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Research


Our Areas of Specialisation

Researching language in use, such as describing the general principles governing speaker’s linguistic choices or showing how situational / institutional requirements shape texts, constitutes the field of pragmatics and discourse linguistics. Our interests here include figurative language, narrative, evaluation, and the emergence / use of pragmatic features in various media and genres, e.g. CMC, film, history writing.

The history of the English language, in particular the Early and Late Modern English periods (1500 onwards). We have taken structural (verb structures, intensifiers) and textual (newspapers, pamphlets, historiography) perspectives on this period. Specific processes of change (e.g. pragmaticalisation) and standardisation have been a further focus.

We believe in the importance of using authentic data, of whatever nature. We are thus also active in corpus linguistics, both using and constructing corpora (large collections of electronic text). We are or have been involved in the construction of the Lampeter Corpus of Early Modern English Tracts (1999), a Corpus of English history writing, and a corpus of film scripts.

 

Current Projects

Register (r)evolutions? The development of British vernacular history writing from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to the English Historical Review (c. 900-1900)

History writing has existed in changing social contexts, taking on various guises, e.g. an undertaking with documentary purposes, a ‘factional’ form of literature with an audience to be entertained and/or morally instructed, and a type of professionalized academic discourse based on research. The broad range of purposes and audiences possible in historiography correlates with different historical genres, e.g. annals and chronicles, epics and romances, treatises, (more or less) learned monographs, and research papers. This project investigates what features characterise, unite or differentiate histori(ographi)cal texts both within the confines of the register and from other registers. It tries to chart if and how far there are clear lines of development, e.g. from more to less narrative, from a focus on persons to one on contexts, from rhetorical-literary to scientific-academic styles. Features and aspects in focus in this project comprise the following: treatment of place and time, causality, conditionality / counterfactuality, evaluation / stance / appraisal (with its link to ideologies), and quoting / referencing.

Sebastian Wagner’s Ph.D. thesis is part of this larger project.

Researchers: Claudia Claridge, Sebastian Wagner

Data: A Corpus of English Historiography, to be compiled in this project

 

Changing intensifiers in Late Modern English, 1700-1900: a historical socio-pragmatic analysis

The project investigate the (changing) use of two groups of intensifiers, namely amplifiers scaling upwards (e.g. terribly, most) and downtoners (e.g. slightly, a bit) in British courtroom speech from 1700 to 1900. It charts the inventory of forms and their distributions across various types of speakers, both with regard to speakers’ social (e.g. gender, rank) and functional roles (e.g. judge, defendant), thus providing a sociolinguistic snap-shot of Late Modern English. It also analyses pragmatic patterns of intensifier use within the clearly circumscribed genre of court discourse, i.e. their functions in speech acts and moves (e.g. questions, defending, information-giving). Based on these approaches we will be able to identify change in progress, innovations as well as obsolescence, within these 200 years.

Researchers: Claudia Claridge, Merja Kytö, Ewa Jonsson

Data: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey / Old Bailey Corpus, Giessen University

Funded by: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Schweden

 

How Hollywood Talks - The ABS TV corpus project (Augsburg-Brighton-Sydney)

Responding to a growing interest in the description of fictional language and telecinematic discourse (Bednarek 2010, Rossi, Piazza and Bednarek 2011, McIntyre 2012, Bednarek 2015, Locher and Jucker forthcoming), this project sets out to chart the language of US-American television shows from both a synchronic, cross-generic and a diachronic perspective. Although, over the last decade, research on film discourse has been gaining momentum, large-scale corpora of coded TV transcripts are either piecemeal or remain largely inaccessible to a wider research community. This project hopes to bridge this long-standing research gap in a principled fashion.

The TV corpus, to be compiled in the course of this project, wants to provide a suitable springboard to more comprehensive, data-driven linguistic investigations into the nature of film. To this day, various explorative studies have already revealed the discursive strategies screenwriters apply to imitate, adapt, reduce or suspend the linguistic properties of authentic, “real life”-conversations (cf. Bednarek 2010, Piazza, Rossi and Bednarek 2011, Bednarek 2015). While such “fidelity checks” are certainly insightful the ABS corpus primarily invites studies which seek to uncover the particular language ideologies which take shape in the way screenwriters, directors and actors present characters’ language in television (Androutsopoulos 2012:145). It is argued that the nature of these ideologies become even more tangible when explored across different TV genres.

