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Dr Jackie Jia Lou

  • Overview



    I trained in linguistics at Georgetown University (PhD 2009), where I also worked as research and teaching assistants in linguistics and Chinese language instructors. I returned to City University of Hong Kong as Assistant Professor in the Department of English until I moved to the UK in 2016. Before joining Birkbeck in 2017, I lectured at Queen Mary University of London in linguistics and was affiliated with UCL IoE as an Honorary Fellow.

    My research has so far focussed on language and the city, particularly through the lens of linguistic landscape, and I have published widely on the topic, including a monograph titled The Linguistic Landscape of Chinatown: A Sociolinguistic Ethnography (Multilingual Matters, 2016). More recently, I have become interested in historical urban sociolinguistics, and received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for the project ‘Language change and urban transformation in Treaty Port Shanghai, c.1842-1943’. 

    I am an Associate Editor of the journal Linguistic Landscape (Johns Benjamins) and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

    At Birkbeck, I teach on a variety of sociolinguistic and applied linguistic modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and direct the BA Linguistics and Language and BA Linguistics and Culture programmes. I also serve on the steering committees of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR) and the Birkbeck Institute of Moving Images (BIMI).



    Web profiles

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Programme Director for BA Linguistics and Language and BA Linguistics and Culture

    Honours and awards

    • Research Fellowship: ‘Language change and urban transformation in Treaty Port Shanghai, c.1842-1943’, Leverhulme Trust, May 2022
    • ISSF Translational Award:Covid-19 signs: Improving the impact and equality of regulatory signage in public space, Birkbeck Wellcome ISSF , May 2021
    • Applying Linguistics Grant : Increasing the visibility of linguistic diversity in an international school: Children as co-researchers and co-designers of linguistic landscape (in collaboration with Ms. Susan Stewart and Prof. Jean Marc Dewaele, Birkbeck), BAAL, May 2018
    • Research Innovation Fund: Navigating the linguistic landscapes of Chinatown: Spatial narrations of urban change, Birkbeck, May 2018


  • Research


    Research interests

    • sociolinguistics
    • discourse and narrative analysis
    • social semiotics
    • ethnography of communication
    • linguistic landscape
    • language and the city
    • history of languages
    • language and culture

    Research overview

    My main research interest is concerned with language and the city, especially how languages are used in transnational urban spaces like Chinatown and how such spaces are represented and reconstructed through discourse. This often entails an eclectic research design which integrates sociolinguistic and discourse analysis with social- and geo-semiotic analysis, ethnographic fieldwork, and mobile video ethnography. I have also extended this approach to transnational educational spaces in collaboration with language educators with a BAAL Applied Linguistics Grant.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has also prompted me to reflect more on the role of signage in public health communication globally, which resulted in a co-edited special issue on the linguistic landscape of Covid-19. 

    More recently, I have become interested in historical urban sociolinguistics, and received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for the project ‘Language change and urban transformation in Treaty Port Shanghai, c.1842-1943’. 

    I am also an associate editor of the journal Linguistic Landscapes (John Benjamins) and serve as the Network Manager for the Linguistic Ethnography Forum, the British Association for Applied Linguistics. 

    I particularly enjoy interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers of shared interests as well as with writers, artists, and community groups. One such collaboration is an interactive sound installation named 'The Interpreter', which translates the rhythm of human speech into drum beats, designed and made by Oblik Soundwork Collective in Hong Kong.  

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students who are interested in undertaking research in any of my areas of research interest, particularly:

    • language, space, and place;
    • linguistic and semiotic landscapes;
    • urban sociolinguistics;
    • transnational migration;
    • linguistic ethnography

    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    Teaching modules

    • Doing Languages, Cultures and Applied Linguistics (ARLL004S4)
    • Dissertation (LNLN004D7)
    • Research Methods and Design (LNLN019S7)
    • Linguistics Final Year Project (LNLN023S6)
    • Linguistics Final Year Project (LNLN023S6)
    • Approaches to Language (Level 4) (LNLN026S4)
    • Language, Culture and Communication (LNLN063S7)
    • Language, Culture and Communication (LNLN063S7)
    • Sociolinguistics (LNLN067S7)
    • Introduction to Applied Linguistics (LNLN076S7)
    • Independent Literature Review (SSAC012S7)
    • Independent Literature Review (SSAC012S7)
    • Empirical Research Skills Training Workshop (SSAC035Z7)
    • Empirical Research Skills Training Workshop (SSAC035Z7)
    • Language, Culture, and Communication (Level 5) (SSAC052H5)
    • Language, Culture, and Communication (Level 5) (SSAC052H5)
    • Postgraduate Research Seminars (SSAC059Z7)
    • Investigating Language (SSAC060H5)
  • Publications




    Book Section

    External Repositories