Babel events

Babel has two big annual events - the Babel Lecture and our Young Writers' Competition.

Our annual lecture takes place at our headquarters at the University of Huddersfield. It gives us the chance not only to host a fascinating talk, but also to meet our readers and get their thoughts on the magazine. Attendance is always free!

Our Young Writers' Competition opens in May of each year, with winning entries published in our November issue. There are two categories - the 16-18 Competition and the Undergraduate Competition.

The Babel Lecture

2017 lecture advertThe 2017 Babel Lecture
The third annual Babel lecture will take place on Friday 12th May at the University of Huddersfield. Attendance is free for all Babel readers - book your seats on our Eventbrite page.

This year's talk will be give by Peter French, Chairman of JP French Associates Forensic Speech and Acoustic Laboratory, York, and Honorary Professor in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York. He has analysed recordings in more than 5,000 police investigations and legal cases from countries throughout the world.

'Their own tongues speak against them: Phonetics in the criminal justice system' describes the roles played by phoneticians as forensic scientists in criminal investigations and as expert witnesses in criminal trials. Forensic phonetic casework is explained and illustrated with analyses and recordings from high profile cases. The talk also considers the role that new speech technology can play in crime prevention and detection.

Peter also appeared in the very first issue of Babel - read his introduction to forensic speech science here.

The 2016 Babel Lecture2016lecturepic

The second annual Babel Lecture took place on Friday 13th May in St Paul's Hall at the University of Huddersfield.

Babel's very own Linguistic Consultant, David Crystal, presented 'The English Tone of Voice', discussing what phonetics can tell us about just about everything, including topics as diverse as sex, spies and Star Wars.

David's lecture looked at how an aspect of language that we don't always think about has a huge effect on meaning in spoken language, and how something like the acceptance of a marriage proposal can communicate very different levels of enthusiasm depending on the intonation used! David also drew on a vast array of anecdotes from his travels down the years, illustrating the importance of intonation with humorous examples of miscommunication between speakers of different languages.

Read one attendee's review of the evening in Babel No16.

2015lecturepicThe 2015 Babel Lecture
The 2015 Babel Lecture was our inaugural event. Brendan Gunn, accent and dialect coach to the stars, gave a fascinating talk on 'The Breath of Meaning', explaining the importance of dialectology and sociolinguistics in his work with actors.

Brendan first worked as an academic in sociolinguistics and dialectology before turning his expertise to the film industry in 1986. During his time working as an accent and dialect coach to the Hollywood stars, he has worked with Robert De Niro, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt, among many others.

In his talk, Brendan spoke of his time conducting field work as a student (collecting examples of dialectal phrases and accents) right through to the time he was invited to Brad Pitt's Hollywood home to coach him on his role as Mickey O'Neil in 'Snatch' by Guy Ritchie. A far cry from Brendan's field work in remote Ireland!

Watch Brendan's talk on YouTube, and read one attendee's review of the evening in Babel No11.

The Babel Young Writers' Competition

YWC 2017 imageThe 2017 Babel Young Writers' Competition
In 2017, Babel is once more celebrating young linguists' insights about language. There are two age groups for the competition - a 16-18 category and an undergraduate category.

Entries can be on any linguistics-related subject - the one criteria is that the topic is interesting and accessible (see the previous winners below for inspiration!). Your article can be up to 2500 words in length.

Entries must be submitted by Friday 25th August - the winners will be announced in October, and the winning entries published in November's issue of Babel.

This is a great chance to get a first publication - and of course to get a free year's worth of Babel magazines!

Click here to download a PDF of the competition details. If you have any questions, please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Previous Young Writers' Competition winners 
Babel launched the Young Writers' Competition in 2014, inspired by an article we published by young linguist Kateryna Pavliuk in 2013. In 2015, we introduced two different categories - one for 16-18-year-old linguists, and another for undergraduate linguists.

No17 Article   Romansch2016 winner - undergraduate category
Emma Jewell - 'Romansch'
"In communities hidden between the peaks of the Swiss Alps, lives an isolated population, speaking and living like the Romans did thousands of years ago. Taking up barely 0.5% of Switzerland's population, these natives chatter in a tongue similar to a mix of German and Italian. The language they share is Romansch, a member of the Rhaetian Romance language group, and the closest known language to Latin. Despite its unique culture and direct connection to the Roman empire, this language has only 70,000 speakers... (Read on)"

No17 Article   Life in death2016 winner - 16-18 year-old category
James Akka - 'Life in death'
"Since 1960, humanity has lost, in one estimate, 28 whole language families. By 2011, 10% of all languages known ever to have existed were already extinct. 452 languages were on the brink of that same fate, each having fewer than ten living speakers. As English and a few other languages become increasingly dominant, language death can appear to be an unfortunate inevitability. Nevertheless, in the face of this, humanity has seen some great stories of language birth, and in much more modern times than you might think... (Read on)"

2015winnerundergradpic2015 winner - undergraduate category
Ollie Sayeed - 'Twerking sheep'
"Let me tale you a tell - sorry, tell you a tale - about spoonerisms. You may have heard of the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, the Oxford don now famous for getting his words in a tangle. He preached that 'the Lord is a shoving leopard', proposed a toast to the 'queer old dean', and asked 'is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?' This kind of slip of the tongue became known as a 'spoonerism' during his lifetime... But as well as being a quirky source of puns, accidental spoonerisms give us some insight into how language works... (Read on)" 

2015winner1618pic2015 winner - 16-18 year-old category

Jonathan Lahdo - 'Lebanon's language dilemma'
"Lebanon finds itself in a fairly unique position: it is an Arab country, with Arabic as the official national language. At the same time, French has become a prestige language due to a long-lasting period of French rule, and today's language of modernity, English, is beginning to make its mark on the youth. What effect have all of these factors had on the country? To say the least, it has left Lebanon in a confused state of linguistic limbo... (Read on)"

2014winnerpic2014 winner
Niamh Mulholland - 'The art of Konglish'
"Loanwords in languages are by no means a recent phenomenon. The English language was in fact one of the biggest culprits for such lexical adaptations, with many words being 'borrowed' from French, Spanish, Italian and German. Whilst English continues to borrow words from other languages, the tables have turned, as it seems English has become the lender of words, especially in Asia. The rapid development of technology has meant related vocabulary is adopted internationally... The Korean language is the ideal host for these words... (Read on)"

2013 winner2013winnerpic
Kateryna Pavlyuk - 'British Sign Language'
"Language can be described as communicating through 'a system of arbitrary vocal symbols', or by 'modulating the sound we make when we exhale'. Both of these definitions are ignorant of the fourth most spoken language in the UK and the first language of approx. 150,000 deaf people: British Sign Language (BSL). Due to being a minority language; being in use in the same community as the globe's lingua franca - English; and creating a visual as opposed to auditory output, BSL is rarely regarded as a 'real' language... (Read on)"