University of Huddersfield research into the use of language in conflict resolution has resulted in a number of successful initiatives to educate and assist professionals involved in mediation. The methods developed have been incorporated by a number of mediation and conflict resolution organisations, while the website has generated international interest and debate in several countries.
Human beings tend to categorise experience and people into complementary (ie; mutually exclusive) opposites. The judgements they make can shape how conflicts arise, develop and become intractable. People’s identities can also affect what they do or don’t say in a given situation. The Language in Conflict researchers propose that conflict can be caused or exacerbated by ignoring these tendencies or transformed by understanding them.
Language in Conflict research has resulted in a number of successful initiatives to educate and assist professionals involved in mediation. It has led to the development and delivery of training materials to enhance linguistic awareness and analytic skills, as well as the creation of a web-based meeting point for linguists and mediation/conflict resolution practitioners. The methods developed have been incorporated by a number of mediation and conflict resolution organisations, while the website has generated interest and debate in several countries. Wider awareness of the research and its implications has also been achieved through media appearances, including on BBC Radio 4.
The project has been recognised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, whose advisor has acknowledged the “exciting implications for both the theory of conflict and the delivery of new skills for practitioners and policymakers.”
The University of Huddersfield’s Language in Conflict project is a multi-faceted initiative, which aims to bring the insights and expertise of linguistics into the fields of mediation, conflict resolution and peace studies. The project draws on research into the application of stylistic methods to non-literary texts, with a particular focus on the textual construction of opposition. It also draws upon the concept of face as a way to explain why people don’t say literally what they mean. It explores the interpersonal effects of this universal practice, as well as providing a framework for considering participation roles in interaction.
Together, members of the Stylistics Research Centre and the Centre for Intercultural Politeness Research, are working to enhance the linguistic skills and understanding of mediators and international negotiators through the development and delivery of training materials. They have held training workshops in Belfast, Brighton, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Huddersfield, London and Manchester, involving more than two hundred participants from local councils and mediation services.
In 2013, they also launched the Language in Conflict website – a meeting point for linguists and mediation/conflict resolution practitioners. The site features a set of learning materials (the linguistic toolbox) and articles written by members of the Language in Conflict team, conflict professionals and students of conflict studies. The articles published not only inform the reader on approaches and developments in conflict studies, but also encourage discussion and debate to foster a sense of community between the users.
Feedback from the workshop attendees was extremely positive and illustrated that participants have gone on to apply Language in Conflict’s methods in their own work. The website and Twitter feed have also attracted a diverse range of users and followers both locally and internationally. Researchers were invited to present at the annual conference of the London Community Mediation Council on three years in a row, providing accredited CPD training for mediators. Professor Jeffries has also been invited to deliver one of the plenary lectures in 2017.
Professor Lesley Jeffries’ book Opposition in Discourse – The Construction of Oppositional Meaning has been reissued as part of the Bloomsbury Classics in Linguistics series. Starting from socio-cultural viewpoints, moving to original research and then concluding with a new theoretical formulation, this book introduces and consolidates a significant new approach to the analysis of oppositional meaning.
It closes with a discussion of the importance of constructed opposition in hegemonic practice and makes a case for the inclusion of opposition as a central tool of critical discourse analysis. As its reissue signals, the book is now essential reading for researchers and graduates in stylistics, linguistics and language studies.