Lehrstuhl für Englische Sprachwissenschaft


A comparative approach towards the study of language and space in megacities

Megacities are characterised by their large and diverse populations, their cross-border trade connections (Hutton, 2008, p. 2) and the challenges they face, e.g., limited housing facilities, material resources, energy (Winkless, 2016). They also constitute highly dynamic spaces where sociocultural transformations occur on the fast-track and intra-urban dynamics can be expected to become visible in language use.

In this project, we take a decisively applied linguistic approach which combines methodologies from linguistics, geography and digital humanities. In collaboration with the Department of Geography and Geology, which is specialised in satellite remote sensing, and the German Aerospace Center, we aim at assessing the interrelationship between physical and socio-cultural space from a new perspective to answer the following questions:

  • Infrastructure and mobility: How do people move through space in everyday routines? How do they communicate about it? Which media and language(s) do they use? Are locations (e.g., their home, their workplace, where they meet with friends) a decisive influencing factor in their assessment of space?
  • Constructing neighbourhoods: How do neighbourhoods define themselves according to morphological, social or economic aspects? Are language use and themes spatially congruent with the variable geographical definitions of neighbourhood? How do evaluations of neighbourhoods change over time?
  • The sustainable city: Which current urban challenges prevail as topics of public discourse? Are certain topics of public interest (affordable housing, water supply, power supply, internet access, air quality, legal aspects, etc.) discussed in specific parts of the city?
  • Megacities around the world: What are differences and similarities between different megacities in terms of physical space, socio-cultural space and the assessment thereof? In how far does the cultural context influence evaluations of and perspectives on urban space?

The aim of this project is to bring together researchers from different fields and establish theories and methodologies that lend themselves to comparative analyses of language and space in megacities to capture the multiple facets of urban language and lifestyle. First pilot studies have been made on London and Hong Kong in comparison with Moscow (see sub-project Centres and Peripheries)

Hutton, T. A. (2008). The new economy of the inner city: Restructuring, regeneration and dislocation in the twenty-fist-century metropolis. Routledge.

Winkless, L. (2016). Science and the city: The mechanics behind the metropolis. Bloomsbury Sigma.


Prof. Dr. Carolin Biewer    
Dr. Ninja Schulz
Lisa Lehnen
PD Dr. Hannes Taubenböck (German Aerospace Center)

Presentations and Publications

A New Focus in English Linguistics: Geolingual Studies. Presentation before evaluation committee of Momentum Funding Initiative by Volkswagen Foundation, online. 25 January 2021.

Language and space in megacities: Developing an agenda for comparative research. Workshop at 8th Biennial International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English (BICLCE), of Bamberg (Germany). 26-28 September 2019. https://www.uni-bamberg.de/en/anglistik/chair-of-english-linguistics/biclce-2019/workshops/workshop-1-language-and-space-in-megacities/

Press releases

Bartsch, G. (2021, May 4). Living in megacities - A new focus in English Linguistics. idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft.

Bartsch, G. (2021, April 20). Ein neuer Schwerpunkt in der Englischen Sprachwissenschaft. einBLICK.