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WPULL, the sociolinguistic paper series going polycentric

Professor Ben Rampton

Professor of Applied and Socio Linguistics, School of Education, Communication & Society, King's College London

23 November 2022

Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies is a working paper series started in 1997. Based at King’s, it went online in 2014, through the platform, posting up around 20-25 papers a year and getting over 130,000 views from all over the world. This year the co-editors have launched a new website – – that allows for better accessibility and smoother reader experience, and they’ve ‘de-centred’ WPULL’s production, which will now be running from universities in South Africa, Brazil and Cyprus, as well as UCL and King’s.

WPULL’s strapline, “Engaging with contemporary communicative practice”, includes research looking at language, literacy, learning, interaction and mediated discourse in everyday life, in education, in government policy, in local communities, healthcare, new and mass media as well as more specific sites like call centres, newsrooms etc.

Their contributions come from Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Catalunya, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, UK, Ukraine and the USA. Although most of the contributions are academic studies, the website also includes book reviews, reports on meetings, interviews, teaching notes, CPD texts for language teachers, manifestos, position statements and personal reflections.

Professor Ben Rampton, the founding director of the Centre for Language, Discourse & Communication (LDC) at King’s, tells us more about it.

What are you trying to achieve with WPULL and its 300+ papers to date?

Prof Rampton: Thematically, there’s a fairly consistent concern with the interplay between language, cultural diversity and social stratification, with a strong ethnographic perspective and a commitment to the practical applications of research.

And rather than trying to be a journal sited somewhere separate, above or apart from the daily round of academic life, we see WPULL as an ‘organic’ expression of ongoing activity in our own intellectual, educational and professional networks.– Prof Ben Rampton, Professor of Applied and Socio Linguistics, King's College London

So as well as papers from academics with very high international profiles, we’ve got contributions from BA and MA students as well as from practicing language teachers. What counts is high quality work that deserves to be shared among people with broadly similar interests and commitments.

Can you give a few examples of the type of research and findings that one can read about on WPULL?

Prof Rampton: That’s quite hard, given the diversity of what we publish. But just to pick up on the breadth of contributors, at one end we’ve got over 40 contributions by Jan Blommaert, ranging from a 30,000 word treatise reinterpreting Durkheim through the lens of contemporary sociolinguistic theory (WP204) to an incisive polemic targeting EU funding policy (WP184) (Jan’s h index is about 80).

At the same time, we’ve hugely insightful papers from (former) students on our MA in Language & Cultural Diversity – for example, Pauline Dupret’s case study of language teaching in Belgian superdiversity (WP285), or Pippa Sterk’s account of navigating airport security as a Person of Colour (WP269).

Alternatively, there are rather practical contributions like the report that Mel Cooke and I wrote about the opportunities and challenges for collaboration between universities and non-profit organisations working in language education (WP281).

Why is it important to you that WPULL brings together work produced at different universities and even in different countries? How did you come together in the first place?

Prof Rampton: Once again, it’s been very organic. All of the co-editors have studied or been visiting scholars at the Centre for LDC in ECS, they’ve contributed a lot of papers themselves, and we’ve active links with their institutions – so that’s Prof Zannie Bock at the University of the Western Cape, Prof Rodrigo Borba at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janiero, Dr Constadina Charalambous at the European University Cyprus, and Professor Miguel Pérez-Milans at UCL, as well as me and Dr Mel Cooke at King’s.

But as well as consolidating this momentum, the new editorial arrangements speak very concretely to decolonisation. This new embedding opens WPULL to the political and educational issues in different localities, and at the same time facilitates multi-directional dialogue across the Global South and North. Hitherto, LDC may have been at the centre of the WPULL network, but now we’re becoming ‘polycentric’ and to support this, we’re also opening up to contributions in Spanish, Portuguese and Greek.– Prof Ben Rampton, Professor of Applied and Socio Linguistics, King's College London

How much is it an important and/or useful resource for postgraduate students?

Prof Rampton: There’s quite a bit to say on this. The examples of Pauline and Pippa are one illustration of WPULL’s value to PG students – even though an MA dissertation or assignment may be really, really good, it always needs some reworking prior to posting in the series, and for the student, this is an important first step towards journal publication.

Beyond that, WPULL is a significant resource for a lot of students in low- or middle-income countries whose access to expensive journals is more limited – in fact, it’s also more accessible to language teachers for the same reason. Indeed, even within our own networks, it’s a good teaching resource quite generally. Compared with books and journals, publication is very quick, and this means that students get to see their discipline engaging with topics that are still relatively ‘hot’ (Covid-19 being a very obvious example).

The papers themselves may not always be fantastically polished, but especially when students see that the papers are sometimes only one or two steps up from the work that they themselves are doing, maybe they’re an energising induction to engaged academic dialogue?

In this story

Melanie Cooke

Melanie Cooke

Senior Lecturer in ESOL and Applied Linguistics

Ben Rampton

Ben Rampton

Professor of Applied and Socio Linguistics

Pippa Sterk

Pippa Sterk

PhD candidate

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