SOAS University of London


Global voices

Centenary research theme

SOAS was the first institution in the Britain to create a Department of Linguistics, and is unique in the in the breadth and depth of its language teaching.  Its research is concerned with ‘language’ in all its forms, from text to image, the spoken word, music and performance.  

Understanding the languages of a place or region is critical to a true understanding of politics, society, religion, or culture; and whether through globalisation or local processes, often the diversity of languages and dialects spoken in any one place is tremendous. 

At the same time, the search for a ‘common language’ is often seen as central to promoting mutual understanding between regions and cultures, whether that common language is English, or perhaps music, image, or a particular understanding of legal or political structure.

Over its centenary year, and the coming century, SOAS will deepen its understanding of the different ways that global voices can be heard, interpreted and transmitted.  Emerging research on literature and film at SOAS seeks to understand how ideas are transmitted and adapted across cultures. Research on linguistic variation, poetry and music, and law and politics is concerned with fundamental questions of similarity and difference.  

For example, can research on local multilingual practice in West Africa help us to address the challenges of multiculturalism and superdiversity in the West? Do similarities in musical and linguistic structure in oral cultures rooted in performance – the norm across many parts of Asia and Africa – hold clues to the fundamental connections between music and language as means of communication?  And to what extent can we re-interpret and re-invent understandings of politics and the law globally, if we listen to the different legal and political languages that have emerged in different cultural and historical contexts?

Language at the crossroads

Multilingualism in West Africa

The ongoing work of Professor Friederike Lüpke on multilingualism in West Africa touches on language ideologies, attitudes and practices such as teaching models and provides a better understanding of the ecology of languages and linguistic diversity. It can also inform language management and pedagogy, in Africa and elsewhere, by providing inspiring models and reversing global tendencies in knowledge flows. Read about the Crossroads project...

Understanding social change in a digital world

Wall art in Cairo, Egypt, depicts protest in a digital world

The democratisation of media through the internet has created a change in how information and news is generated and shared, resulting in the creation of new spaces for new voices and new narratives.  SOAS research examines the impact of modern-day communication methods on politics, society and culture. Read more...