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The University of Bern is represented in the CLARIN-CH Consortium by Prof. Sandrine Zufferey, from the Institute of French Language and Literature.



The community from the University of Bern provides CLARIN-CH language resources and expertise in language sciences, and it is actively involved in research projects involving language resources.

Language resources

The Online Corpus of Linear Elamite Inscriptions (OCLEI) is a tool for computer-assisted analysis of Linear Elamite, an undeciphered syllabic writing system used in the late 3rd millennium BC. It supports a Unicode version of all the sign variants and allows for a statistical analysis of the texts. Currently, 50 Linear Elamite inscriptions and fragments are known (41 when collating the fragments of a single artefact).

Faculties and Departments involved in CLARIN-CH

Faculty of Human and Social Sciences

1. English Department

Areas of expertise in the field of Linguistics:

  • Dialectological data collection
  • Digital discourse
  • Discourse studies
  • Language variation
  • Language ideologies
  • Language and dialect obsolescence
  • Language and global mobility
  • Linguistic anthropology
  • Relationship between language and identity
  • Sociolinguistics
  • The dialectological consequences of geographical mobility
  • The dialectology – human geography interface
  • Variation and change in contemporary English
  • Variationist sociolinguistics

2. Institute of French Language and Literature

Areas of expertise in the field of Linguistics:

  • Acquisition of prosody in L2
  • Contrastive linguistics
  • Computational linguistics
  • Discourse
  • Language acquisition
  • Lexical segmentation and foreign accent
  • Linguistic change
  • History and epistemology of linguistics
  • Neurolinguistics
  • Pragmatics
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Perception and production of temporal variables
  • Prosody and regional variation (in French and Spanish)
  • Relationship between linguistics and psychoanalysis
  • Saussurean linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Semiology/semiotics
  • Speech technology
  • Structuralism

3. Institute of Germanic Languages and Literatures

Areas of expertise in the field of Linguistics:

  • Construction grammar
  • Contrastive German studies and language typology
  • Corpus linguistics
  • Dialectology
  • Grammaticalisation
  • Graphematics
  • (Historical) syntax and text linguistics
  • Language history and language change
  • Morphology/word formation
  • Onomastics (surname geography, name grammar)
  • Variation (text type variation)

4. Institute of Italian Language and Literature

Areas of expertise in the field of Linguistics:

  • Bilingualism
  • Italian dialect contact
  • Italian in Switzerland
  • Pragmatic linguistics and conversation analysis
  • Second language learning
  • Sociolinguistics of Italian

5. Institute of Spanish Language and Literature

Areas of expertise in the field of Linguistics:

  • Discourse Studies
  • Language and society (19th, 20th, and 21st centuries)
  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Sociolinguistics

6. Institute of Linguistics

Areas of expertise:

  • Anthropological linguistics
  • Diachronic linguistics
  • Endangered languages
  • Evidentiality
  • Evolution of language
  • Historical linguistics
  • Indigenous languages
  • Morphosyntax
  • Morphological typology

7. Center for the Study of Language and Society

Areas of expertise:

  • Dialectology
  • Ethnography
  • Experimental Sociolinguistics
  • Interactional Sociolinguistics
  • Language variation and change
  • Language and Identity (particularly gender, sexuality, race, nation)
  • Language, Inequality and Bias
  • Sociophonetics

8. Digital Humanities

Areas of expertise:

  • Critical Algorithm Studies
  • Digital History
  • Epistemology of the Digital
  • Machine Learning in the Humanities
  • Text processing and information extraction after digital editing
  • Theory of the digital humanities


Current research projects

1.The project Language and Harm (Center for the Study of Language and Society) represents a public space for a nuanced discussion of the balance between freedom of expression and respect for others, and the role that language plays in the search for social justice. Much more than a neutral description, the words we use have the power to define how we see the world and the social groups within it. While there are many public debates about linguistic issues (about gender representation in writing, for example, or who has the right to use certain words), these debates tend to be formulated in fairly binary terms, centered on a debate around “political correctness”, and to ignore the profound capacity of language to shape beliefs and social attitudes.

