Research & Projects

RESEARCH PROFILE

In my research I have mainly taken a variationist approach to statistically modeling linguistic variation within and across non-standard or post-colonial varieties of English. While I have mostly relied on corpus data to investigate linguistic phenomena, I have also used questionnaire designs and engaged in acoustic analyses of audio data using the Bavarian Archive for Speech Signals’s The Munich Automatic Segmentation System (MAUS) and PRAAT to investigate target language proximity in vowel production by non-native speakers of English. As I am committed to expand my expertise in methodologies used in the analysis of language data, I intend to further develop and follow my interest in language documentation, anthropological linguistics, and field work methods. In this respect, I am currently preparing an application for an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant. The project aims at documenting one of the most southern varieties of Low German that has so far not been documented and is of particular interest because of the language contact situation with High German varieties in that specific dialect region.

One basic issue underlying my research has been to investigate how, why, and to what extent social, cultural, and psychological factors impact linguistic behavior. The aim of these analyses does, however, not merely focus on describing differences between speakers with distinct social profiles but to elucidate mechanisms underlying processes of language change. Thus, in essence, I address questions concerning how innovative features spread through speech communities and by which mechanisms these innovations take over from traditional variants. In this line of research, I have become particularly interested in how semantically bleached elements, such as discourse particles but also degree adverbs (intensifiers), correlate with social, cultural, and psychological factors. For instance, an article for which I have won the ISLE Richard M. Hogg Prize in 2015 investigated whether traditional variationist variables and psycholinguistic factors correlate with the use of the discourse particle eh in New Zealand English. The underlying question concerning priming as a psycholinguistic variable was to elaborate on the role that priming may potentially play in cases of ongoing language change.

DIGITAL HUMANITIES

In 2019, I was a Digital Champion on behalf of the Australian Data Research Commons (ARDC) and I am continuing to promote the use of digital methods in HASS (Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences) by offering workshops on computational methods and giving talks about best practices in research data management and research methodology.

In my current role at the School of Languages and Cultures, I have been setting up the Language Technology and Data Analysis Laboratory (LADAL). The LADAL consists of a physical computing research and teaching space for language-based computational and experimental work as well as an online virtual lab (the LADAL website: https://slcladal.github.io/index.html) which is currently under construction and will offer online tutorials, video introductions and screen casts, introductory and overview descriptions of various research designs, as well as hands-on, practical introductions to a variety of topics and methods in Digital Humanties, data visualization and analytics (statistics), as well as computational linguistics and Text Analysis.

Before taking up my current position as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for Research Technology at the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Queensland, Australia, I was an associate member of the Language Technology Group of the department for computer sciences at Universität Hamburg. In both positions, I was able to further develop my expertise in Digital Humanities. To this end, I have very good command of R, a programming environment that lends itself to computational text analysis including computational methods that can be readily applied to interdisciplinary research – web crawling, topic modeling, network analyses, and distant reading, for instance, have been used in analyses of cultural trends and the emergence of literary genres. In my current position I collaborate with Prof. Dr. Michael Haugh who is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pragmatics and one of the driving forces in the etsablishment of an Australian Linguistic Research Data Commons. As part of the collaboration, I have been involved in a project that focuses on dialogue structure and combinatorial searchers in conversational data as well as a project which aims to set up an Australian Data Commons similar to CLARIN in Europe.

Over the past years, I have acquired in-depth knowledge of R – a programming environment which is extremely versatile and a very powerful tool for linguistic data analysis, text mining, and sophisticated statistical modeling. I use R in my research to retrieve, clean, process, visualize and statistically analyze data. The advantage of R is that it is an open source software that comes free of cost, is relatively easy to learn, and is supported by a large community of users and developers. Furthermore, knowledge of R or similar programming environments such as Python, which I have also used in the past, allows researchers to share their code and thus enable others to replicate studies step by step and thus improve transparency of research. In addition, I followed courses in human-machine interaction at the Computer Science department at Universität Hamburg before becoming an associate member of the Language Technology Group at that department in 2018.

