research areas

[Update: 02.2011]

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.

A few more specific words on my current areas of interest in research (dates refer to publication years of papers that can be accessed via the “writing” section):

Linguistic diversity in media discourse:
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. But I also consider linguistic diversity in the media as a language-ideological resource. Recent writing in this area includes a research survey of language and space in the media (2009) and a study of the ideologization of ethnic styles of speaking (2007, 2010).

Computer-mediated communication:
My work on CMC started during my postdoc in 1998-2000. I ask how the tension between technology and social context shapes language online, and how new media users draw on semiotic (linguistic and multimodal) resources to construct social identities and relationships. I’ve done work – with German and Greek data – on sociolinguistic style, multilingualism and code-switching, Greek-to-Latin transliteration, and multimodality. My current writing is on Web 2.0 environments and their consequences for CMC sociolinguistics.

Language and youth:
The topic of my PhD thesis was a sociolinguistic study of German youth language, published in 1998. In the same year, I edited a multilingual volume entitled Jugendsprache–langue des jenues–youth language (1998, with Arno Scholz) and a few years later a volume on Discourse Constructions of Youth Identities (2003, with Alexandra Georgakopoulou). My 2005 HSK handbook article on Research on youth language and the 2006 paper Jugendsprachen als kommunikative soziale Stile offer research surveys and draw lines of connection between different strands of language and youth research. My more recent engagement with this field focuses on new multiethnic styles of language among migrant youth – ‘ethnolects’ – and their stylization and ideologization in the media.

Hip-hop language:
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, ‘fictional sociolinguistics’:
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.

Globalization/localization and global English:
I’ve been writing on English/national language contact since my PhD dissertation, and gradually moved towards looking at that type of language contact in terms of processes of globalization and localization. I discuss the mediation and global spread of vernacular English in a number of papers and in connection to both CMC and hip-hop discourse.