December 2019, workshops for students of the Faculty of Letters, History and Theology, year 1: Linguistics studies in the digital era (DIGITT series)

December 2019, workshops for students of the Faculty of Letters, History and Theology, year 1: Linguistics studies in the digital era (DIGITT series)

Between 10th and 18th December 2019, first year students studying Romanian as a major or a minor in the Faculty of Letters, History and Theology have participated in a workshop of the DIGITT series (Digital Linguistics Talks in Timisoara), titled Linguistic studies in the digital era. How do digital instruments help us in linguistic studies and in analyzing discourse? organized by members of ROGER and CODHUS, at the initiative of faculty members in the Department of Romanian Studies. Coming as a result of discussions regarding the necessity to diversify the activities of FLIT – the teaching, research and learning methods, as well as the tutoring program for first years –, the event was conceived so as to offer guidance to students in their research and documentation activities. The departments of our faculty are constantly preoccupied with creating more attractive educational prospects which appeal to the interests of the actual, digital generation.

            The workshop began with a presentation of the ROGER project (Academic genres at the intersection between tradition and internationalization: Corpus based contrastive research on the use of academic genres by Romanian students), which aims to map out the texts written by students in both Romanian and English. The students were thus familiarised with the notion of corpus, on which lay the foundations and approaches of our new center, CODHUS (Centre for Corpus Related Digital Approaches to Humanities), which wishes to be a “house of digital codes for humanists”.

            Starting from the methods of corpus linguistics, the facilitators of the workshop looked at the connections that can be established between new digital methods and Humanities. Opening, then, a discussion on which apps the students use during their free time (especially for the purpose of communication) or when doing research for university related tasks, the students found out about the sciences connected to linguistics, for which digital instruments can be useful in research: translations, discourse analysis, stylistics, academic writing, grammar.

            The students were then shown examples of the analyses conducted by the members of ROGER and CODHUS in the past months, which had been presented at different national and international conferences. Different examples of dictionaries (monolingual and bilingual) were discussed, as well as apps used in translation and the most frequent tools used in corpus linguistics by FLIT researchers: AntConc, Lancsbox, Sketch Engine, Lexos, Voyant tools. Moreover, a number of types of discourse were discussed. The first to be brought up were academic genres used in UVT: English language essays, improved by students with the help of expert corpora, as well as scientific papers drafted in Romanian, for which the research sought the degree to which electronic feedback received from the evaluators was used.

Furthermore, studies at the intersection between Humanities and other disciplines were brought into discussion. As an example, the field of Political Science, represented by the analysis of news and political discourse, was mentioned. Said study was conducted by the members of ROGER/CODHUS during Text-To-Data. Timișoara Workshops on Research Method (November 2019), and looked at the main topics approached this autumn by a series of candidates for the Romanian presidential elections, through the screening of the most frequent syntagmas. However, the research also looked at the level of objectivity with which different online news platforms present the events and discourses, or whether they distort them, generating samples of the fake news phenomenon.

The entertainment sphere was not bypassed, and the researchers showed the students that vlogs or the fashion industry, with all of its forms or components, can become subjects of linguistic study. In this context the students’ preferences regarding tutorials or other video materials were discussed, as well as possible reasons (rhetorical strategies) for which different vloggers become influencers and attract the marketing budget of some companies.

Lastly, the sphere of stylistic studies was approached, where the most significant contribution was made by the FLIT students, who had recently been co-opted as members of ROGER/CODHUS. In this respect, a few of the examples were aimed at the study of the poetic opera of Lucian Blaga, through micro-stylistic analysis of the elements of materiality, in the identification of the metaphorical or non-metaphorical contexts of the appearance of some terms.

At the end of the workshop students took part in a short quiz, and the participants with the best scores received prizes consisting of ROGER promotional materials. Moreover, those present were told about possibilities to participate in CODHUS activities through volunteering or internships, while also considering the new publication SPOR (Science Popularization Reports) of the CODHUS center, which aims to disseminate the results of research in a manner accessible to a wide audience. The students showed an interest in studying as many expert corpuses as possible, and in addressing elements of social media in their research, being aware of the importance of documentation and the need to respect academic ethics.

These types of activities, which involve using digital methods and instruments in Humanities or outside of them, through interdisciplinary studies, each of them with a practical feature, will continue with FLIT in the second semester, with a workshop in the field of literary studies dedicated to the same target students.

The poster of the event:

Presentation excerpts: