Jane was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for her work in setting up, running and developing two ‘thesis and coursework' PhD programmes in the Department of Linguistics and English Language. She decided to use the prize money on something rather different: enhancing her understanding of her specialist area of research and teaching, language and gender, in particular, language and gender in African contexts. Jane writes: 'Not only is this an area I know little about, it has also I believe been under-explored in general. And this is a shame. Africa has a huge range of languages and dialects which can be addressed both descriptively and sociolinguistically, and questions can be asked about sociolinguistic change in terms of gender, and the linguistic construction of identity. Evident also are what might be called competing gendered discourses: for example, of women's empowerment, and more traditional discourses concerning gender relations and gendered opportunities'.
Jane is using her NTFS to sponsor, attend and present at a series of seminars, both in the UK and Africa, making this project a ‘programme'. Four seminars have already taken place. The first was a joint event in Leeds of two Special Interest Groups associated with the British Association of Applied Linguistics: ‘Language and Gender' and ‘Language in Africa'. This seminar was attended by academics and doctoral students working on language and gender, language in African contexts, or both. There was a follow-up seminar in London in 2008. More excitingly, Jane also part-sponsored and presented at a seminar at the University of Botswana (in Gaborone), in April 2008, run in conjunction with ex-Lancaster PhD student Sibonile Ellece, and at the University of Yaoundé (Cameroon), co-organised with ex-Lancaster PhD student Lilian Atanga, in 2009. In 2010, she hopes that with their combined efforts, they can organise an international conference on the topic in Kenya, at the University of Egerton, co-hosted with ex-Lancaster PhD student Catherine Kitetu.
In terms of outcomes, Jane has now established a working network, and the programme also has a website and an associated e-mail List, to promote discussion and information dissemination. ‘Outcomes' are very likely to be an edited collection of papers, which can be used as a teaching resource (most chapters have already been written), and a ‘special issue' of the Gender and Language journal. journal. Jane also notes that 'we already have, thanks to Lilian Atanga, an Annotated Bibliography on ‘Gender and Language in African Contexts', the first of its kind, and this is a developing resource'.