Dr James Murphy

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  • Qualifications:BA (Hons.), MA, PhD
  • Position:Associate Head: English Language Linguistics and Writing (joint with Harriet Castor)
  • Department:Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries, and Education (ACE)
  • Telephone:+4411732 87515
  • Email:J.Murphy@uwe.ac.uk

About me

BA (Hons.) French and German (2i, Manchester, 2010)
MA Linguistics (with Distinction, Manchester, 2011)
PhD Linguistics (Manchester, 2014)

Area of expertise

My main research interests are in the fields of meaning in social interaction and political discourse analysis (and the confluence of the two).  I am particularly interested in the manifestation of politeness and impoliteness, both in everyday talk and in political language -- this can be seen in my work on (im)politeness strategies at Prime Minister's Questions, my doctoral research on apologies in political discourse and a recently published paper on how people interpret utterances of the type I'm sorry but....  Aside from politeness, I also explore how constraints placed on interactants in Parliament affect their language choices, and how their utterances are interpreted by the public at large. 

I have most recently been working on blame: looking at how people go about blaming, how they conceal that blame is incipient, how we respond to blame and its social function.  The  book which came out of this work focusses on blame at public inquiries, where blaming is not supposed to be an explicit goal of the activity type.  How blame is constructed, resisted and negotiated in this institutional setting can tell us a lot about the importance of culpability in our society. ​ The finished product, The discursive construction of blame: The language of public inquiries​ was published by Palgrave in the summer of 2018.  Whilst describing this as a finished product, I am still working on blame and public inquiries because there is still much of interest to explore from the perspective of social interaction. 

Generally speaking, my work mixes both quantitative and qualitative analyses and argues the merits of analysing global trends in a corpus, as well as the closer analysis of 'deviant' cases.  My theoretical approach might also be described as 'principled eclecticism' -- I seek to reconcile the disparate methodologies of speech act theory and conversation analysis to give a detailed account of spoken discourse.  I take a pragmatic approach to discourse analysis, applying advances in generalised conversational implicature theory and in the notions of the activity type to spoken data.  I argue the advantages of this eclecticism at length in the book on blame.​

My current work is looking at the government's communications during the initial stages of the coronavirus crisis, with an especial focus on the Daily Briefings.  These are a good test site for quantitative approaches to conversation analysis.

I am always happy to supervise PhD students in the areas listed above, as well as on other projects related to spoken language, social interaction and politeness.  

I currently have various management responsibilities across teaching and research.  I am Acting Director of the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, joint Associate Head of Department for Linguistics & Writing and Programme Leader for English Language programmes.


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