Information Uniformity in Linguistic Planning

We are delighted to welcome Rachael Bailes, from Newcastle University, as the first speaker in our research seminar series this semester.

The talk takes place in person in room 205 in the Squires Annexe building

You can find directions to the campus and a campus map here:

We will also be streaming the talk for people who would like to attend that way. For the link to join, please email Billy Clark:

Rachael works on language evolution, cognitive science and social cognition. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher on the ESRC funded project ‘Constraints on the Adaptiveness of Information in Language (CAIL)’ at Newcastle. You can find out more about Rachael’s work at:

The title of Rachael’s talk is:

‘Information uniformity in linguistic planning: form and function for noise resistance’

The abstract is below.

The talk is open to all. For any queries, please email Billy Clark:

The full programme for this semester is at:

. . .


In this talk I’ll summarise two recent studies conducted with colleagues on the project `Constraints on the Adaptiveness of Information in Language (CAIL)’, which involves using information theory to analyse language and its cognitive scaffolding. 

Following Fenk and Fenk (1980, see also; Fenk-Oczlon, 2001), we suggest that information uniformity in linguistic planning represents an adaptation to noise resistance. We further suggest that language exhibits particular strategies for noise resistance that may be unique. Specifically, linguistic elements may be ordered across the whole utterance so as to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic communication failure in the presence of noise.

First, we demonstrate that more uniform ordering of elements confers functional noise resistance with a simulation study that compares the preservation of information in different distributions under conditions of noise. Second, we use historical corpus data on English and Icelandic to show that information uniformity is specifically and actively preserved by linguistic planning across time, unperturbed by structural language change. Taken together, this evidence suggests form and function for noise resistance in language, and the talk ends with some brief discussion about the future directions of this work. 

Fenk, A., & Fenk, G. (1980). Konstanz im kurzzeitgedächtnis-konstanz imsprachlichen informationsfluß. Zeitschrift für experimentelle und ange-wandte Psychologie,27, 402.

Fenk-Oczlon, G. (2001). Familiarity, information flow, and linguistic form. Typological Studies in Language,45, 431–448.

A Year in Industry: Marketing Placement | Alice’s Experience

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Alice is a third year English Language Studies student at Northumbria. Here, she discusses her placement year, why she took it, her daily roles, and the skills she’s developed. Alice expresses her gratitude for the opportunity, claiming that it has strengthened her employability and driven her future ambitions. Alice also wholeheartedly encourages other students to consider a placement during their university journey.

Continue reading “A Year in Industry: Marketing Placement | Alice’s Experience”

Language, identity and why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge

We are delighted to announce that this year’s Annual Linguistics Lecture will be delivered by Rob Drummond, from Manchester Metropolitan University, on our city campus at 6pm on Thursday the 20th of June.

Rob is an excellent and very engaging speaker. This is guaranteed to be a fun and fascinating talk for anyone interested is language and how the way we speak affects how we understand each other.

The event is free and open to all. Places are limited so book here to make sure you reserve a place:

Eventbrite event page

Time and date: 6pm, 20 June 2019

Location: Lipman Lecture Theatre (Lipman 031), Lipman Building, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST

Directions and campus map:

Title: Language, identity and why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge


Language plays a vital role in making us who we are, certainly in terms of how we are perceived by others. The way we speak provides insights into our social background, proudly announcing some characteristics, and subtly hinting at others. But how much control do we have over the way our speech portrays us? Does our spoken language simply reflect our identities, or does it somehow create them?

This talk explores these questions by drawing on examples from research and from everyday life. It demonstrates the strength of the relationship between language and identity, and highlights how our judgements of others are often led by language. It then asks how fair these judgements are, and whether they say more about us than they do about the person being judged.


About Rob:

Rob Drummond is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, and Head of Youth Language at the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies, both at Manchester Metropolitan University. He teaches, researches, and writes about issues to do with language and identity, specialising in the language of young people. His current research project, Manchester Voices, explores the accents, dialects and identities of people across Greater Manchester. Prior to that he worked with young people who had been excluded from mainstream school, and investigated their use of Multicultural Urban British English. Rob regularly appears on television and radio talking about language-related issues, from linguistic pedantry, to politicians’ accents, to language discrimination.

He has published widely, including the books Researching Urban Youth Language and Identity (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) and (with Dan Clayton) Language Diversity and World Englishes (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Find out more at his personal and university websites:

Queries and further information: If you have any questions about the event, please contact Billy Clark: