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Doctoral Programme in Applied Linguistics: Managing Languages, Arguments and Narratives in the Datafied Society (LAND)

The ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics and the USI Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society are pleased to offer a second edition of our collaborative doctoral programme in Applied Linguistics. The programme focuses on languages, argumentation and narratives.

Who are we?

The programme is a cooperation between Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), funded by swissuniversities. It is geared towards doctoral students whose research project focuses on languages, data, argumentation and narration.

What do we offer?

The programme

Managing Languages, Arguments and Narratives in the Datafied Society

In our PhD school, we analyse language itself as well as the languages used in a world increasingly driven by artificial intelligence. We focus on arguments and narratives as fundamental modes of human sensemaking through language and their multilayered interplay in educational, professional and public discourse in the current datafied societies. We explore the opportunities and challenges this creates for both research and practice. Our ultimate goal is to identify the value that humans can add to artificial intelligence in datafied societies and their increasingly algorithmic practices of language processing.

Academic relevance

The datafied society keeps machine-readable records of communicative events; these records are accumulated, analysed, and transformed into numerical data. From an (applied) linguistics perspective, this offers new opportunities to collect and process linguistic data, develop new methods and ask new questions. Computational linguists, for example, can participate in the construction of the datafied society by further developing natural language technologies. The datafied society challenges pragmaticians, discourse analysts, sociolinguists and applied linguists, since their focus on human language use increasingly includes communication at human-machine interfaces where new communicative patterns emerge.

The programme combines three-dimensional analyses of language use with a multi­disciplinary approach to real-life problems in the datafied society.

Three-dimensional analysis

The school prepares tomorrow’s researchers for the analysis of human language use in datafied societies by combining three analytical dimensions: the context, the media and the modes perspectives.

Argumentation is an exchange in which reasons are provided in support of a viewpoint on an open issue. Recent research on argumentation has emphasised its potential for rational deliberation and how attempts at argumentation through digital communication platforms can easily become unproductive and polarised. We examine argumentation with a preference for investigating large-scale discussions in society and with a special attention to the growing field of Argument Technologies, such as Argument Mining and Debating Agents.

Narrative is a mode of discourse capable of making the world understandable and of creating identification that is prominently used in the construction of public spheres and discourse, e.g., in journalism, public communication, corporate communication and marketing. From a discourse viewpoint, we address the changes brought about by digitalisation in these fields, e.g., the practices of oral and written narration in fragmentary contexts such as social media. Particular attention is dedicated to the challenges posed by unchecked stories and the disruptions created by the clash of competing narratives.

Multidisciplinary approach

The courses and the other activities of the school will address each perspective at three levels of disciplinarity by:


Fundamental and advanced digital skills for linguists

On a hands-on level, the school includes methodological courses (with an emphasis on corpus-based methods) as well as basic and advanced courses in natural language processing (NLP) and Computational Linguistics, with the aim of training linguists who have sufficient literacy in these fields to do fundamental and applied research on language in the datafied society.

Current events

PhD Masterclass in Applied Linguistics

In 2024, the PhD School in Applied Linguistics of USI and ZHAW celebrates the completion of its programme on Managing Languages, Arguments and Narratives in the Datafied Society. The series of PhD Masterclass offers insights into the work of the most advanced researchers in their fields.

The lectures are open to scholars and advanced students from both USI and ZHAW and beyond. 

About us


Daniel Perrin (ZHAW)

Andrea Rocci (USI)

Programme managers

Eva Kuske (ZHAW)

Application requirements and practical information

Who can participate?

  • Candidates enrolled as doctoral students at a Swiss university
  • Candidates either just starting or already at a more advanced stage of their doctoral research
  • Admission of candidates with a Master's from a university of applied sciences is possible at USI upon evaluation of each profile

Prospective students should send their academic CV, a description of their research focus and a letter of motivation (including how their research topic fits into the programme’s theme) to Eva Kuske (

Travel Grant Requirements: We offer our doctoral students financial contributions for the attendance of conferences in a relevant research field in Switzerland and abroad. A maximum amount of CHF 500 is available per request. Applications for financial grants must be submitted before the conference. They must be sent by email to The applications will be examined by the directors of the doctoral programme.

The application should contain the following information, compiled in a single PDF document:

  • a letter stating both the reason for the application as well as the relevance to the research field in general and your thesis in particular (approx. 250 words)
  • the submitted or accepted lecture abstract
  • a budget containing transport and accommodation costs as well as conference fees

Applicants will be informed about the directors’ decision as soon as possible. In the case of a lecture abstract that has not been accepted yet, a positive decision is not final until the lecture abstract has been accepted. Payments are made after lectures have been held.