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Simon Isserlis (PhD, 2014)

Simon Isserlis

Current Occupation
Supply teacher in Secondary and Further Education in English Language and Literature, mainly at GCSE and A Level.  I am also in the early stages of writing a book on the subject of maritime language and its cultural significance in modern Britain.

Brief Outline of PhD research
I created a purpose-built 8m-word corpus of maritime texts (MTC) to explore the influence of Britain’s maritime history on the English language, as embodied in maritime linguistic metaphors such as “ship of state”, “taken aback” and “batten down the hatches”.  Following the work of Lakoff and Johnson, I identified and described a number of specifically maritime conceptual metaphors that suggest that, especially in the domains of business, finance, journalism, politics and sport, despite a significant decline in British naval and mercantile sea power since WWII and the increasing cultural diversity of the population,  Britain still regards itself as fundamentally a maritime nation.

Why did you choose to study for your PhD in the School of Languages and Social Sciences?
Aston offered a funded PhD studentship in corpus linguistics.  Ramesh Krishnamurthy, one of the pioneers of corpus linguistics and head of the Aston Corpus Network (ACORN),  supported my application with enthusiasm and became my supervisor. 

After my MPhil experience at another university, I found Aston’s vibrant and diverse learning community particularly stimulating.

What did you find most useful about the PhD programme?
The range of taught modules and research events were invaluable in helping me to develop my research skills.   I received first class support and advice from supervisors and colleagues.  When Ramesh Krishnamurthy retired, Dr Mike Scott, creator of Wordsmith Tools and a leading authority in corpus design and analysis, took on my supervision.  Such opportunities are rare and the help and support he gave me were invaluable.

I also taught on the undergraduate linguistics programme and gained my Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (AUCLT) through the University CLIPP programme.

How has your PhD helped you in your current occupation?
I gained my PhD as a mature student in my late 50s, it has given me the skills, tenacity and self-belief to continue to pursue my career goals.  Currently, I am teaching English in Secondary and Further Education colleges, however, I intend to return to Higher Education to continue my research and teaching work at the earliest opportunity.