak to the manager” of an establishment over the slightest inconvenience. In some versions she even wears a stereotypical hairstyle. Her complaints are selfish and petty. For example, Cathy Hill, a patron at a Red Lobster restaurant in Pennsylvania, was labeled a “Karen” after she brawled with staff this past Mother’s Day, because she believed she had waited too long for her take out food.

In recent months, the label has broadened in usage. “Karen” is now used to refer to a woman who is perceived as ignorant and uninformed, such as “anti-vaxxers”, those who refuse to have themselves or their children vaccinated against contagious diseases. The term is used for those who openly flout health and safety measures like wearing masks or social distancing in public to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. The term also refers to women who initiate confrontations in public that have a more sinister, racial undercurrent. Most infamously, the incident in which Amy Cooper was walking her dog in New York’s Central Park when she illegitimately called the police on birdwatcher Christian Cooper, because he politely asked her to put her dog on a leash. Another current event involved Patricia McCloskey and her husband Mark standing outside their home in St. Louis, Missouri, aiming guns at Black Lives Matters protestors as they marched by their neighborhood.

Historically, other women’s names have been used as related stereotypes. Most notably, “Sally” and “Miss Ann” were generic names for white women, which go back to the time of enslavement in the United States. In particular, these terms were often used within the African American community to refer to a white woman who behaved in a condescending and arrogant manner, especially exhibiting behavior that revealed racist undertones.

In recent years, a series of incidents have constructed the legend of the “Karen” stereotype. In this digital age, these events have been captured on video and posted online. They’ve gone viral and the antagonists were dubbed with alliterative nicknames. In 2018, Alison Ettel aka “Permit Pattie” called the cops on an eight-year-old girl selling water on the sidewalk in San Francisco, because she was “illegally selling water without a permit.” In South Carolina in 2018, Stephanie Sebby-Strempel shouted slurs at a black teenager swimming in a community pool, ordering him to “Get out!” of the water and hitting him repeatedly, the act earning her the nickname “Pool Patrol Paula.” Also in 2018, Jennifer Schulte was dubbed “Barbeque Becky” for calling the police on a black family using a charcoal grill in a park in Oakland, California, because she claimed they were breaking the law. At a dog park in Massachusetts in 2019, “Dog Park Debbie” called the police claiming her dog was being “assaulted” by another dog when it attempted to mount her pet in play. A common thread across these examples is that the women’s actions appear to be racially motivated.

Over the years there have been several contenders to the term in pop culture, including Becky, Tammy, Felicia, Sarah, and Susan. Anyone’s name can potentially be used as a negative stereotype, so why Karen? That Karen won out is largely coincidental, although it was a common woman’s name in the United States and other Anglophone countries spanning the generations of the late Baby Boomers and early Generation X. Data from the U.S. Office of Social Security shows that the name peaked between 1951-1968, when it appeared in the top 10 for the most popular baby names. “Karen” is no longer a popular name among Millennials, Generation Z, or babies, and for these reasons, it sounds slightly old-fashioned to some people’s ears.

But who was the original “Karen”? The origins of the moniker are hotly debated, although the stereotypical use of the name can be traced back to several sources in the early 21st century. In the 2004 film Mean Girls, Amanda Seyfried plays the role of Karen Smith. Revealing the characteristic of a “Karen” as ignorant and oblivious, airheaded Karen asks her friend Cady who’s relocated from Africa, “If you’re from Africa, why are you white?” Many people trace the Karen meme back to stand-up comedian Dane Cook. In a 2005 comedy routine from his album Retaliation, Cook delivers a “Karen” punch line in a joke about a friend that no one actually likes. As he says, “There is one person in every group of friends that nobody likes”…“Example, Karen is always a douche bag. Every group has a Karen and she’s always a bag of douche.”

