Selina Bernarding

Email: selina.bernarding[at]uni-tuebingen.de


Biographical information

  • 10/2012 – 11/2015: Bachelor of Arts General Rhetoric (major), Political Science (minor), University of Tuebingen
  • 09/2014 – 09/2015: Student assistant at the chair for General Rhetoric, Prof. Dr. Joachim Knape
  • 12/2016 – 08/2018: Student assistant at the chair for Rhetoric and Science Communication, Prof. Dr. Olaf Kramer
  • 09/2017 – 03/2018: Two terms abroad at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA (State Exchange Program Oregon/Baden-Wuerttemberg)
  • 02/2016 – 01/2019: Master of Arts General Rhetoric, University of Tuebingen 
  • 04/2019 – 08/2019: Research assistant and PhD student at Career Service/Institute for General Rhetoric, University of Tuebingen
  • Since 09/2019: Research assistant and PhD student in the Research Training Group 1808: Ambiguity – Production and Perception 


Research interests

  • Political Rhetoric
  • Conversational Rhetoric
  • Communicative Cooperation and Non-Cooperation
  • Strategic Use of Ambiguity



"Diplomatic rhetorical strategies and ambiguity" (working title)

Henry Kissinger and other diplomacy theorists agree that not precision and clarity but ambiguity is a key component in diplomatic communication and seems to be crucial for diplomatic success. Following this idea, rhetoric (defined as goal-oriented strategic communication), raises questions about the concrete textual and strategic realization of this technique and the objectives of the speakers behind it. 
The dissertation project takes a direct look at diplomatic interaction with the help of original diplomatic texts drawn from two comparative corpora of crisis diplomacy processes in world politics that will be analyzed more closely regarding ambiguation and disambiguation procedures. At the interface of rhetoric, text linguistics and political science diplomatic texts (e.g. minutes of negotiations, letters, interviews) will be used to analytically test the extent to which and the purpose of diplomats’ use of ambiguity as a means of communication: What are the structures and functions of rhetorical strategies in the service of diplomatic problem solving? Which strategically motivated patterns of use can be identified? Do the different types of documents influence the use of ambiguous structures?

The analysis combines the interactional (rhetorical) with the informational (semantic) side of ambiguity use. Revealing not all relevant information seems to be a lack of clarity which does not result from the overarching conversational goal but from individual strategies of the interlocutors. Concretely, this is how in diplomatic interaction e.g. options for future action can be kept open or decisions can be actively retarded. Additionally, threats, warnings or bluffs are also typical elements of diplomatic negotiation situations that should be considered in terms of speech act theory and integrated into the study design.

Diplomacy seems to be a predestinated specific case or discourse frame for linguistic-rhetorical analysis of ambiguity. After the corpus analysis, the project aims to be able to make concrete statements about the use of ambiguity in this field of communication and thereby also about the relevance of ambiguity in the practice of authentic speaker interactions in international politics.



  • Summer term 2019
    • Conversational Rhetoric (Career Service)
  • Winter term 2019/20
    • w/ Prof. Dr. Joachim Knape: Non-cooperation as rhetorical factor of resistance (Institute for General Rhetoric)



  • Bernarding, Selina (2019). „Eine neue Marianne für Frankreich? - Rechtsnationale Ikonisierung der Marine Le Pen.“ Populisten - rhetorische Profile. Hgg. Joachim Knape, Olaf Kramer & Dietmar Till. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto. 48-53. 
  • Bernarding, Selina; J. Rink (2015). “The 17th Century. A new beginning following the Thirty Years’ War.” 500 Years. Continuing Rhetoric in Tuebingen. Eds. Joachim Knape & Dietmar Till. Tübingen: Seminar für Allgemeine Rhetorik. 10-13.