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URPP Language and Space

Guest lectures and discussions 2017

Crispin Thurlow (University of Bern)

Erasing social space? The visual mediatization of digital discourse

Thursday, 14. December 2017, 16:15 to 18:00

This paper considers how the social meanings and social spaces of digital discourse are metadiscursively framed and structured by a combination of language, media and semiotic ideologies; that is, culturally shared beliefs about how words, technologies and meaning-making work. Illustrated with examples drawn from news-media stories and other mediatized texts, I demonstrate what this looks like in practice through a three-part, multimodal analysis of “sexting” as a case in point. Grounded first in the linguistic and visual accomplishment of three familiar language-ideological strategies (i.e iconization, erasure, recursivity), my analysis is then expanded to incorporate four closely related media-ideological issues (materiality, authorship, remediation, historicity) before turning to mode/modality and performativity as two key instantiations of semiotic ideology. My general contention is that digital discourse studies needs always to stay attentive to the complex intersection of language ideologies with media and semiotic ideologies. This analytical principle has particular importance for critically-oriented work concerned with the way digital media are used to discipline, for example, sex and sexuality.


Eveline Wandl-Vogt (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna)

Exploration space - spatial thinking and the design of the post-dictionary on the example of exploreAT!

Thursday, 7. December 2017, 16:15 to 18:00

In this interaction, the author introduces the currently founded "exploration space" [1] at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities. She discusses approaches toward the post-dictionary design on the example of the project exploreAT! (exploring Austria´s culture through the language glass) [2]. 
exploreAT! is funded by the Austrian Nationalstiftung [3] 2015-2019 with about 750,000 Euro. It aims to transform a traditional lexicography project into an innovation network and discovery ecosystem. In an agile project setting, based on human centered approaches and against the background of a 100+-years tradition, the researchers group is aiming to open up the innovation processes and bridge frontiers between disciplines and societal groups. A onomasiologic (crowdsourced) collection is rediscovered culturally, and opened up multilingually and for intercultural explorations. 
The author offers insight into cartographic products and concepts throughout the development of the project. 
She focusses on the recent developments, exemplified by an interlinked map with timeline and network graph, offering interactive visual analysis for the whole heterogeneous data collection (about 250,000 headwords of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy). 
Concluding she will offer insight into workflows applied within exploreAT! and exploration space, stimulating discovery and innovation on the one hand and evaluating/testing/applying advanced (technical and social) infrastructures on the other. 
Finally, she offers an outline she envisages for the role of spatial concepts in exploration space, including linking of physical and digital world(s) bidirectional, e.g. augmented reality, location based services and cross-sectoral multidisciplinary collaboration in virtual space/s. 
She closes her discussion with concrete invitations for cooperation and participatory design of co-creation and collaboration environments. 


[1] exploration space: 
[2] exploreAT!: 
[3] nationalstiftung:


Stephan Habscheid (University of Siegen)

Konversation - "Kunst im Niedergang"?

Thursday, 9. November 2017, 16:15 to 18:00


Sandra Schwab (University of Zurich)

Prosody and regional variation in French: articulation rate and penultimate accentuation

Thursday, 28. September 2017, 16:15 to 18:00

This talk deals with regional prosodic variation in French. Two aspects will be examined in a corpus-based perspective: articulation rate and penultimate accentuation. These phenomena will be investigated in seven French regional variants: two variants from France (Paris, Lyon), three variants spoken in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Nyon) and two variants from the French-speaking part of Belgium (Tournai and Liège).


Jonathan Harrington (LMU München)

Phonetic asymmetry, agent-based modelling and sound change

Thursday, 21. September 2017, 16:15 to 18:00


Aline Meili (University of Zurich)

Untersuchungen zur WhatsApp-Kommunikation von Gehörlosen

Tuesday, 23. May 2017, 10:15 to 12:00

This guest lecture is part of Christa Dürscheid's lecture „Interaktion im virtuellen und physischen Raum“.


Anja Stukenbrock (Universität Lausanne)

Der Geist im Raum - Deixis am Phantasma aus interaktionslinguistischer Sicht.

