The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2019 | Translanguaging Criticality: Creating and processing novel expressions in digitally mediated communication in the age of surveillance, with specific reference to China
Document Actions

Project title:

Translanguaging Criticality: Creating and processing novel expressions in digitally mediated communication in the age of surveillance, with specific reference to China

Principal Supervisor: Professor Li Wei (UCL IOE)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Ane Pellicer-Sanchez (UCL IOE), Dr Jackie Jia Lou (Birkbeck) and Professor Zhu Hua (Birkbeck)

Project Description:

This project focuses on how and why people create new expressions digitally in online platforms and social media, and how people receive and interpret such novel expressions, against a context of rapidly expanding media technology and fast flow of information. In doing so, it aims to address a number of emerging social issues such as internet surveillance and mundane activism, and link them with core theoretical issues in linguistics and human communication science, especially how people perceive what is novel and how they then process novel items and inference their meaning. Methodologically, the project aims to bring together research paradigms from different disciplines that have hitherto not been integrated, namely corpus and variationist linguistics, eye-tracking, social semiotics, and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. As such, the project aims to contribution to the vision and strategic plans of both the lead and collaborating institutions, particularly regarding fostering Disruptive Thinking, critical engagement, methodological innovation, interdisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration and global impact.

The project will consist of four parts:


  1. Building a corpus of new online expressions by multilingual Chinese netizens, gathered via publicly available new media such as WeChat, blogs, and other social networking sites. Access is provided via Chinese university students.
  2. Undertaking a variationist sociolinguistic (quantitative) analyses of the corpus
  3. Eye-tracking experiments using sample innovative forms from the corpus to investigate how social media users process visual novelties
  4. Undertaking Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of meaning of the linguistic innovation, including a Social Semiotic analysis, focus group interviews, and online forum discussions. We will adhere to institutional ethics codes in data collection and analyses.

The analytical perspective will come from Translanguaging that emphasizes the transformative capacity of multilingual language users to transcend the conventional boundaries of languages, modalities, cognitive and semiotic processes.

Applicants must have a good Master’s degree in linguistics or relevant subject, knowledge of Chinese writing, digital and social media communication and some quantitative and experimental research methods

Subject Areas/Keywords:

Linguistics, Human Communication Science, Social Semiotics

Key References:

Conklin, K., Pellicer-Sanchez, A. and Carrol, G. (2018) Eye-Tracking: A Guide for Applied Linguistics Research. CUP

Li, Wei (2018) Translanguaging as a Practical Theory of Language. Applied Linguistics, 39(1): 9-30

Lou, J. (2017). Spaces of consumption and senses of place: a geosemiotic analysis of three markets in Hong Kong. Social Semiotics, 27(4), 513-531.

Zhu Hua (2015). Research methods in intercultural communication. Wiley.


Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Professor Li Wei: UCL Centre for Applied Linguistics, UCL Institute of Education, University College London,

Further information about PhDs at UCL is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Adele Stapylton-Smith:

The required supporting documentation is as follows:

A personal statement of your research experience, training and skills and how they fit with the requirements of the project

  • Covering letter and CV
  • Transcripts of your undergraduate and (where applicable) postgraduate qualifications
  • Two confidential references

Closing date for applications is:

Monday 11 February 2019