Making sense of linguistic data

New Master's degree programme Data and Discourse Studies

2019/05/28 by

Ever larger amounts of data are being generated in science and industry. Experts are needed in market analysis or communication departments, who can understand and process this data and convert it into comprehensible texts that are appropriate for specific target groups. Marcus Müller, TU Professor of Digital Linguistics, explains in an interview the new English Master's degree programme in Data and Discourse Studies.

One would not necessarily expect to find courses in linguistics and literature studies on offer at a technical university – do linguists have to struggle to claim their place between engineers, computer scientists and natural scientists?

Prof. Marcus Müller: No, not at all. On the contrary, in our experience we have found that the other disciplines are very open to us. The TU is very interdisciplinary and application-oriented, which is also the lived experience at the university.

So is this a good reason to study linguistics and join the new Master's programme at the TU?

Yes, definitely. The new Data and Discourse Studies degree course was born of this very spirit. In addition to linguists and literary scholars, our department also includes historians, philosophers, sociologists and political scientists. The methods of discourse analysis and questions relating to the topic of research data play an important role in all these subjects. TU Darmstadt is an important research centre, especially for digital methodological access to research data in the humanities and social sciences. We already collaborate on research projects on an interdisciplinary basis and also developed the ideas for this interdisciplinary degree course together.

What is so special about Data and Discourse Studies?

No other university in the world offers a truly interdisciplinary degree in discourse analysis with a focus on research data. It is also only possible in Darmstadt. Discourse analysis deals with the relationship between language, knowledge and society. The focus is on combining language analysis with historical, sociological, philosophical or even political science research. In addition, there is the close intermeshing with digital and information technology approaches. A central point is the management of research data in terms of processing and digital analysis. In essence, research data in the humanities and social sciences consists of spoken language and written texts. This degree course is about how to collect, organise, analyse and interpret it. In the business world, trained data scientists are working with ever larger amounts of data. At the same time, there is a need for people who can understand, process and convert this data into target group-specific texts, for example in market analysis and communications departments. These are exactly the people we are training with our new degree programme.

So a mixture of communication sciences and classical humanities, knowledge management and data science?

The degree programme will combine many of these aspects and will above all be very research-oriented, but with a clear humanities and social sciences-based profile. The students will carry out small research tasks themselves, whereby we’ll be using existing results and projects from our department for orientation purposes. The Darmstadt Data and Discourse Cloud is currently being developed especially for this purpose. In addition, a stay abroad at one of our partner universities, for example in Aarhus or Shanghai, is planned for the third semester.

You’re a specialist in German studies – why will the course be delivered in English?

In fact, we put a lot of thought into the language of study. However, we consciously want to attract international students. Not only because of the TU’s internationalisation strategy, but also because cultural influences play a decisive role in all the subjects and disciplines taught in our department and especially in discourse analysis. The greater the diversity among our students, the better the course will be.

Professor Marcus Müller. Photo: Jan-Christoph Hartung

Data and Discourse Studies

The new Master’s programme will start in the winter semester 2019/2020. The interdisciplinary Master's programme in Data and Discourse Studies, which will be taught in English, was developed at the Institute of Linguistics and Literary Studies at the TU Darmstadt.