SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Becky Winstanley

  • Research


Becky Winstanley
Becky Winstanley
Email address:
Thesis title:
Multilingualism in Tower Hamlets: Sylheti practices, places, connections and ideologies
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

External Supervisors

Vally Lytra (Goldsmiths) Kamrul Islam (Osmani Trust)


I have spent most of my professional career working as an English language (ESOL) teacher and teacher trainer in east London and my academic interest in sociolinguistics is very much connected to this experience. The many years of working with and getting to know my (mainly Bangladeshi) students, their languages and their families have given me a very grounded interest in language and migration and language in diasporic communities, as well as a particular interest in Bangladesh and its languages. My MA dissertation (Goldsmiths, Sociocultural Linguistics 2015) focused on the language ideologies of newly arrived Bangladeshi migrants from Italy and explored how these ideologies impacted on their migration choices.

I have been Visiting Research Associate at Kings College London since 2017 and I have collaborated on a number of classroom research projects. These have focussed on developing participatory ESOL pedagogy in the UK and on increasing the influence of sociolinguistics on ESOL practice.

I began my PhD in 2019 on a 4 year Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership and am working closely with the Osmani Trust in Tower Hamlets as non-academic partner in the research.

PhD Research

My PhD is a sociolinguistic investigation of everyday multilingual encounters in one area of longstanding migration: Tower Hamlets in east London. It centres on Sylheti, the second most widely spoken language in east London, whose speakers are often faced with complex and multidirectional language discrimination due to both historical language ideologies in Bangladesh and increasing hostility to multilingual practices in the UK.

I am using participatory ethnographic methods to explore the relationships between circulating language ideologies and multilingual practices alongside an investigation of how recent societal changes; Brexit, new migration patterns, austerity, gentrification, and now the Covid pandemic, have impacted on attitudes to multilingualism. As part of the participatory process, participants choose their own locations for the research, make their own observations and reflections on their own and other’s language use and make their own recordings

The PhD is a collaborative PhD which has academic support from two universities, SOAS and Goldsmiths and non-academic support from The Osmani Trust,
a grassroots community centre working to tackle marginalisation in its many forms within its mainly Sylheti speaking community base.


  • Multilingualism
  • Language and migration
  • Language ideologies
  • Repertoire approaches