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Dr Yingnian Tao

Senior Research Associate - Reimagining Research Practices

Fylde College




I identify myself as a sociolinguist. I have a keen interest in exploring the intricate connections between culture, media, politics, and the environment. The subjects I investigate within these intersections encompass pragmatics, conversation analysis, and corpus linguistics. My primary research methods include interactional pragmatics, which integrates pragmatic and conversation analytic approaches  (see Haugh 2015 and Haugh & Culpeper 2018), and corpus linguistics, focusing on keywords, collocation analysis, and concordance analysis (see insightful papers by  Paul Rayson 2022, Brookes & Baker, 2022).


Current Post-doc Project - Race Equality 

In October 2022, I joined PPR as a senior research associate, contributing to the University's race equality charter mark application. The key tasks for this initiative involve conducting race equality surveys and facilitating follow-up focus group discussions. Collaborating with my exceptional team, I played a pivotal role in designing the survey and leading focus group discussions with both students and staff at Lancaster. Currently, I am analysing the survey data using a mixed-method approach, employing Stata for quantitative analysis of closed-ended questions and NVivo for thematic analysis of open-text comments. The overarching goal of this project is twofold: 1) to identify institutional barriers to racial equality experienced by students and staff in UK higher education institutions, and 2) to propose effective measures for eliminating these barriers.

Web links

Lancaster University Race Equality Charter


Advance HE Race Equality Charter 



Strand 1: Interruption in Everyday and Political Settings

My primary research focus centres on the phenomenon of interruption (doesn’t mean I am a fan of interrupting others in real life though). The act of talking over others, a facet of interruption, unfolds as a natural interplay shaped by cultural, power, gender, and identity dynamics. My doctoral research revealed that Chinese speakers frequently employ interruptions in conversations as a means to demonstrate engagement, solidarity, and to support the positive face of their conversational counterparts. This aligns with the concept of high engagement conversational styles elucidated by Professor Tanne Deborah in her influential works on interruption within the context of New York Jews.


Currently, my exploration of interruption extends to the analysis of broadcast interviews and presidential debates within political settings. A notable example is the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden three years ago, where Trump's communication style was characterized by frequent interruptions, making it challenging for viewers to discern the substance of his messages. Trump doesn’t talk, he interrupts!


My specific interest lies in investigating alleged media bias through a meticulous examination of interruptions initiated by both interviewers and interviewees in mainstream Western media outlets. This research initiative is prompted by my observation of netizens' expressions on Chinese social media platforms (see my previous paper on how netizens adopt innovative linguistic strategies to criticise public figures, it is Top 3 most cited article in Discourse & Society in recent 3 years). There is a prevalent sentiment that Western media display a substantial bias against China. Netizens often assert that interview hosts manipulate conversations by consistently interrupting guests whose perspectives diverge from the media's negative narrative about China.


To empirically test this perception, I am conducting a pilot study analysing interruptions in political interviews. As an example, in an interview with Ronny Tong (a Hong Kong Executive Council member) conducted by Jeffrey Sackur on BBC HARDtalk, both Tong and Sackur interrupt each other at a comparable frequency. Notably, Tong accuses Sackur of violating his speaking rights (I have not finished!) and lecturers him on how to conduct a proper interview (There is no point of carrying out an interview like this, you should be shamed if yourself.). This ongoing investigation aims to shed light on the dynamics of interruptions in political interviews and their potential role in reinforcing or challenging perceptions of media bias. Stay tuned for further developments!


Strand 2: Sustainability Discourse

This line of research is motivated by my personal interest. I work with Mark Ryan, who is an environmental marketing researcher with extensive experience in calculating the carbon impact of fashion firms through life-cycle analysis. In the context of global warming (yes, I assume the recent stormy weather across the UK counts), major brands and corporations worldwide are responding to climate change by incorporating sustainable development practices to varying extents. These entities market their commitment to sustainability, emphasising social and environmental dimensions. However, some engage more in greenwashing than genuine commitment, as detailed in my paper currently under review. 


Moving forward, my aim is to delve into the sustainability marketing discourse prevalent in everyday life. This includes analysing green texts on product packaging that highlight the sustainability of the product or brand, exemplified by statements like "To help support our planet, this box uses more earth-friendly materials" from Clarks.


Building upon these research endeavors, my future focus is on developing an AI tool capable of quantifying the extent of greenwashing in marketing texts. This tool aims to provide a systematic and objective means of assessing the authenticity of sustainability claims, contributing to a more informed and accountable discourse in the realm of corporate sustainability practices.


Current Teaching


LING103 Linguistics

LING237 Pragmatics 


LING237 Pramgatics (week 10 on interruptions)

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