More generally, there are three main reasons why TV genre studies conducted with large corpus of television transcripts, such as this project's TV corpus, are particularly promising: Firstly, previous studies have used different methods of analysis, different corpora, with deviating mark-ups. This makes the existing body of research on TV language often hard to compare. Secondly, data choice in studies may have been too selective, jeopardizing the comparison of similar parts, episodes, and seasons from different TV shows or even genres. Thirdly, the analytical purpose of film studies can diverge quite considerably, rendering systematic functional comparisons practically unfathomable.  We hope to finally overcome (most) these analytical constraints with the help of this TV corpus, paving the way for a corpus linguistics of telecinematic discourse; one which will hopefully draw a more conclusive picture of how Hollywood talks, now and then.  

Researchers: Christian Hoffmann

 

How to do things in films - New approaches to pragmastylistics in telecinematic discourse

In the last decade, telecinematic discourse has become one of the most promising avenues of re-search in stylistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis. What makes telecinematic discourse an exciting new arena for pragmatic stylistics is the complex interplay between those who create film (directors, producers, etc.), those who enact it (actors) and those who watch it (audience). A pragmastylistic investigation of telecinematic discourse thus needs to account for the ways in which directors constrain the myriad of possible interpretations of their work through a careful orchestration of audiovisual cues, temporally unfolding shots and varying audience expectations. While most pragmastylistic research has so far largely focussed on discourse in film (Quaglio 2009, Bednarek 2010, Richardson 2010, Rossi 2011), more recently papers have begun to call for a more specialised discourse of film, focussing on the pragmatic effects of cinematographic means of expression, e.g. camera work, lighting, scoring, montage, mise-en-scène, etc. (cf. Janney 2013).

This project involves the compilation and publication of a collective volume which presents current developments in either one of the two aforementioned lines of research, i.e. the discourse in film and the discourse of film, serving a twofold objective: On the one hand, the editors wish to expand previous pragmatic research on style in television and cinema, e.g. the pragmatics of film monologue and dialogue as well as the interplay between verbal language and other semiotic modes of expression, e.g. sound, music, pictures, etc. On the other hand, we wish to find out how telecinematic discourse challenges the methodological feasibility of some well-established pragmatic theories and methods such as Searle’s speech act theory, Grice’s maxims of conversation, presuppositions and implicatures, etc. Likewise, the volume will present new ways in which classic pragmatic models can be adapted to the stylistic analysis of film language.

Researchers: Christian Hoffmann, Monika Kirner-Ludwig

 

Conferences
  • International Conference of English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 19), Essen, August 22-26, 2016, organised by Claudia Claridge, Birte Bös &  Raymond Hickey
  • IPrA 2015: The Pragmatics of Telecinematic Discourse (Wolfram Bublitz, Christian Hoffmann & Monika Kirner-Ludwig)
  • IPrA 2015: The Pragmatics of Punctuation (Claudia Claridge & Merja Kytö)
  • Anglistentag 2014: Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century (Claudia Claridge & Ilse Wischer)
  • FJUEL: FORUM JUNGE ENGLISCHE LINGUISTIK IN BAYERN (September 2012) - a conference with projects by Ph.D. and post-doctoral researchers in Bavaria organised by Elisabeth Fritz, Olena Vorontsova, Eva-Maria Wunder, Iris Zimmermann (Augsburg), Stefan Mordstein (Eichstätt), Maria Sutor (München)
  • Quoting Now and Then – 3rd International Conference on Quotation and Meaning (ICQM) (April 2012), organised by Wolfram Bublitz, Jenny Arendholz, Christian Hoffmann & Monika Kirner
  • IPrA 2011: The pragmatics of quoting in computer-mediated communication (Wolfram Bublitz & Christian Hoffmann)
  • Anglistentag 2010: Language, Literature and Culture in the Seventeenth Century (Claudia Claridge, Jens Martin Gurr & Dirk Vanderbeke)
  • IAUPE 2010: Corpus Linguistics (Merja Kytö & Claudia Claridge)
  • Anglistentag 2009: Spoken English (Claudia Claridge & Ilka Mindt)
  • IPrA 2007: E-Cohesion: Multimodality and Interactivity in CMC (Wolfram Bublitz, Volker Eisenlauer & Christian Hoffmann)
  • Narrative revisited (April 2007): celebratory conference on Wolfram Bublitz’s 60th birthday organised by Christian Hoffmann and Volker Eisenlauer