Profile statement, 2011

My work is at the interface of sociolinguistics and media discourse studies. I am interested in the relationship between linguistic differentiation and mediation, in the broadest sense of these terms. I have carried out research on a range of mediated (in the sense of ‘non face-to-face’) genres, including news discourse, fiction and performance, advertising, pop music, computer-mediated communication and texting, against the backdrop of more established perspectives in sociolinguistics such as language and age, language and identity, code-switching and multilingualism, style and heteroglossia. My research on computer-mediated communication focuses in particular on the relationship between technology, agency, and interaction and its implications for linguistic variability and stylistic practice.

My academic background is in sociolinguistics, and much of my early research was on language varieties, in particular youth language, which was the topic of my PhD dissertation. My recent and current research is mostly concerned with language and mediation. Drawing in theory and method on sociolinguistics, text and media linguistics and discourse analysis, I’ve done research on language use and language style in a number of mass, niche and new media genres such as news discourse, youth media, film and lyrics, advertising, chat, web forums, and texting. Depending on topic and question, these topics are linked to broader research fields such as such language in adolescence, language and identities, multilingualism and code-switching, sociolinguistic style, globalization, and others. I’m especially interested in diversity, the socially diverse use of media and the resulting diversity in media language itself, and as a consequence, my view has often been captured by fringe media such as fanzines and flyers. Besides sociolinguistics I draw inspiration from areas such as linguistic anthropology, youth and media sociology, cultural and media studies. Many of my publications are in (and on) German, but I have also worked with Greek and English.

Research areas and selected publications

Overview of current and past areas of research with selected papers (2019/2020, for full references please refer to the papers section):

Sociolinguistic theory: Language and society in a mediatized age
My research examines how the tension between technologies of mediation and late-modern social contexts shapes language use, and how people draw on semiotic resources to construct social identities and relationships in various types of media discourse. These questions shape all specific fields listed below. Publications that go over and cut across these particular areas include the following:

Media discourse as a site of linguistic heterogeneity
I am interested in all aspects of linguistic variability in the media, including standard/dialect variation, multilingualism, or just specific linguistic structures such as lexical innovation or spelling. I look at language in the media in terms of audience design, especially beyond mass audiences, i.e. in niche, fringe, community and minority media. In a number of papers I discuss the mediation and global spread of vernacular English in connection to popular and digital culture.

The media and language change
I develop a holistic, multi-dimensional approach to the role of media and mediation in processes of language change, which has been only partially addressed in variationist sociolinguistics.

Linguistic heterogeneity online: variation, style, heteroglossia
I started working on computer mediated communication (CMC) during my postdoc in 1998-2000 and continued ever since. I’ve done work with German and Greek data on a wide range of CMC phenomena, drawing on sociolinguistic theories and methods focusing on language style, multilingualism, code-switching, and multimodality.

Digital multilingualism:
My work here started out as an attempt to identify code-switching patterns in digital language use, and was gradually extended to an explanatory approach I termed ‘networked multilingualism’, which models the impact of visual channels and digital audiences on language practices.

A particular area of digital multilingualism is transliteration and trans-scripting, which I study with Greek data:

Digital ethnography, digital language research methods:
Since the early 2000s I develop a methodology for qualitative sociolinguistic research that moves back-and-forth between online and offline contexts of language and communication.

Digital language practices:
A shift of interest from linguistic variation to language practices is theoretically grounded in my 2011 paper, From variation to heteroglossia in the study of computer-mediated discourse, and elaborated on in a number of later papers on social media discourse and interaction:

Youth language:
The topic of my PhD thesis was a sociolinguistic study of German youth language, Deutsche Jugendsprache, published in 1998. More work in this area in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s includes a multilingual volume on Jugendsprache–langue des jenues–youth language (1998, with Arno Scholz) and a 2003 volume, Discourse Constructions of Youth Identities (with Alexandra Georgakopoulou). Later handbook articles and papers (2005, 2006) offer research surveys and draw lines of connection between strands of variationist and interactional research.

Language ideologies in media discourse
My interest in this area got started with research on the stylization and fictional representation of new multiethnic styles of German among migrant-background youth, and later developed towards a critical analysis of how ‘ethnolects’ are discursively constructed across a range of media and institutional representations, and the role of language-ideological processes therein.

Hip-hop language and discourse:
I started looking at the language and discourse of hip-hop in 1998 in collaboration with Arno Scholz (University of Stuttgart). The two of us carried out a contrastive analysis of rap lyrics from five European countries and published a few papers on the recontextualization of rap in Europe (2002, 2004, 2006). In 2002 I organised a conference on language and identity in hip-hop, which turned into the 2003 volume HipHop: Globale Kultur – lokale Praktiken. There and in later writing (2005, 2009) I developed a framework of hip-hop discourse in terms of three spheres. I’ve also written on Greek hip-hop (2009, 2004) and multilingualism in German-based migrant rap releases (forthcoming).

Language and popular culture, sociolinguistics of fictional dialogue
Through the study of genres such as advertising, song lyrics and films I am becoming increasingly aware of strategic uses of linguistic difference in popular culture, and especially so in fictional genres. I see this as an underdeveloped area that deserves much more attention, given the social impact of mass-mediated fiction, and promises fascinating lines of interdisciplinary dialogue.