Furthermore, I have experience in using PRAAT, a software package for acoustic analyses, to analyze speech and SurveyMonkey as well as GoogleForms to create online questionnaires. With respect to teaching, I have experience with various online learning platforms and I have created an e-learning course on corpus linguistics for which I have compiled specialized corpora that were designed to enable students to improve their ability to properly use academic English in their written English skills.

METHODOLOGICAL COMPETENCIES

In terms of methodology, my research has mainly built on quantitative analyses of corpus data or computational analyses of speech but I have also used qualitative analyses, yet to a lesser degree. With respect to statistical analyses, I have specialized on multivariate regression models (both fixed- and random effect models) and tree-based models (Random forests and Boruta) which allow to test the impact that independent variables and interactions between variables have on some dependent variable and can also be utilized in machine learning and AI applications as classifiers and variable-selection procedures. In addition, I have ample experience in collostructional analyses based on the application of chained Fisher’s Exact Tests. I have also frequently implemented different types of X2-Tests or similar procedures such as Configuration Frequency Analyses when dealing with contingency tables (e.g. to investigate collocation patterns). With respect to exploratory classification or dimension-reduction and agglomerative methods, I have substantive experience in various types of cluster analyses, Factor Analyses, Semantic Vector Space Models, Multidimensional Scaling, Principal Component Analysis, and simple as well as multivariate Correspondence Analyses.

My book proposal entitled Introduction to Linguistic Methodology and Text Analysis is currently under review by Edinburgh University Press. The proposed book is an introduction to basic concepts of linguistic methodology and a practical guide to text analysis.

ACTIVITIES IN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

I am member of various academic societies, e.g. The International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE), the Societas Lingustica Europaea (SLE), the Deutsche Gesellschaft f{\”ur Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS), and I am an affiliate member of the Australian Center of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) among others. I regularly present findings from my research at conferences and actively try to publish results stemming from my research in internationally visible formats. In addition, I have organized conferences that are specifically targeted at younger researchers such as the Linguistics Colloquium of Northern Germany (NLK). In addition, I am currently organizing ISLE VII (7th meeting of the International Society for the Linguistics of English) together with Prof. Dr. Kate Burridge that will take place in Brisbane in 2022.

RESEARCH PROJECTS

1. Acquisition, Variation, and Diachronic Change of English Amplifiier Systems
In this research project I focus on adjective-amplification in English and in contrast to my PhD dissertation which investigated discourse like in selected varieties of English, my habilitation project focuses on language acquisition, language variation and change, as well as historical linguistics rather than discourse pragmatics.

2. VowelChartProject
The VowelChartProject (Creating personalized vowel charts to improve target language pronunciation of English studies students) analyzed vowel formants of German, Russian, and Spanish learners of English in PRAAT to investigate where, why, and to what extent learners of English differ from native speakers of English with respect to vowel production and word final devoicing. What is particularly intriguing about this project is that it allows the quantification and objective measurement of the progress of ESL speakers with respect to their English language proficiency.

The data for this project consists of audio recordings of German, Spanish, and Russian learners of English who produce word lists and a short story to determine which vowels are acquired native-like, i.e. where there is a high degree of target language proximity, and which vowels pose more severe problems for learners of English, i.e. vowels which substantially deviate from native speakers’ vowel production. After being recorded, students receive a personalized vowel chart depicting their F1 and F2 frequencies for English vowels. In addition, the F1 and F2 frequencies produced by native speakers are plotted alongside the German, Russian, and Spanish formants to allow for meaningful comparisons. The project has a high potential for future funding as it is a linguistic application that enhances language learning and can be adapted to languages other than English.

3. Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and L1-Acquisition
I continue to work on discourse pragmatic variation and socio-linguistic determinants of the use of discourse like. As such, I am continuing research that evolved from my PhD dissertation by addressing questions involving the acquisition of variation and how linguistic innovations diffuse through the speech community. I am currently investigating at what age and in which order distinct functional variants of discourse like are acquired and whether extra-linguistic factors are acquired alongside the linguistic constructions themselves or whether the linguistic elements are acquired first and variation is acquired post-hoc.

(last updated 2020/09/28)

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