The Karen type even has stereotypical physical attributes. In 2009, Kate Gosselin, the co-star of the mid-2000s reality TV show Jon and Kate plus 8 sported an asymmetrical bob cut hairstyle with blonde highlights. This was dubbed the “Can I speak to your manager?” haircut. Some believe Gosselin was “Karen Zero.” Another theory links the meme to a Reddit account, which was set up by an anonymous man in the midst of messy divorce proceedings. He posted rants about his ex-wife Karen, who allegedly won custody of their children and took possession of their house. The account was later closed, but a subreddit emerged in 2017, which is described as “dedicated to the hatred of Karen” and posting memes of the stereotype. The group features a photograph of Gosselin, whose images are often used to depict Karen. The term has also been used for years on Black Twitter, a subculture of black users focused on issues of interest to the Black community.

The meme exploded amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, bolstered by the growing awareness of police brutality against African Americans. During this time, there has been a trend of exposing “Karens” in video footage on social media, to shame women who have done offensive things in public. These have resulted in varieties of “Karen”, such as “Grocery Store Karen”, who had an altercation with staff in a supermarket in North Hollywood, California, after being asked to wear a mask. “Coughing Karen” intentionally coughed on fellow customers in a New York bagel shop after being asked to put on a mask. “San Francisco Karen” demanded to know if a man who was stenciling “Black Lives Matter” in chalk on the front of his home was defacing public property. These examples typify the “Karen” as an entitled white woman who exploits her privilege when things don’t go her way. Some cases of public shaming have led to real world consequences. Amy Cooper, otherwise known as “Central Park Karen”, was in the wrong, but out of spite she attempted to exploit Christian Cooper’s skin color to persuade the police to arrest or hurt him. She was held accountable for her actions when she temporarily lost custody of her dog, she was fired from her job, and now the police plan to charge her for filing a false report.

Karen has people divided. There are those who are in favor of using the name, because it describes modern racism and microaggressions, and reveals how some white women exploit their social privilege against marginalized groups. The term functions as a label to make fun of these women for their unpleasant behavior and attitudes, and serves as vigilante justice in situations that are morally unjust, and occasionally even dangerous. Others express concern that the bad behavior and actions are conflated with the name, demonizing and stigmatizing people named Karen. Women named “Karen” know that the memes aren’t targeting them specifically, but it can still feel personal, because it’s their name and part of their identity. Of course, a woman named Karen is not necessarily a “Karen.” As we have seen, she has been a Kate, Stephanie, Alison, and Amy. The label is not representative of people who happen to have that name, although some Karens have been vilified, experiencing harassment on social media or bullying in schools, simply for having the name.

There are several arguments against the use of Karen as a generalized insult for any woman perceived as annoying in some way. The term has been criticized as classist and ageist. “Karen” is often middle-class or from a working-class background, which are marginalized groups. She is usually middle-aged or older, which is a group targeted by social prejudice. The “Karen” character may be predated by negative stereotypes of older women in television, who were portrayed as demanding, interfering, nagging busybodies, such as manipulative mother Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond or nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched. A woman might be labeled a “Karen”, not judged for bad behavior, but simply because of her physical appearance, her clothing, or her hairstyle. It is a trope that in some usage has become mired in misogyny. A Karen is invariably a woman, and often a mother. The term has been co-opted by disgruntled online men, especially incels and chauvinists, who take advantage of the meme and use the insult with glee to attack any disliked women, as demonstrated by the Reddit thread. The term has been construed as sexist in that there is no male equivalent for a “Karen.” Male types in popular culture include Chad, Kyle, Ken, and Aaron, but these stereotypes are not as derogatory, while some can have positive connotations. Some women also use “Karen” as a general term of abuse against other women, showing that sexism is commonly endorsed and perpetuated by women.

Karen is a gender stereotype, and as a preconception about attributes or characteristics of women, it can be harmful. There is also the issue of social responsibility. It is convenient to have a memorable, shared name to categorize a recognizable type of behavior, but using names as stereotypes often renders the offenders nameless. Assigning “Karen” as a nickname grants them anonymity. Using their real names, such as Amy Cooper, ensures that these people can be held accountable for their actions.