2.The project Women’s voices (Center for the Study of Language and Society) celebrates, in 2021, the 50th anniversary of women's right to vote in Switzerland. It explore the question of what it means to have a voice and what women in Switzerland use their voices for. Through a targeted social media campaign, we aim to collect as many opinions or 'voices' as possible from women all over Switzerland in relation to the concept of 'voice'.

3.The project Swiss German Dialects Across Time and Space (SDAT) (Prof. Adrian Leemann, Center for the Study of Language and Society) studies how Swiss German dialects have evolved over the past decades. The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation through the Eccellenza programme (09/2019 – 08/2024). The SDATS project investigates this very question: in the most extensive dialect survey since the middle of the 20th century, we collect language data from more than 1000 people throughout German-speaking Switzerland and combine traditional dialectological field research with innovative technological methods.

4.The project Jugendsprache Bern (JuBe) (Prof. David Britain, Department of English, Center for the Study of Language and Society) collects and studies ethnolectal youth language in the Canton of Bern. The project has created the first corpus of youth language in Switzerland via the cooperation of various Bernese linguists. The corpus will be made available to researchers at all academic levels for use in their own research. The goal of the project is (i) to demonstrate the relevance of youth language in sociological, ethnographic and sociolinguistic research (ii) to examine what conclusions can be drawn about linguistic innovations and change in youth language and (iii) to highlight that Switzerland, as a quadrilingual state and a country of migration, is particularly well suited for research on ethnolects and on youth languages.

5. The Spark project Are physically attractive people leaders of linguistic change? (Prof. David Britain, Prof. Adrian Leeman, Center for the Study of Language and Society) is funded by the SNSF (March 2020- February 2021) . It aims to answer the following research questions: What’s the role of conventional beauty when it comes to speech accommodation? Do we accommodate more to talkers when they are conventionally beautiful? In a large-scale project with more than 250 participants, the project examines the role of conventional beauty in speech accommodation, particularly in relation to speech prosody.

6.The project Dialect at the fairground: mobility and language variation among a nomadic British community (Prof. David Britain, Department of English, Center for the Study of Language and Society) is funded by the SNSF (November 2018- October 2022). It aims to investigate the previously undescribed English variety spoken by Travelling Showpeople in England. Analysing their dialect will enable us to theorise to what extent such speakers are able to acquire sedentary dialect norms and how language change enters such communities and is transmitted from one generation to the next.

7. The Spark project Articulating Privilege: A New Geographical Methodology for Sociolinguistics (Prof. Crispin Thurlow, Department of English) is funded by the SNSF. It aims to implement an experimental research method in sociolinguistics, a field which studies the use of language in everyday social/institutional contexts. The method is called a “discourse-centered commodity chain analysis”.

8.The project Elite Creativities: Engaging the Language Work of Professional Wordsmiths (Prof. Crispin Thurlow, Department of English) is funded by the SNSF. It seeks to make substantial contributions to the field of critical sociolinguistics. As a multi-sited discourse-ethnography, the project has four unifying aims: (1) to investigate three domains of professional language work largely or completely overlooked by language scholars; (2) to expand scholarship on language and political economy by looking at more elite, “high-end” forms of language work; (3) to generate new empirical insights into two cutting-edge issues in sociolinguistics and discourse studies, namely semiotic ideology and discursive creativity; and (4) to apply a discourse-ethnographic research design centering practitioners’ reflexive accounts of their work.

9.The project Visualizing Digital Media (Prof. Crispin Thurlow, Department of English) seeks to open up digital discourse studies to a broader semiotic perspective; there are two ways in which I see this happening. The first lies in simply paying more attention to visual communication. We know well, for example, that digital discourse is itself often as much visual as it is linguistic, concerned as much with the look of words as with their semantics. This is a collaborative project with Prof. Giorgia Aiello from the University of Leeds, England.