Thursday, 18. May 2017, 16:15 to 18:00

Ausgehend von multimodalen Praktiken deiktischer Referenzherstellung, die sichtbare Phänomene im gemeinsamen Wahrnehmungsraum von Interaktionsbeteiligten betreffen, gehe ich in dem Vortrag der Frage nach, welche multimodalen Ressourcen die Beteiligten mobilisieren, um Unsichtbares deiktisch im Raum zu verankern und für gemeinsame Imaginationsprozesse intersubjektiv verfügbar zu machen. Meine These lautet, dass sich die Verfahren, die Beteiligte zum Zeigen auf Vorzustellendes (Deixis am Phantasma, Bühler 1934) verwenden, nicht grundlegend, aber in theoretisch und empirisch bezeichnenden Details vom Zeigen auf Anwesendes (demonstratio ad oculos, Bühler 1934) unterscheiden.


Carolyn O'Meara (University of Mexico)

When to use which spatial frame of reference: Landmark-based systems in Seri

Thursday, 4. May 2017, 16:15 to 18:00

Spatial frames of reference are used when describing the location of an object with respect to a reference object. In a relative frame of reference a speaker can describe the location of an object using their own body’s coordinate system (The cup is to the right of the vase) or with an absolute frame of reference using cardinal directions (Zug is south of Zürich). Seri, a language isolate spoken in northern Mexico, has various frames of reference options available to its speakers. This is not surprising, since even English speakers can make use of different types of frames of reference in discourse, whether it be absolute, relative or intrinsic. However, which frames of reference are used or even available to speakers can be related to the context of the speech utterance (small vs. large scale space), rural vs. urban settings (Pederson 1998), the local environment (Palmer 2015; Tucker 2017), linguistic factors, including language contact (Bohnemeyer et al. 2015), sociodemographic factors, among others. To complicate matters, lexical items in a language do not necessarily correspond to a particular frame of reference (e.g., right or left can be interpreted relatively or intrinsically). In languages that have multiple options for interpreting spatial descriptions involving frames of reference (e.g., Yucatec Maya (Bohnemeyer 2011)), it is often puzzling how speakers choose which strategy to use and how they are interpreted “correctly” or not. In this talk, I will problematize these issues by focusing on data from Seri and the different factors that contribute to frames of reference preference in natural discourse, with an emphasis on landmark-based frames of reference.


Oliver Bendel (Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz)

Ethische Fragen an der Schnittstelle von physischem und virtuellem Raum

Tuesday, 2. May 2017, 10:15 to 12:00

This guest lecture is part of Christa Dürscheid's lecture „Interaktion im virtuellen und physischen Raum“.


Anne Carlier (Universität Lille)

The development of the partitive article in Romance: a typological perspective

Thursday, 6. April 2017, 16:15 to 18:00


Gary Lupyan (University Wisconsin-Madison)

The role of adaptation in explaining linguistic diversity

Thursday, 16. March 2017, 16:15 to 18:00

Why do people speak different languages? Religious explanations aside, the usual account is that languages diverge when an initial speech community disperses, such that the language of the new speech communities begins to drift independently instead of together (Sapir, 1921). Without denying the existence of such non-functional random drift, it is becoming clear that many linguistic differences from phonology to grammar, to vocabulary show a fit to the environment—that is, show evidence of design. For example, some aspects of phonology can be predicted from climate (Everett, Blasi, & Roberts, 2015), some aspects of grammar can be predicted from the size of the language's population (Lupyan & Dale, 2010), and differences in the number of color words relate to the use of dyes in a culture (Conklin, 1973). Such nonrandom variation calls for the need to consider whether and by what mechanisms languages adapt to the environments in which they are learned and used. I will discuss some of the reasons why researchers have been reticent to accept the idea that linguistic diversity is caused by adaptation, and describe some of the challenges that this adaptationist perspective faces. I will end by outlining some of the exciting new research questions that arise when we apply the adaptationist perspective to questions of linguistic diversity.