For a further discussion of related topics, see my forthcoming book ‘On the Offensive: Prejudice in Language Past and Present’.

SSLA introduces a new Methods Forum

Shortly to be announced in an editorial in the Fall issue of Studies in Second Language Acquisition

Why methods?

SLA has always been and remains a dynamic discipline that employs an increasingly wide range of methodological techniques. More recently, however, large numbers of scholars in the field began to take on research methodology as an explicit and even empirical focus of their work (see overview by Gass, Loewen, & Plonsky, 2020).

What’s new?

SSLA is now taking another step to further the field’s methodological literacy by inviting authors to submit manuscripts to the Methods Forum.

Articles of this type can take a number of different forms as long as the focus is on research methods as applied to SLA. Manuscripts submitted to the Methods Forum can be conceptual, presenting an argument in favor of or against a particular technique or practice.

Submissions might also present empirical data whether
(a) collected specifically for the methods piece,
(b) simulated, or
(c) based on a re-analysis of one or more existing datasets.

Articles in the Methods Forum can also introduce and make a case for a novel technique or a novel combination of techniques. However, all articles in the Methods Forum will provide implications for research design, instrumentation, analysis, reporting/dissemination, interpretation, and/or methodological training in L2 research. Papers discussing methodological issues from all research paradigms, epistemologies, ontologies, and theoretical frameworks relevant to the field are welcome.

On a practical note, we encourage authors to submit to the Methods Forum with a length of up to 11,000 words.

We hope that this new venue will contribute to the ongoing methodological progress of the field and thereby also increase our individual and collective capacity to advance our understanding of L2 development.

We look forward to your submissions.

Submit your article.

Read the SSLA instructions for authors.

SLA Homepage.

German Intensifiers: The Emergence of German Variationist Sociolinguistics

Written by James Stratton ([email protected])
Purdue University, Department of Linguistics, School of Languages and Cultures

Everything in the universe has to evolve to survive, and language is no exception. As well as constantly changing, language is also rich in variability, that is, there are several ways of expressing the same thing. The fundamental idea of variationist or Labovian sociolinguistics is that variation is not random, but instead is conditioned by various linguistic and social factors. Intensification is a part of language which is constantly evolving because, as intensifiers become overused, they start to lose their intensifying or persuasive effect. Since intensifiers provide speakers with the opportunity to make their speech more persuasive, credible, and emotional, at any given point in time there are various intensifiers which speakers can choose from.

To describe the weather in German, speakers can say it is sehr kalt ‘very cold’, echt kalt ‘real cold’, voll kalt ‘very cold’ [literally. full cold], richtig kalt ‘right/proper cold,’ super kalt ‘super cold’, so kalt ‘so cold’, wirklich kalt ‘really cold’ and recht kalt ‘real cold’, to name but a few. Speakers can also intentionally choose to not intensify the adjective and say that it is simply kalt ‘cold’. Examining the factors which shape the decision to use an intensifier or not, as well as the factors influencing intensifier choice, is a variationist question. In a study published in the Journal of Germanic Linguistics, I carried out the first variationist analysis of German intensifiers.

By collecting a list of the contexts in which intensifiers could be used, I was able to quantify the average number of adjectives a speaker intensifies. In doing so, I found that German adjectives were intensified 37 percent of the time. Of the possible choices, so ‘so’ has become the most frequent (e.g., meine Mutter ist so anstrengend ‘my mother is so tiring’). While sehr ‘very’ has been around since Middle High German (e.g., ir sît sere wunt ‘you are painfully à sorely à very wounded’), so has been coming in and out of fashion throughout the history of Germanic. It can be found in Old English (he swa ænlic wæs ‘he was so famous’), in Old High German (min vater ist so samalih ‘my father is so similar’) and in Old Saxon (sô blîði warð ‘became so happy’). While it fluctuates in frequency across time and space, it is found today in a number of Germanic languages, such as Dutch (e.g., hij is zo groot ‘he is so big’), Norwegian (e.g., han er så høy ‘he is so tall’) and Icelandic (e.g., það  er  svo  hlýtt  ‘it is so warm’). Today, the shift from sehr ‘very’ to so ‘so’ is a change led by predominantly younger as opposed to elderly speakers. That said, so has become so pervasive (as in English!) that it has spread to speakers of all ages.