10.The projectElite Mobilities (Prof. Crispin Thurlow, Department of English) examines the discursive production of status and privilege in the context of so called high-end or luxury travel. The primary objective of the Elite Mobilities project has been to document and understand the linguistic, visual, spatial and material resources commonly deployed in the performance of distinction and superiority by marketers and other commercial agents. This is a collaborative project with Prof. Adam Jaworski from the University of Hong Kong.

11. The project Discovering Discourse (Prof. Sandrine Zufferey, Institute of French Language and Literature, Section of Linguistics) is funded by the SNSF. It aims to investigate how adolescents and foreign language learners gradually learn to use French connectors correctly. Some research has shown that children still have difficulties in using frequent connectors such as because and but correctly at the end of primary school. On the other hand, little is known about how adolescents progressively develop adult-like competence during secondary school and gymnasium, and what prevents some adolescents from developing such competence. Similarly, some research has shown that foreign language learners have difficulty in using connectors correctly, but the reasons for this remain controversial.

12.The project Linguistic, cognitive, and neural predictors in the ability to detect and learn L2 stress: The impact of L1, musical aptitude, phonological awareness, auditory working memory and brain activation (Dr. Sandra Schwab, Institute of French Language and Literature, Section of Linguistics) is funded by the SNSF). This is a collaborative project with Prof. J.-M. Annoni from the University of Fribourg.

13.The project Social networks and language habits of 'brain drain' (Dr. Silvia Natale, Institute of Italian Language and Literature) aims to analyse, by means of interviews and questionnaires, the social networks that have developed or are developing the so-called “brain drain”. With the Italian economic crisis of the 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium, Italian migrants in Switzerland are mostly young graduates, protagonists of the so-called 'brain drain'. Moreover, they are not only highly qualified but, unlike their predecessors, they also have a wider linguistic repertoire upon arrival in Switzerland, including skills in other languages (such as English, French, Spanish or even German). While the language habits, social networks and integration into Swiss society of the first group of Italian migrants have been the subject of numerous studies, there is still a lack of scientific research on the second group. The project also examines the relationship between the architecture of social networks and motivation for learning German/Swiss German.

14.The project Information organization and macrostructural planning principles in narrative texts. An Italian-French comparison (Dr. Silvia Natale, Institute of Italian Language and Literature) examines, on the basis of oral narrative texts, the connection between grammaticalized categories of the Italian and French language systems and specific ways of managing the organization of information. The investigation thus aims to illustrate the impact of language-specific elements at the level of macrostructural planning. The comparison of the chosen typologically close languages will clarify how information is constructed in Italian and French oral narrative texts and which grammatical categories influence macrostructural planning.

15.The project What’s up, Switzerland? (Dr. Silvia Natale and Prof. Bruno Moretti, Institute of Italian Language and Literature; Prof. Crispin Thurlow, Department of English) aimed to describe the linguistic characteristics of communication via WhatsApp and to compare it with SMS. The project was carried out in collaboration with Prof. Elisabeth Stark and Prof. Christa Dürscheid from the University of Zurich, †Prof. Federica Diémoz from the University of Neuchâtel and Beat Siebenhaar from the University of Leipzig.

16.The project Surname Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland. With outlooks on the Romance language areas of Switzerland (Prof. Luise Kempf, Institute of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Section of Linguistics) is funded by the SNSF and will start in February 2022. This is the largest project to date for the research of Swiss surnames. Names from before 1800 until the present day are examined from a linguistic point of view, with results to be published in a digital, open-access atlas. On this website, you will find samples of our work, impressions, information on events and much more. Surnames are contemporary witnesses from the Middle Ages. In some cases, they were already used in Switzerland in the 13th century – earlier than in other German-speaking regions. As a result, they tell us a lot about the historical state of the language – about pronunciation or word formation, for example – but also about life and work in medieval times, for example regarding skilled trades or social interactions. Names also bear witness to the migratory movements of their bearers, i.e. to immigration and internal migration.

