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International Pragmatics Association biennial conference in Belfast

By Dr Maria Rieder, School of Culture & Communication

From Sunday 16th July to Friday 21st July the International Pragmatics Association held their 15th biennial conference in Belfast and I was delighted to be able to attend this prestigious and major global conference. The conference was this time hosted by the Ulster University and took place at the Belfast Waterfront Hall, an impressive venue for the 1,300 delegates who came together to explore connections between language use and social action in a large programme covering an array of topics in Pragmatics, Linguistics and Communication Sciences.

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The special theme of this year’s conference was “Pragmatics in the Real World”, and what made the conference so attractive was not least the many well-known invited keynote speakers. The conference was opened by Deborah Cameron, who spoke on gender, power and political speech. Other keynote lectures ranged from talks on conversation analysis such as Peter Auer’s on turn allocation, addressee selection and gaze and Elizabeth Stokoe’s on conversation openings, to timely talks on fake news (Colleen Cotter), the expression of authority in primary care units (John Heritage), to Li Wei’s applied linguistics lecture in which he developed theories in the area of translanguaging and learning perspectives.

I myself participated in a panel on ‘Responsibility, Migration and Integration’, chaired by Jan-Ola Östman and discussant Jef Verschueren, which sought to develop the notion of ‘responsibility’ in critical sociolinguistics. In the spirit of the special theme, the papers focused on the empirical analysis of identity construction, agency and role-relationships in refugee and other migration contexts, contributing to challenges of integration in different parts of the world. My own contribution revealed preliminary findings from a study of pragmatic and prosodic differences between Irish Travellers and settled Irish people and the role that these differences as well as folk perceptions may play in matters of inequality and conflict.

It was a big privilege to attend this conference which was not only a fantastic and inspiring academic and professional experience, but also a successful social event during which I made valuable contacts with researchers from diverse fields. Throughout the week we were being looked after extremely well by the academic and Waterfront Hall staff and the programme provided generous space for meeting and greeting during break times, for exploring the book stalls as well as for visiting the city. Belfast and the host university did a fantastic job of hospitality and created a unique experience for all of us.

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