Intensifiers which scale up the meaning of an adjective (e.g., der Film war echt langweilig ‘the movie was real[ly] boring) are called “amplifiers”, whereas intensifiers which scale down the meaning of an adjective (e.g., der Film war ein bisschen langweilig ‘ the movie was a little boring’) are called “downtoners”. Consistent with findings from other languages, German amplifiers (67%) were used more frequently than German downtoners (33%). Even though both men and women used amplifiers more frequently than they used downtoners, women used amplifiers more frequently than men did. However, interestingly, men used downtoners more frequently than women did. Therefore, in statistical terms, if you encounter a sentence containing an amplifier (e.g., so, sehr, echt) there is a higher likelihood that it came from a female speaker than a male speaker. In contrast, if you encounter a sentence containing a downtoner (e.g., ein bisschen), there is a higher likelihood that it came from a male speaker. On a sociological and anthropological level, this difference may suggest something inherent about the nature of being male or female in modern societies, a difference which is manifest in language itself. In other words, women have a tendency to describe events as being higher than the assumed norm more often than men do which is reflected in their language (e.g., the movie was not just good, but was really good), and while men also prefer to amplify the meaning of an adjective, they tone down its meaning more frequently than women do (e.g., the movie was kind of good).

By looking at intensifier use across different age groups, it seems that intensification becomes more common over time. There are several possible reasons for this, one being that the overuse of an intensifier brings about the need for additional ways to intensify one’s speech so that a message remains convincing and emotional. However, there is a notable caveat. Very young speakers of German, such as speakers 10 years of age or younger, used intensifiers less frequently than all other age groups. A likely explanation for this is that these speakers are still in the developing stages of language acquisition and therefore first acquire adjectives before the use of optional intensifiers.

This study provides several insights into German intensifier use and its interaction between social factors such as gender and age. In doing so, the study also hopes to have laid the foundation for future work in a field which does yet officially exist, namely German Variationist Sociolinguistics. While Variationist Sociolinguistics is well established for work on English, to date, few studies have employed classical variationist methods to examine German variation and change.
For updates on future German variationist work follow me on Twitter and my project “German Variationist Sociolinguistics” on Researchgate.

Adjective Intensifiers in German is free to access.

James Stratton’s website

Virtual Exchange and its Role in Internationalising University Education

Written by Robert O’Dowd, University of León, Spain ([email protected])

In universities around the world, more and more teachers are engaging their students in intercultural collaborative projects with partners from other countries using digital technologies. This is commonly known as Virtual Exchange (VE) or Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). VE has great potential to foster a range of 21st century employability skills which include media and digital literacy, communication skills, global awareness, empathy, critical and analytical thinking, foreign language skills and intercultural competences.

Nobody is suggesting that VE should ever replace physical mobility programmes. But many institutions are now considering how to use VE to prepare students for physical mobility or how it can function as an alternative to physical mobility for those students who are not able to travel abroad for medical, financial or personal reasons. This will help your university become more inclusive and ensure that students who cannot take part in physical mobility can still develop those skills usually associated with international experiences.

