Cecilia Ford’s research focuses on language as an interactional phenomenon. In her books, edited collections, articles, and book chapters, Ford draws on conversation analysis as a framework for discovering the ways that humans construct, on a moment-by-moment basis, the social orders that make up our lives—including the provisional and emergent practices we call language.
Ford is part of an interdisciplinary network of faculty and students at UW-Madison whose research is on human interaction. She works closely with Doug Maynard in Sociology and Junko Mori in East Asian Languages and Literatures. She is also an affiliate of the Language Institute, Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Second Language Acquisition Doctoral Program. In the English Department, she works with faculty and graduate students in the English Language and Linguistics Programs and with faculty and students in Rhetoric and Composition.
Some of Ford’s special interests are language structures, interactional practices, and the construction of dynamic and contingent social positions through talk. She has been particularly fascinated by interaction within and between turns at talk and how humans collaborate and improvise in social interaction, using contingent practices including lexico-syntax, sound production, and physical orientations (gesture, gaze, body position).
In addition to her core research, Ford maintains a commitment to applied linguistics. Beginning with her first publication, on language-based stereotyping in public schools (TESOL Quarterly, 1984), Ford has addressed issues relevant to language and society. Her book on women speaking up in meetings arose from participation in the NSF-funded Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin. She is currently collaborating with colleagues in medicine and psychology in a project aimed at reducing gender bias (funded by the National Institutes for Health).
Ford welcomes opportunities to share perspectives and findings from her research with groups outside of linguistics, discourse analysis and beyond the academic community.
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