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

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.

About us


Daniel Perrin (ZHAW)

Andrea Rocci (USI)

Programme manager

Eva Kuske (ZHAW)

Application requirements

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 (