Walter Benjamin Kolleg


Urban and rural spaces: a transphilological dialogue

Over the past twenty years, the relationship between urban and rural spaces has emerged as a particularly salient area of interest within linguistics in general and within sociolinguistics in particular. The literature shows that this relationship varies, depending on the structure of the society in question, on the status of the languages or varieties involved, and on the kinds of specific themes examined. Implicated in this urban-rural dynamic are processes such as inter- and intra-national migration, urbanisation and counter-urbanisation, globalisation, industrial change, as well as, for example, changes in consumption behaviours. Important to remember, furthermore, are the diverse media representations of urban and rural spaces that have had a significant influence over the past years on the way society understands these processes and their implications on the city and the countryside.

The purpose of the platform

urban and rural spaces in their specific philological research domains. By pulling together people with expertise in these areas, we hope to be able to explore the many processes shaping the dynamic between language, the urban and the rural from a range of sociolinguistic perspectives.

The platform offers an open forum for colleagues and students of the CSLS, the Faculty of Humanities and beyond. We hope it will enable an active and diverse engagement with this important topic.

  • The platform should embrace research on a diverse range of languages and varieties. From its conception, it has included representation from the four national languages as well as from Spanish and English – two languages with an extensive global reach.
  • The platform should welcome research at a variety of different scales, from large global cities like London and Lima, to regional varieties of national languages such as Swiss German, Swiss French and Swiss Italian, as well as to Romansh as a regional minority language and to isolated, rural insular varieties such as those spoken on the Falkland Islands and Palau.
  • The platform welcomes work from within a range of different methodological and theoretical paradigms. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches form part of our activities. Furthermore, data collection and data analysis of different types (e.g. corpus-based, crowdsourced with smartphone apps and internet-based questionnaires, sociolinguistic interviews, etc) are welcomed. The platform also encourages research with a variety of theoretically driven goals, e.g. language ideologies, language attitudes, language contact and language variation and change.

Aims of the platform

The platform has three main goals. Firstly, those colleagues and students within the Faculty of Humanities whose research interests, specialisms and competences include the investigation of language in urban and rural spaces should be identified. Subsequently, researchers of urban and rural varieties should be offered a forum within which appropriate events (such as workshops) can be organised. Finally, as a pilot study emerging from the platform, the construction and analysis of a corpus of spoken Romansch data should be initiated and managed, since, at present, there is no contemporary corpus of everyday informal Romansch speech that can be analysed to address the platform’s principal goals.


Prof. Dr. David Britain (
M.A. Andrin Büchler (


  • Prof. Dr. David Britain, Center for the Study of Language and Society/Institut für Englische Sprachen und Literaturen
  • M.A. Andrin Büchler, Institut für Germanistik
  • Prof. Dr. Yvette Bürki, Center for the Study of Language and Society/Institut für Spanische Sprache und Literaturen
  • Dr. Susan Fox, Institut für Englische Sprachen und Literaturen
  • Prof. Dr. Adrian Leemann, Center for the Study of Language and Society
  • PD Dr. Silvia Natale, Institut für Italienische Sprache und Literatur
  • Dr. Mathieu Avanzi, Sorbonne Université Paris/Center for the Study of Language and Society
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Grünert*, Universität Freiburg/Université de Fribourg

*Acts as our external expert for Romansch.


Prof. Dr. David Britain ( and M.A. Andrin Büchler (

Here, events organised within the platform will be announced.