Erez Top of Africa


Language, sexuality and conflict
For a long time, I have been interested in how people negotiate subjective conflict - or tensions that arise between different aspects of an individual's identity - and how language participates in that process. In particular, I am interested in how people confront normative incompatibilities between their sexuality and their national, ethnic and/or religious identifications. This topic was central to my work on sexuality and nationalism in Israel (as discussed in my 2010 book and in my chapter in my 2016 edited volume). I am currently in the process of extending these research programme to both South Africa and Northern Ireland. In South Africa, I am planning an ethnographic examination of language variation among gay Afrikaners (White, Afrikaans-speaking South Africans). My aim is to examine how variation in the use of spoken Afrikaans tracks changes in Afrikaner conceptualisations of community and belonging in present-day South Africa. I focus on sexuality as a way of investigating how broader shifts in traditional values and beliefs within Afrikaner communities affect individuals' own lived experiences and understandings of self, and how, in turn, language acts as a tool with which individuals can adopt novel social positionings in the South African context. For Northern Ireland, the questions are very much the same, looking at how histories of sectarian tension and strong religious norms affect gay people. My work on this topic in South Africa and Northern Ireland is at the very earliest of stages. I will post updates about this research as it progresses.

In the meantime, I have been conducting some other research on variation in Afrikaans, in collaboration with Ian Bekker (at North West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa). To date, this research has included experimental investigations of the social meaning of /s/-fronting in contemporary White Afrikaans, as well as an examination of sociolinguistic parody in the work of the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord. Email me for further details on either of these projects.


Salience and the perception of social meaning
I have for some time been interested in how listeners apprehend the social meaning of variants in a speech signal, and the different types of constraints (social, psychological, cognitive, linguistic) that influence this process. I have recently conducted collaborative work with Sue Fox and with Isabelle Buchstaller looking at different aspects of this question, and particularly at the ways in which listeners process different quantitative variable distributions (see Publications). I have also done some work on the extent to which social stereotypes play a part in the process, by either enabling or impeding certain social meanings to emerge (see, e.g., my 2014 paper in Language in Society). I am currently conducting an experiment to determine whether certain "inattentional deafness" effects I discovered in my earlier study are due to social stereotypes or to broader cognitive constraints on processing. I have also recently begin collaborating with Heather Burnett on using game theory to build formal models of social meaning in context. Email me for further details of this work in progress.


Representations of masculinity in the South African press 
For the past 2 years, I have been working with Tommaso Milani (of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa) on a project examining representations of men and masculinities in the English-language South African print media (supported by the British Academy). In 2016, we received additional funding (again from the British Academy) to expand this research to include both isiZulu and Afrikaans media as well. This expanded project, which runs until 2019, involves further collaboration with Quentin Williams (at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa) and Thabo Msibi (at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa). Details of project outputs will be posted here as they become available.


Language Variation and Change in Southeast England
In recent work, I have been examining phonological innovations in the southeast of England. I have focused primarily on intonation, and the spread of High Rising Terminals (or "uptalk") in London (see, e.g., my 2016 paper in Journal of Sociolinguistics). I have also been working with Sophie Holmes-Elliott on other segmental changes, including /s/-fronting in London and Essex and various changes in the short vowel system in the region. I will post updates on this work as it progresses.