The article A Transnational Model of Virtual Exchange for Global Citizenship Education, reports on the findings of an Eramsus+ European Policy Experiment – Evaluating and Upscaling Telecollaborative Teacher Education (EVALUATE). This project brought together researchers, educators, university senior management, and public authorities from five different European countries and autonomous regions in an initiative to provide large-scale evidence of its impact as an international learning practice and to inform educational policy based on this evidence. In particular, we focused on a case study of an autonomous region in Spain that enabled us to illustrate how researchers, university management and public authorities collaborated to upscale this internationalization activity and integrate VE in educational policy at both institutional and regional levels. Based on the findings of the case study, we identified a series of institutional and cultural ‘blockers’ that hindered the upscaling of VE and we also proposed a set of criteria for successful implementation of VE in university education.

Read the full EVALUATE report.

For more information on Virtual Exchange, visit the UNICollaboration organisation website or Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange.

A short video introducing Virtual Exchange.

Robert O’Dowd is Associate Professor at the University of León, Spain and has been engaged in researching and training projects related to Virtual Exchange for over 20 years. He was the project coordinator for the EVALUATE project.

The Cambridge Studies of Language Practices and Social Development

World network with outline of peopleThe Cambridge Studies of Language Practices and Social Development series provides a needed platform for scholarly discussions around the relationship between diverse language practices and social development and environmental conservation around the world. This series publishes research of the highest quality in socially oriented and problem driven applied linguistics integrating qualitative and quantitative methodologies from humanities, social sciences, public health, education and computer science.

Cambridge Extra spoke to the series editor Meng Ji (The University of Sydney, Australia) about the series.

What has motivated the development of the series?

Our series promotes innovative focused research to address practical social problems such as global environmental, health and legal issues which represent new research challenges, as well as opportunities for socially oriented language practice research.

This series fills in an important gap in current applied linguistics, i.e. socially oriented language practices for disadvantaged social groups such as aboriginal peoples, migrants, refuges, asylum seekers, women, children and people living with physical and mental illnesses.

Titles in this series will demonstrate that socially oriented linguistic research can produce significant, multi-disciplinary outcomes to help the global community and international and national policy makers tackle pressing social problems in the contemporary world.

The inclusion of world indigenous languages represents a major contribution of this series to the study of changing (bilingual/multilingual/translingual) language practices and services around the world.

Can you tell us about some of the topics that this new series will cover?

The series of Cambridge Language Practices and Social Development promotes research innovation and global research collaboration in (bilingual, multilingual, translingual) language practices. Our series covers a wide range of research topics that have emerged from our changing contemporary social environments:

  • multicultural healthcare and public health promotion
  • environmental conservation
  • protection of aboriginal cultural heritage
  • bilingual and multicultural legislation and policy communication
  • community health and medical interpreting
  • social service translation
  • aboriginal and immigrant translation and language policy
  • social language practices for disadvantaged communities and indigenous people

Who is the series aimed at?

This new series will be of important practical use for students and academics interested in developing advanced knowledge of (bilingual/multilingual and translingual) language practices.

It will include research monographs and edited volumes integrating and balancing input from leading academics and industry-based research leaders with extensive professional experiences of bilingual/multilingual/translingual education and research.

Titles in this new series will provide illustration of the application of advanced linguistic research methodologies in the study of real-life materials and data: for example, construction of digital multilingual infrastructure; and the development of empirical linguistic analytical instruments for the study of environmental, political, healthcare and legal issues and social phenomena.


Any interested authors can contact Meng Ji on [email protected] for an informal discussion.


Black Lives Matter

Written by Karen Stollznow, author of ‘On the Offensive

What do people mean when they say, “Black Lives Matter?”

“Black Lives Matter” is a slogan and a social movement in response to the historical and current social and systemic racism and violence perpetuated against Black people.

Where did the phrase come from?

In 2012, 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin was walking home in Sanford, Florida, having just purchased a packet of Skittles from a convenience store. He was spotted by local resident George Zimmerman who reported Martin to local police as “suspicious.” Martin was innocent of any crime, although Zimmerman confronted the young man and fatally shot him, claiming the act was in self-defense. He was acquitted of his crime. Following this incident the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began appearing on social media, in support of Martin and in protest of social and systemic racism. This incident inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, which was co-founded by three Black community organizers: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.

