Interland Researcher of the Month: Garry Plappert

Dr Garry Plappert

Dr Garry Plappert

This month, it’s Garry Plappert’s turn to tell us a little more about himself and his interests.Garry is currently on study leave so you may not have seen him around much lately. Here’s what he’s been up to:

I’m a lecturer in the Department of English at Aston University.

My qualifications were all taken at the University of Birmingham where I read for my BA in English and Philosophy, MPhil in Corpus Linguistics and PhD in Applied Linguistics. I came to Aston to join the exciting and vibrant English department replacing the noted Corpus Linguist and lexicographer Ramesh Krishnamurthy: a tough act to follow! My main research interests are in Corpus Linguistics and in applications of Corpus Linguistics such as Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies and the use of CL for Critical Discourse Analysis. I am also interested in the potential synthesis of systemic functional grammar with corpus evidence. My work focuses on the use of corpus techniques to explore scientific discourse and in particular epistemological phraseology in the discipline of genetics. I also teach on the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes offered by the Department of English on modules related to semantics and lexicography, corpus linguistics and systemic functional grammar. Finally I supervise postgraduate students at Master’s and PhD level, usually in areas closely related to my own research interests.

  1. What is the best thing about your job?

The people I meet- both students and staff. Both the research and the teaching parts of my job are endlessly stimulating and there are always interesting people to talk to and work with. You could never get bored in this job- there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

  1. Why did you decide to join Interland?

Corpus Linguistics provides a set of tools and a methodology that can be applied to a wide-range of academic subjects and the cross-disciplinary approach of Interland allows me to discuss potential future work with colleagues from outside of my own department and even from outside of the school of Languages and Social Sciences. For example, I’m currently talking to a local business about the ways in which both Applied Linguistics and Corpus Linguistics can be used to analyse the structure of commercial bids made by businesses: a potential project which is a little different from my own previous research but involves the same underlying methods.  Whilst these talks may or may not lead to the funded study that I hope to carry out (!) it is a constant surprise to find out just how many aspects of society can benefit from Applied Linguistics (because they have, so to speak, ‘linguistic problems’). Interland brings me into contact with a fascinating range of researchers who at some point may feel that they are encountering such problems.

  1. What are you working on at the moment?

My PhD work looked at phraseology and epistemology in scientific writing, using corpus methods to explore the different ways in which geneticists express claims in research articles. What I’m currently most excited about is following this up with an analysis of how findings in genetics are presented in the news media.

  1. What achievements are you most proud of?

Ah this is an awful question! It might as well just say ‘blow your own trumpet’. At this stage of my research career my PhD is the major piece of work that I’ve completed and given the amount of time (and blood, sweat and tears etc.) that goes into it I suppose that would have to rank fairly highly. I played a very small part in the ESRC funded quantitative methods project run by Professors Urszula Clark, Tim Grant, and Gertrud Reershemius, which designed a way to integrate the teaching of quantitative methods into Undergraduate studies in English; whilst my part in it was pretty minimal, I’d have to say that to have our graduates contacting us to say that they have secured employment at least partly on the basis of their quantitative skills definitely felt like something that ought to inspire a bit of pride.

  1. How do you like to spend your leisure time?

Ah now I like to spend my leisure time playing football or practicing Kung Fu (improbable but true) but in practice I usually spend it moaning that I’m too old to participate in either of these sports to an acceptable standard any more. Our Birmingham-based six-a-side team won division four of the Leisure Leagues Edgbaston Sunday night football league this year and whilst that is a pretty low standard of football, to our collection of thirty-something academics and teachers it was like winning the World Cup and the Champions League rolled into one. Without any of the money or fame. But we did get a big trophy and a medal each.

  1. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you most like to have with you and why?

Ah this old chestnut. But the question is supposed to lead to an insight into favourite things/activities so I’ll say the complete works of Kurt Vonnegut, some sort of magical this-only-counts-as-one-item access to my CD collection (a solar-powered ipod with built in speakers? Does that exist yet?) and a muk jong (google it!).

  1. What would you like to achieve in the next year?

I’m working on my corpus study of discourse and genetics in the news media and I would like to complete the analysis and begin publishing my findings over the next year. It’s a fascinating issue, with previous research having claimed that the media is guilty of propagating overly ‘deterministic’ views of the role of genes in creating any number of effects (google ‘Drunk? It’s in your genes!’ If you want an example of a fatalistic angle on public health). The linguistics aspect is in looking at the phraseological patterns present in the popular discourse and in trying to establish how these differ from the original scientific publications. Assuming that they always do of course…


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