Another Humboldt Professorship for FAU

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Most prestigious research prize for linguist Michaela Mahlberg

Once again, FAU has successfully demonstrated its strength in innovation and research. In the current funding round, the University has succeeded in winning not one, but two more Humboldt professorships. One of them goes to Linguist and mathematician Prof. Dr. Michaela Mahlberg, who analyzes linguistic structures in language corpora and their significance for culture and society.

The prizes, worth up to five million euros each, will be awarded in 2024 after the appointment negotiations have been completed.

Researches the changes in and through language: Prof. Dr. Michaela Mahlberg

Michaela Mahlberg uses computer-assisted, quantitative linguistic methods to investigate language and its social function in huge text corpora. She made a name for herself with her linguistic analysis of the works of Charles Dickens and other authors from the 19th century. With her approach of combining corpus linguistics, stylistics and literary criticism, her work is located at the interface between linguistics and literary studies.

Her investigations into new text corpora, for example from online media, are aimed at allowing us to gain a better understanding of our digitalized world in the 21st century. “My research, for example, looks into how often and in respect to which topics certain words or phrases appear, for example the word “management,” explains Mahlberg. “The results give us an insight into culture and society and can be used for further analyses in the context of digital humanities.” Her research also focuses on how language itself changes as a result of digitalization.

Using her computer-assisted methods of analysis, Michaela Mahlberg hopes not only to describe the situation in society, but also to make a change. One example is the transdisciplinary pilot project on the water crisis that she is conducting together with colleagues in Birmingham. “Intervening in the water cycle leads to multi-faceted consequences for the climate,” she explains. “But how can we raise awareness of this issue among broad sections of the population?” First of all, it is important to understand what importance we give water and in which contexts we speak about water. Mahlberg analyzes huge quantities of text from newspapers, UN reports, political recommendations and literary works. “This allows us to derive communication strategies for how we can communicate the importance of water more clearly for each individual.”

As a Humboldt Professor at FAU, Michael Mahlberg is to be appointed the Director of the Department of Digital Humanities and Social Studies (DHSS) established in 2021, where she is expected to pool and expand research activities in the area of digital humanities. The Center is aimed at making a contribution to understanding the datafication and algorithmization of culture and society in their social dimension.


About Michaela Mahlberg

Michaela Mahlberg studied English and Mathematics at the University of Bonn in Germany and the University of Exeter in the UK. In 2004, she completed her doctoral degree in English linguistics at the University of Saarbrücken. She taught English linguistics at the Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Italy, at Liverpool Hope University, at the University of Liverpool and at the University of Nottingham, UK. In 2015, she was appointed professor of corpus linguistics at the University of Birmingham, UK. Michaela Mahlberg is the vice president of the International Dickens Society and the editor of the International Journal of Corpus Linguistics. She was instrumental in creating the internet application CLiC (Corpus Linguistics in Context), which is now used for research and teaching purposes in over 100 countries across the globe.