Curdin Derungs

Curdin Derungs, Dr.

Head of the GISLab

Tel.: +41 (0) 44 635 52 56

Anschrift: Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich

Raumbezeichnung: Y25 J 86



I lead the GISLab, which is one of three labs that constitute the URPP Language and Space at the University of Zurich. The aim of the URPP is to contribute to interdisciplinary research in the intersection of linguistics and geography. Major research questions of the GISLab are “How can linguistic diversity be explained through geographic characteristics?” and “How can geographic information in language be used to contribute to geographic research questions?”

Academic Background

I studied Geography from autumn 2002 until winter 2008 and finished my studies with a master degree. The foci of my studies were Geographic Information Systems and Science (GIS) and Atmospheric Sciences. I did my master thesis in GIS on the topic “What is a mountain? Where is a mountain?”. In 2010, after working two years in the public and private sector, I decided to do a PhD at the University of Zurich. The thesis was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. In my PhD thesis, I investigated how people describe their local environment in everyday encounters and, in particular, how such descriptions can then be used in a GIS. Local information is an important building block for linking expert knowledge to the everyday concepts of lay people. I thus worked with large compilations of landscape descriptions, in the form of digitized books, social media contents, datasheets from databases and gazetters, always with the aim of creating a link between the individual descriptions and geographic space and, secondly, to gather structured information from these data sources. My thesis is therefore a combination of theories and techniques from ethnographic research, (computational) linguistics and GIS. In autumn 2013 I successfully defended my thesis.

Following are links to conference presentations and publications and the corresponding PDFs that resulted from my PhD.



Wartmann, F.M.; Egorova, E.; Derungs, C.; Mark, D.M.; Purves, R.S. (forthcoming 2015): More Than a List: What Outdoor Free Listings of Landscape Categories Reveal About Commonsense Geographic Concepts and Memory Search Strategies. In: Spatial Information Theory. COSIT 2015: Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer.

PhD Thesis

I conducted my PhD thesis in GIS at the University of Zurich. The thesis was supervised by Prof. Ross Purves and co-supervized by Dr. Bettina Waldvogel and Martin Hägeli from WSL:

  • Derungs, C. From Text to Landscape: Extraction of Landscape Concepts through the Resolution of Ambiguity and Vagueness present in Descriptions of Natural Landscapes. PhD Thesis, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, 2013. PDF (a summary of the thesis can be found here)

Master Thesis

The master thesis was conducted in GIS at the University of Zurich and supervised by Prof. Ross Purves:

  • Derungs, C. Was ist ein Berg? Wo ist ein Berg?. Diploma Thesis, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, 2007 PDF


  • From Text to Landscape. PhD Defense PDF
  • The meaning of generic parts in toponyms. COSIT 2013 PDF
  • Resolving fine granularity toponyms: Evaluation of a disambiguation approach. GIScience 2012 PDF
  • Linking generic terms in toponyms to topographic characteristics. SIDG 2012 PDF
  • Measuring topographic similarity of toponyms. AGILE 2012 PDF
  • Why Matterhorn is (not) a mountain - toponym similarity in topographic space. Swiss Geoscience Meeting 2011 PDF
  • Disambiguation of fine granulatory toponyms using geomorphometric information. AAG 2011 PDF
  • Toponym disambiguation of landscape features using geomorphometric characteristics. Geocomputation 2011 PDF
  • Empirical experiments on the nature of Swiss mountains. GISRUK 2007 PDF