Key Research Areas
- Argumentation analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Public language use
- Language criticism
Especially since the 1970s, a new conception of argumentation has prevailed in linguistics, not least due to the fact that a newly defined goal was to analyze everyday argumentation as well. Obviously such everyday argumentation does not employ inference rules as know from classical logic.
Over the last decades, linguistics has developed a number of interesting approaches, which make it possible to examine the often implicit underlying assumptions and the "conclusiveness" of arguments with which we are all confronted on a daily basis (comments in the media, discussions, contributions to debates, etc.).
Discourse analysis is a more recent area of research which seeks to methodologically address certain inadequacies of traditional conceptual history. Based on thematically related, representative corpora of texts and statements, linguistic discourse analysis seeks to find new avenues to a socio-pragmatic language historiography. The linguistic history of mentalities belongs to this context as well.
Discourse research also hones in on the mutual influence of the history of language and the factual history, so as to be able to language as a social phenomenon. Methodically, discourse analysis makes use of the broad range of available linguistic methods, all of which, depending on the research question, can in principle be relevant for the analysis of a discourse.
Public Language Use
Public language use or public discourse is understood as a consensus-building process, in which all members of society find an agreement on the practical question of how to live together. All texts – and this does not mean printed texts only – which thematically belong to this discourse can in principle be used for researching public language use. Examples of such texts include newspaper articles, political party programs, parliamentary debates, texts on the Internet, flyers, brochures, or radio and TV reports on socially relevant topics.
Even though public communication does not only consist of the language of politics, the study of political communication is a prominent example of this research area.
A variety of different linguistic methods and approaches are being used in the research of public language use, such as argumentation analysis, linguistic discourse research, text linguistics, semantics, etc.
A key function of human language is to reflect on language and language use – this is termed the metalinguistic function of language. If metalanguage is associated with a positive or negative evaluation, this is termed language criticism.
In Germany, the phenomenon of language criticism has a long-standing tradition. Especially in non-scientific contexts, language and language use are constantly critically discussed in public. The underlying evaluation criteria, however, are rarely explicitly addressed.
This is where linguistic research comes in. It is geared towards safeguarding language criticism from the pitfall of arbitrariness. A key linguistic task is therefore to develop standards for the evaluation of language using linguistically sound criteria.