Current PhD theses

Affekt und Interkorporalität in politischer Kommunikation – Ein medienlinguistischer Beitrag aus der Multimodalitätsforschung (Arbeitstitel)

The dissertation project examines party speeches of the Green Party from 2019 (conventional party convention) and 2020 (digital party convention) as forms of media-specific interaction. Positioned within the realm of multimodality research, this project constitutes a contribution to media linguistics. Adopting a transdisciplinary approach from film and language studies, it takes the perspective of a viewer, focusing on the unfolding of affectivity as a central point of departure. From this viewpoint, the linguistic multimodality of speech in interaction and audiovisual linguistic multimodality do not represent separate channels of meaning. Instead, they collectively shape a perceptual form that unfolds as a complex multimodal orchestration. For viewers in front of the screen, this interplay becomes an affective, shared, medial experience of a party convention and political communication. Consequently, the analysis of the speeches primarily considers the medial ecologies and their specific potentials for affective engagement.

Doing justice - media aesthetic and linguistic analysis of mediatised trials (working title)


Political performance and multimodal communication of the parties Prawo i Sprawiedliwość and Alternative für Deutschland (working title)

The planned dissertation is settled between two research fields: performance studies and multimodality studies. It addresses the live and mediatised performance of two right-wing political parties in an international comparison, the Polish national-conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (in short: PiS, Law and Justice) and the German right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (in short: AfD, Alternative for Germany). More precisely, it presents in depth case studies of the multimodal orchestration of two public speeches as media events, one of each party. In the focus of this research is the question of how the politicians’ political performance is staged as a live event and medially, which is formulated in the research question: How do the PiS and the AfD orchestrate their public speeches as media events?

Under the premise that meaning in political communication is not only created alone by neither spoken language with all its modalities nor its staging as a political performance and media embedding, the dissertation provides analyses of how the three work together: the multimodal performance of speaking, the staging of the event as political performance and the audiovisual framing of such speeches as mediatised political event. In a nutshell, the dissertation investigates the orchestration of spoken language (including gesture), of audiovisual multimodality as a political performance which includes stage design, symbols and other parameters regarding political theatre.

Current international co-promoting

Metaphorising Corruption in the Fourth Republic of Ghana: A Discourse Dynamics to Metaphor and Cultural Model Approach

In many cultures and democracies around the world, corruption as a social phenomenon has been described and defined variously but commonly as a shameful act and a criminal offence. Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, which is the basis for the current democracy in the country, also defines and describes corruption in these terms. Even though the phenomenon and its common definition appear to be near-universal, findings from cross-cultural studies suggest that different socio-cultural groups filter the conceptualisations of concepts, even near-universal ones, to reflect construals that are salient to their particular societies, and cultures.

While democracy is motivated by Western-based cultural conceptualisations (Sharifian, 2003, 2013), it is now practised by many cultures around the world. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of research on how culture-specific contexts influence different notions of democracy as a result of the ways a people use language to shape their understanding and to encode such understandings of such notions including corruption. Metaphor as a linguistic tool forms part of everyday language use that helps us to understand people’s conceptualisation/understanding of concepts.

This study employs the discourse dynamics to metaphor analysis model of Cameron (2010) and the cultural model approach of Sharifian (2003) as theoretical and analytical frameworks to investigate the (cultural) metaphorical conceptualisation of corruption in Ghanaian English as they occur in selected presidential speeches of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. Corruption is in this research is discussed as part of democratic political discourse.

The present study examined fifteen (15) State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs) delivered by the five (5) Ghanaian presidents of the Fourth Republic to identify linguistic choices such as metaphors that were used to encode the cultural understanding of corruption in Ghana.

The analysis of the data revealed that corruption was metaphorically conceptualised (generally) as A FIGHT, A DISEASE, A CRIME, A LEGACY, and AN ENEMY while measures to solving corruption were metaphorically conceptualised as WAR. However, the following systematic metaphors were employed to conceptualise corruption: CORRUPTION AS A LEGACY, CORRUPTION AS A (COLLECTIVE) NATIONAL PROBLEM and CORRUPTION as SOMETHING CONCEALED. These systematic metaphors were systematically linked to the following cultural schemas/models in Ghana: THE NATION AS A FAMILY, POLITICAL LEADERS AS PARENTS (NOT BE CRITICISED PUBLICLY), GIFT-GIVING AS SHOW OF APPRECIATION and FAVOURITISM AS BUILDING FAMILY TIES. Using communicative strategies such as indirectness and inclusive pronouns, these metaphor choices help the presidents to challenge, and negotiate prevailing social, political, ideological, and cultural attitudes towards corruption, as it has been described in the 1992 Constitution. This research contributes to theory by combining the discourse dynamics to metaphor analysis and cultural model approaches to studying metaphorical conceptualisation relating to corruption and demonstrating that it is not enough to consider the discourse event, but that the extralinguistic context (historical, cultural, ideological) presents important clues to understanding the motivation for the metaphorical conceptualisation employed by the participants. It also contributes to the argument on the need to review the use of universal definitions when dealing with context-specific issues.

