Research Apprenticeships

The goal of a research apprenticeship is to convey practical experience in the focal research topics of our institute and to lead students through individual guidance to independent research. Students are expected to work independently and to be self-motivated. Mentors will offer guidance, feedback and advice in regular meetings or other appropriate form.

Below is a list of possible topics offered by various members of our institute. Interested students should contact potential mentors for further information.

 

title

Information and language

areas

language variation and change, language structure

contact

Christian Bentz

Human language is an information encoding device. This apprenticeship aims to familiarize students with the theory of information and how it relates to research in linguistics. The RA offers several topics: 1) language variation: information-theoretic accounts of linguistic diversity, 2) language change: the evolution of information-encoding in human languages, 3) language structure: investigating the difference between language and other communication systems. Depending on preferences and skills, these topics can entail detailed literature reviews, (small scale) corpus building, basic statistical analyses and visualizations with R.

 

title

Automatic cognate identification

areas

language variation & change, language structure

contact

Gerhard Jäger

One of the big challenges in computational historical linguistics is to infer language trees from raw word lists in phonetic transcription, without the aid of additional expert knowledge such as manual cognate classification or identification of loan words. The dominant approach so far is to start by assessing the phonetic similarity of words from different languages. Kirby & Ellison (2006) make an interesting alternative proposal. Starting from language-internal comparison of word forms, they construct a lexical network for each language under consideration. The degree of relatedness between two languages is then assessed by comparing the structures of their lexical networks. In the apprenticeship project, this method should be applied to the various cross-linguistic resources that have become available since 2006. In a second step, the method should be modified in such a way that it can be used as a heuristics to identify cognate words and loan words across related languages. Programming skills are essential. Some background/interest in historical linguistics and/or phonology and phonetics will be a plus.

 

title

Studying dialect data

areas

language variation & change, language structure

contact

Igor Yanovich

Spoken languages vary from town to town and village to village. That variation has been recorded by dialectologists in impressive surveys published as dialectological atlases. Such atlases represent a snapshop of the living language in its diversity, and can even allow researchers a good view into the past. In this project, you will learn more about how dialects can differ from each other and how they can be structured linguistically and geographically. The practical part of the internship will involve working with a dialectological atlas, both by hand and electronically, in order to better understand the information hidden in the atlas’s maps.