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Stephen Pihlaja 
/'stiːvən 'pihlaija/

Hi there, my name is Stephen and I'm an author and academic researching and teaching at Newman University in Birmingham (UK). My work focuses on the dynamics of discourse, or language in use, particularly as it relates to religious identity. I analyse discourse to understand how people present themselves and their beliefs to diverse audiences, and how technology changes not just the presentation of belief, but how and what people believe. To do this, I employ different methods of discourse analysis to investigate metaphor, narrative, and antagonism in interaction.

Currently, I am working on an AHRC-funded project called Language and Religion in the Superdiverse City, looking at how people of different faiths interact with one another and work towards shared community goals. I am partnering with Citizens UK Birmingham to apply my research to build organising capacity in South Birmingham. You can follow the updates on the project's Twitter account: @superdivercity 

My first book, Antagonism on YouTube was published by Bloomsbury in 2014 and my second book, Religious Talk Online was published in 2018 with Cambridge University Press. My newest book, Talk about Faith, focuses on the public discussion of religious faith on social media, podcasts, and in debates about religion. I've co-authored a book called Cognitive Linguistics and Religious Language: an Introduction, with colleagues in Japan which provides a primer for working on religious language from a cognitive perspective.

I've also edited Analysing Religious Discourse (2021, CUP), and special issues of Language and Literature and Metaphor and the Social World and co-edited the Routledge Handbook of English Language StudiesMy edited collection Contemporary Media Stylistics with Helen Ringrow came out in 2020 with Bloomsbury. I am Book Reviews Editor for the Journal of Language and Discrimination

REF 2021

12 May 2022

The REF (Research Excellent Framework) results have come out and shown an incredible result for Newman English. Our outputs, which include books and articles by all staff members, were judged to be some of the best in the country, with 62.5% being classed 4* or 'World Leading' and 31.2% being classed 3* or 'Internationally Excellent'. At 62.5%, we had the third-highest percentage of 4* research, beating out some of the best universities in the country. I'm very proud to have led the UoA the last few years and looking forward to how research in the group will continue to grow. 

Language and Religion Symposium

 7 March 2022


Language and Religion Symposium

17 June 2022, 9:30AM-5:00PM

Newman University, Birmingham (both in-person and online)

Language has always played an incredibly important role in how religions develop and change over time and in different contexts. This symposium will feature presentations from academics doing research on language with different religious communities both throughout the world and with a specific focus on Birmingham. Everyone is welcome to attend, including linguists, practitioners in religious organisations, educators and educationalists, theologians, sociologists, and anyone else with an interest in language and religion. Free to register before 31 May.

For more information and to register: https://superdivercity.com/language-and-religion-symposium/

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Religion

 10 January 2022

I'm very pleased that Helen Ringrow and I have signed a contract to edit The Routledge Handbook of Language and Religion! This is an ominous undertaking, but one that I'm very excited to get to work on, as there is so much good work to highlight and collect on this emerging field. We'll begin the process of collecting abstracts now, and hope to see the book in print in late-2023/early-2024.

"religion" by loop_oh is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

PALA Chair

11 Nov 2021

I will be the Chair of the Poetics and Linguistics Association from January 2022. PALA is an international academic association for those who work in stylistics, poetics, and associated fields of language and linguistics. I'm looking forward to supporting an inclusive, international community of language and literature researchers and working with other linguistics associations in the country to keep the study of language and literature a key part of education around the world.