17.The project Documenting an Indigenous Language of Colombia: A Grammatical Description of Kogi (Arwako-Chibchan) (Knuchel Dominique, PhD, Doc.CH SNSF Funding scheme) targets the documentation and grammatical description of Kogi. The grammatical description focuses on the morpho-syntax of verbs, involving a comprehensive analysis of inflectional and derivational morphology. The investigation of Kogi grammar is based on first-hand language data. These data is collected during fieldwork in Colombia in collaboration with native speakers of Kogi. The data collection is carried out using standard methods of linguistic fieldwork including elicitation and recording of naturally occurring speech. For the linguistic analysis, the interviews and collected texts are compiled in an electronic corpus and complemented with transcriptions and translations. Subsequently, primary data is annotated with relevant meta-data and stored in a language archive so that they are accessible to other linguists as well as researchers of other fields, e.g. anthropology.

18.The project Evidentiality in time and space (Prof. Fernando Zúñiga, Institute of Linguistics) is funded by the SNSF. When making a simple statement, speakers of some languages spoken in, e.g., the Himalayas, the Americas, and Papua New Guinea must choose one or another grammatical marker depending on how they obtained the information they want to convey. These languages encode what linguists came to widely refer as ‘evidentiality’ in the 1980s. Interestingly enough, some of the semantic and distributional properties of Tibetic evidentials, which figured prominently in the development of the concepts involved, appear to challenge widely accepted theories of evidentiality. The project addresses by providing a diachronic-functional account of all evidentials observed in Tibetic and neighboring languages. The project collects data from the two other main hotbeds of evidentiality of the Tibetic type, one in the New Guinea Highlands and the other in northwestern South America.

19.The project A grammar of Nachiring (Kiranti) (Selin Grollmann, Institute of Linguistics) aims to create a first grammatical description of the Nachiring language spoken in eastern Nepal in the Himalayan foothills, including a dictionary and a text collection. Nachiring belongs to the Kiranti subgroup of the Trans-Himalayan (a.k.a. Tibeto-Burman) language family and shows morphosyntactically complex, biactantial verbal agreement typical of Kiranti languages. Nachiring is a highly endangered language in that it is spoken by max. 100 people, the majority belonging to the grandparents’ generation, and in that its speakers are under constant and heavy pressure to assimilate both lingustically and culturally to the national language Nepali (Indo-Aryan).

20.The project A Historical Grammar of Mewahang (Pascal Gerber, Institute of Linguistics) aims to write a comprehensive grammar of the hitherto undescribed Mewahang language, including a dictionary as well as transcribed and analysed texts. Mewahang is a Trans-Himalayan language spoken in the Sankhuwa and Arun river valley in the Sankhuwasabha district in Eastern Nepal. Within Trans-Himalayan, Mewahang has been assigned to the „Upper Arun“ branch of the Kiranti family. Mewahang evinces complex biactantial verb agreement morphology and the encoding of the vertical dimension in its case morphology and deictic system, both typologically noteworthy traits typical for Kiranti languages. On-site fieldwork in both the Sankhuwa and Arun valleys, corresponding roughly to the two main dialects of Mewahang, provides the material for the analysis and description of the language.

21.The Decipherment project: The Elamite stroke script (2200 BC) (Michael Mäder, Institute of Linguistics) investigates the Elamite stroke script, or Linear, which is one of the oldest undeciphered writing systems in the world. Recently, new inscriptions have been found in Iran that almost double the previous text inventory and thus allow the decipherment attempt by Hinz (1962) to be resumed. The decipherment project is being carried out in cooperation with Hamedan University, Iran. The project produced the Online Corpus of Linear Elamite Inscriptions (OCLEI).

resources/unibe.txt · Last modified: 2022/07/15 22:30 by Cristina Grisot