Funding Success for Sheffield Research into the Discourse of Holiday Cottage Guestbooks

Professor Joanna Gavins and Dr Sara Whiteley from the University of Sheffield’s Literary Linguistics Research Cluster have secured funding from the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust to support their research project, Linguistic Creativity in the Discourse of National Trust Holiday Cottage Guestbooks.

The project examines the language used by visitors to The National Trust’s holiday rental cottages in the guestbooks situated in each property. Guestbook discourse captures tourists’ holiday experiences, providing a unique, permanent insight into otherwise transitory thoughts and interactions. Many of the guestbooks held in the Trust’s holiday cottages date back to the 1960s, providing a set of rich, longitudinal linguistic data which has remained unexplored until now.

Joanna and Sara have been working in collaboration with the holiday wing of the National Trust for several years and completed a pilot study with their support in 2014. During this initial investigation, they examined guestbooks from five National Trust cottages in South East Cornwall. They discovered a notable shift in the length and complexity of guestbook entries from 1981 to the present day. They also observed a wide range of highly creative language use in the guestbooks, with inscribers regularly including stylistic features such as puns, multimodality, extended narrative, pastiche, and register-mixing in their entries to the books.

The British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust have now provided funding to enable Joanna and Sara to extend their collaboration with the National Trust. Their focus over the coming months will be on establishing whether the patterns of linguistic creativity they discovered in their pilot study can be found across a wider discourse sample within the same region. With the help of a newly appointed post-Doctoral researcher on the project, the expanded research team will be broaden their study of holiday guestbooks as important sites for the creative linguistic performance of social and cultural identity.

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