The start of term might just be around the corner, but colleagues in Modern Languages & Cultures are still squeezing the most out of their research time, including Dr Robert Blackwood, Reader in French sociolinguistics, who is currently undertaking fieldwork in Toulouse. Like most colleagues in the department, Dr Blackwood has spent the summer catching up on various research activities, including correcting proofs for a forthcoming book chapter, co-written with Dr Luk Van Mensel from the University of Namur in Belgium. Dr Blackwood has also worked on revisions to a further chapter for an edited volume on Romance sociolinguistics.
As one of the Associate Editors of the new journal Linguistic Landscapes, it has been Dr Blackwood’s turn this summer to see another issue through to production. This has meant reading the proofs of the articles, liaising with the authors and the publishers, and supporting the work of the editors.
It is in Toulouse, though, that Dr Blackwood has done the most significant research of his summer, collecting data on the presence of Occitan in the public space of France’s fourth city. This has been the latest fieldwork in a series that has taken in cities and major towns identified with one of France’s regional languages, including Rennes in Brittany, Ajaccio on Corsica, Lille in northern France, Marseille, Nice, and Monaco. In this first stage of data collection, Dr Blackwood is evaluating the extent to which Occitan – the area’s regional language – is used to create a sense of place. At this very early stage, it is too early to draw any meaningful conclusions, but what has emerged during the fieldwork is the striking absence of Occitan in domains associated by private enterprise. Unlike on Corsica, in Brittany, or in French Catalonia, businesses do not appear to have embraced Occitan in the marketing of their products.