SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Joanna Nolan

  • Overview
  • Research


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Joanna Nolan
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Jo took her BA in modern and medieval languages at Oxford, focusing on Italian and French. Several years later, she gained her masters in international affairs at Columbia University in New York. Thereafter she spent nearly a decade at the BBC working on documentaries in the current affairs and history departments before she studying part-time for the MA in documentation and description of languages, part of the endangered languages programme. She is now in the 3rd year of her PhD.

PhD Research

Jo’s PhD centres on the earliest European-language pidgin, the eponymous Lingua Franca. She is using ethnographic data to construct a sociolinguistic picture of the pidgin, its users, domains and variation.

Her archive research at the National Archive, Kew has unearthed potential written evidence of Lingua Franca, hereto believed to be an exclusively oral pidgin.


Jo’s linguistic interests beyond her PhD research include childhood language acquisition, and the challenges of English spelling for primary school children. She is also fascinated by etymology, particularly of flora and fauna.