Current visiting international doctoral students

Speech, face and hand gestures: a multimodal description of negative sentences with ‘não’ in Brazilian Portuguese

Negation is a property common to all natural languages. From a structural point of view, it can be expressed by (i) morphemes or affixes (unhappy, disappointed); (ii) negative particles (no, never); and (iii) negative verbs (inviability, incapacitate) (Dahl, 2010). The most productive way to indicate negation in Brazilian Portuguese is through the particle no, which can assume pre-verbal (NEG1), double (NEG2,) and post-verbal (NEG3) positions. Variationist studies (Reimann; Yacovenco, 2000; Rocha, 2012; Lopes, 2013) assume that these forms are variants of the same variable, whose purpose is to indicate opposition to something or someone. Based on frequency data, these same studies signal that the variation of these structures has a dialectal trace, as postverbal negation is more produced in northeastern Brazil. However, these same studies also signal that, although post-verbal negation is more frequent in a specific region, in all speech varieties already analyzed, there is a pattern of realizations: pre-verbal negation is preferred by speakers, followed by double negation and post-verbal negation, a fact that suggests that the use of one form or another may be associated with contextual particularities. Pragmatic approaches (Goldnadel; Lima; 2011; Goldnadel et Al, 2013; Goldnadel, 2016; Nunes, 2016; Lima, 2016) focusing on the informational status of the negated proposition (old or new, explicit or implicit) assume that negation does not only indicate opposition: through it, individuals evidence the relations established between them, through strategies of face preservation and negative evaluation. Pragmatic studies that include the informational status of the negated proposition have contributed to understanding the numerous functions that negation assumes in real interaction situations. However, they tend to leave out an important factor for communication: body gestures. Studies in English, French, Spanish, German, and Savosavo, for example (Kendon, 2004; Calbris, 2011; Bressem; Müller, 2014; Teßendorf, 2014; Bressem, J.; Stein, N.; Wegener), suggest that negative structures and hand gestures together form complex multimodal structures that indicate, besides denegation, face preservation, and negative evaluation. In Brazilian Portuguese, face gestures (eyebrow, nose, and mouth contractions) contribute to the disambiguation of polysemous items (Cardoso, 2021; Pinheiro, 2021) and provide clues to the judgment attributed to stigmatized linguistic variants (Freitag et al, 2021). Despite evidence suggesting that gestures act on language production and processing, the multimodal study of negation is a little explored field. Santos (2021) points out that, as in German, negation in Portuguese also has a multimodal character. Based on that, the goal of this research is to investigate if NEG1, NEG2 and NEG3 are not not variants of the same variable, but multimodal structures that express different pragmatic functions, differentiated by hand and face gestures.

Keywords: Negation. Multimodality. Hand gestures. Face gestures. Brazilian Portuguese

Contact: paloma-batistacardoso@hotmail.com

Completed PhD theses

  • Franziska Boll (2019): Gesten im Übersetzungsprozess / Multimodalität und Interaktion in konsekutiven Übersetzungsprozessen
  • Lena Hotze (2019): Multimodale Kommunikation im Vorschulalter
  • Rajyashree Ramesh (2019): Sensing & Shaping: The kinesthetics of embodied meaning making processes in Indian dance theater
  • Dorothea Horst (2018): Affect Modulation and Persuasion. Multimodal metaphor and expressive movement in German and Polish campaign commercials / Meaning Making and Campaign Advertising. The Dynamics of Audio-visual Figurativity in German and Polish Campaign Commercials
  • Jana Bressem (2012): Repetitions in gesture – structures, functions, and cognitive aspects
  • Silva Ladewig (2011): Syntactic and semantic integration of gestures into speech – structural, cognitive, and conceptual aspects
  • Christina Schmitt (2018): Wahrnehmen, fühlen, verstehen. Ausprägungen aktivierter Metaphern in der audiovisuellen Medienkommunikation
  • Julius Hassemer (2015): Towards a Theory of Gesture Form Analysis
  • Juliana Mehls (Goschler) (2006): Metaphern und Gehirn (TU Berlin)
  • Ellen Fricke (2004): Origo, Geste und Raum: Lokaldeixis im Deutsche


  • Himmbler Olivares (2017): Empathy, Body Coordinations and Memory: A Microgenetic Study (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)



  • Kasper Kok (2017): The status of gesture in cognitive-functional models of grammar (VU university Amsterdam)
  • Marie-Nathalie Jauffret (2015): La couleur du sourire. Approche communicationnelle d'une expression faciale non-verbale subliminale par la synesthesia (Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis)
  • Steven Schoonjans (2014): Modalpartikeln als multimodale Konstruktionen: Eine korpusbasierte Kookurenzanalyse von Modalpartikeln und Gestik im Deutschen (Leuven University)
  • Anna Kaal (2011): Metaphor in Conversation (VU university Amsterdam)
  • Marc A. Tutton (2010): Expressing location in English and French: The roles of Speech and Gesture (University of Lille and European University Viadrina)
  • Mikolaj Bednarski (2010): The Adequate Level of Public Broadcasting Regulation and the Polish Television Market (European University Viadrina)
  • Simon Harrison (2009): Grammar, Gesture, and Cognition: The case of Negation in English (Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3)
  • Mandana Seyfeddinipur (2006): Disfluency: Interrupting speech and gesture (Univ. of Nijmegen)


Former visiting international doctoral research students

Sandra Cabanes Perez
Univ. Valencia, Spain (02/11/2022 – 16/12/2022; 11/01/2023 – 24/02/2023)

Emma Kusuoba Pedavoah
Univ of Ghana, Legon (05/2022 – 07/2022)

Beatriz Fabiane Graca Santos
State University of Southwest Bahia, Brazil (10/2021 – 12/2021)

Mariana Carneiro Mendes
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (04/2019 – 11/2019)

Adriana Fernandes Barbosa, MA
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (04/2019 – 11/2019)

Laura Hirrel
Department of Linguistics, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (06/2017 – 08/2017)

Thiago Nascimento (doctoral student)
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (06/2017 – 07/2017)

Mio Cibulka
Universität Gothenburg/Lund (PostDoc) (2017)

Justina Urbonaité
Vilnius University, Litauen (10/2014 – 10/2015)

Carlos Silva, MA
Universität Sao Paulo (USP) (07/2014 – 10/2014)

Himmbler Olivares
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (03/2013 – 01/2014)