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Language and Society Unit

Language and Society Unit

Lucy Ellis (Unit Lead) and Garry Tregidga, University of Exeter
Mark Trevethan, Cornish Language Office, Cornwall Council

Key aims

  • To develop and draw together existing scholarly research on contemporary language use (synchronic linguistics) and language use and development over time (diachronic linguistics).
  • To provide an ongoing independent linguistic evaluation of the policy and planning processes of the Cornish Language programme.
  • To describe the distinctive accent and dialect patterns of English spoken in Cornwall and to increase understanding and awareness of the retention and regeneration of its usage.


The Language and Society Unit was created in 2021 as a source of scholarly research and debate centred on the study of language usage in Cornwall in its contemporary form and from a historical perspective.

The Unit will take a sociolinguistic perspective to uncover, describe and interpret the systematic language choices made by individuals and speech communities. A focus on the contemporary use of local dialect and accent varieties offers a counter balance to dominant narratives of convergence, centralisation and globalisation.

We are privileged to be living through the successful revival of the Cornish language. As a serious language planning exercise this has attracted significant interest from national and international linguists. The use of Cornish as an officially recognised official language alongside English and the interventions of the local and national government are of particular interest to the Unit.

We wish to increase public understanding of the inter-relatedness of language and identity and how it sustains confidence in regional varieties and evolving ways of speaking and being.

Our research forum is organised around the following themes:

  • The Cornish language - policy and planning processes
  • Varieties of English spoken in Cornwall
  • Language revival as local behaviour change
  • Influence of the Cornish language on contemporary Cornish dialect
  • Language and demography