Concerns about systemic and social racism against Black people have been reinvigorated in response to recent high-profile, racially charged incidents in the United States. These include the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot while jogging in a south Georgia neighborhood, and also the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while the man was handcuffed. These tragic events inspired worldwide protests that have raised awareness of social and systemic racism and led to a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and its motto.

When the Black Lives Matter motto initially arose, the phrase “All Lives Matter” soon sprang up in response, ostensibly to argue that all lives matter because we are all human beings. Black Lives Matter was misconstrued as confrontational, divisive, and exclusionary.

However, Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives do not matter. Black Lives Matter does not mean that only Black lives matter. In a world where Black people are undeniably discriminated against, in the past and present, Black Lives Matter recognizes that Black lives matter too.

Countering with “All Lives Matter” derails the specific conversation about social and systemic racism against Black people. The saying dismisses, ignores, or denies the problem of racism against Black people, and it effectively shuts down this important discussion.

Black Lives Matter is a phrase that promotes the peaceful protest of racism against Black people. It also calls for immediate action against systemic and social racism. When said by Black people, Black Lives Matter is a declaration that Black lives do indeed matter. It is a cry for protection and recognition. When said by allies, that is, supportive people outside of the group, Black Lives Matter is a motto that acknowledges that Black lives matter, and says we stand in solidarity with members of the Black community.

Introducing Cambridge Elements in Pragmatics

Cambridge Elements in PragmaticsCambridge Elements combine the best features of journals and books.

With a word count between 20,000-30,000 words they lend themselves to the digital and ever changing research environment.

A series coming soon to linguistics is Elements in Pragmatics edited by Jonathan Culpeper, Lancaster University and Michael Haugh, University of Queensland.

Cambridge Extra asked them more about the series.

What motivated you to collate this Elements series?

The format itself is really appealing.

It is longer than typical journal articles but shorter than a monograph, so is ideal for both graduate students and established researchers in the field. It also allows authors to publish their work at its natural length, if an article is too constraining yet a full book is over the horizon.

Its digital format means the series can respond quickly to new research trends, and updates, enabling authors’ work to stay relevant longer, leading to a greater impact. We can also reach readers on different platforms, and support clear display of complex information, data excerpts and figures not necessarily possible in print.

What are the particular characteristics of the series?

This series showcases a cutting-edge and high-quality set of original, concise and accessible scholarly works written for a broader pragmatics readership. We want to move away from niche groups by fostering dialogue across different perspectives on language use.

By aiming for a “broader readership”, our topics themselves will be broad in focus moving away from highly focussed or esoteric topics.

Our aim is for this series to take full advantage of the benefits of online publishing, becoming the place to learn about new and emerging areas in pragmatics, as well as accessing the latest thinking on more long established topics.

The Cambridge Elements series’ differentiate themselves from what you may get in a handbook. We are inviting theoretical consolidations, where we’ve identified a need for a synthesis of the literature on a particular topic. For these syntheses, we are looking forward to working with authors who will produce something original in the course of the synthesis. However, this is only one area of this Elements series. We are also inviting authors to focus on particular approaches to data and methods, as well as identify new topics of interest in pragmatics.

Do you have any sample topics you’d like to include in the series?

We have three initial topic groups for the Pragmatics Elements series – Theoretical Consolidations, Data and Methods and Innovations. These won’t be discrete groups or equal in size – we do think innovations will be popular. Check out the full list here.

What are the typical characteristics of Elements in this series?

Given the scope of the topics there is not one strict list of features for all. Nevertheless, we want elements to be accessible for a broad readership, to make ample use of data, and of course cover key theories, concepts and issues relating to the topic in an original way

Each element within the series will be written by a scholar in their field with specific expertise in the topic in question, and we plan to commission new elements on a rolling basis, meaning we can adapt to new directions in scholarship.

We are looking forward to hearing from authors regardless of their position in their career.