Carnegie PhD Scholar awarded Robertson Medal, 2018-19

On Monday 17th December 2018, James Puchowski, PhD Scholar in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh received the Robertson Medal in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences for academic year 2018-19
The silver medal is awarded each year to the Scholarship candidate judged to be the most outstanding for that year’ competition. The medal was introduced in 2003 to mark the contribution of the retiring Chairman of the Trust, Sir Lewis Robertson, who served the Trust for over 40 years.

About this year’s recipient

James grew up in a monolingual English household (despite the Polish family background) and went to John Hampden Grammar School in High Wycombe in England, and he moved to Edinburgh in 2013 to study Linguistics. He eventually ended up changing to a combined honours degree in Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics. Aside from linguistics and his studies, he plays in the university brass band and he is one of this year’s co-convenors of the young people’s section of the Edinburgh Green Party.

James took Catalan and Norwegian in his first year and these are the languages, as well as Scots, that he is interested in today. As well as these languages, he continues to have a good reading and relative speaking ability in French and German due to taking these as A-Levels at school. He also took an interest in Esperanto and other languages when he was younger.

He was also in Norway in his third year at the University of Oslo, and the year abroad allowed him to use his experiences with language activists in the Norwegian Language Youth (Norsk Målungdom) as the grounding for his current and future research. Due to his involvement in the Scottish independence campaign and Catalan organisations and protests, he has always wanted to unite his personal and political activities with his own academic interests.

James finished his MScR in Scandinavian Studies in August, where he did an ethnographic description of Nynorsk language activism, and his PhD is an attempt to give a descriptive analysis of Nynorsk, Catalan and Scots examples of organised language activism. He passed his MScR with Distinction, and feels that he is incredibly lucky to have his PhD funded by the Carnegie Trust.

The main idea behind all of his research is to provide the beginnings of a framework for sociolinguists who want a more in-depth understanding of what we actually mean by language activism, and how activists and grassroots movements influence discourse, attitudes and ideologies in language change and variation.

“My MScR was funded by the University of Edinburgh’s Arthur Kitchin Scholarship and Helen Philip Memorial Bursary. John Joseph and Guy Puzey have been my supervisors since the very beginning. Mum and Dad could not be at the Robertson Medal Presentation due to them living a considerable distance away, but I know they are very proud and encouraged by all the work I have been doing these past few years.”