Dr. Cristiana Lucchetti

PostDoc in Linguistics 
University of Zurich, Slavic Department

Studying languages to understand societies.

This sentence describes in a nutshell the perspective I adopt in my research.

My name is Cristiana Lucchetti and I am a sociolinguist. Every time I scientifically study a language, I make sure I am also able to communicate in it with the people inhabiting the societies where this language is spoken. And so it comes that I am a proficient speaker of many languages, including Italian, German, English, Russian, BCMS (Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian), Hebrew, French, Spanish. I understand and can lead basic conversations in Turkish, Ukrainian, Portuguese and Dutch. I have deep structural knowledge of Latin, Ancient Greek, Tatar, Mongolian, Korean and Amharic. I might be forgetting something, and I am constantly striving to learn new languages and get to know the societies where these languages are spoken. To me, this is not a mere count of languages. Next to being a natural interest of mine, actually speaking the languages I study is one reflection of the responsibilities which I believe I have as a sociolinguist towards the people contributing to my studies by letting me interview them or taking time to fill out surveys, among other things.

In May 2023, I defended my PhD thesis at the Slavic Department of the University Munich. Its title is Language Attitudes and Social Identity. A Study on Russian-Speaking Immigrant Communities in Israel and Germany. Writing my thesis involved months of fieldwork in Israel and Germany and strengthened my view of fieldwork as of an essential instrument for a society-oriented approach in qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method research approaches.

Since starting a PostDoc in March 2023, I have already carried out fieldwork in Serbia, so as to expand my expertise as a Slavic linguist onto new horizons than East Slavic languages. At the same time, I see myself as a sociolinguist whose main interests reside in studying the following phenomena:

  • National ideologies and their expression through and propagation with language
  • Interactions between language and space
  • Migration and its effects on people’s language practices, language attitudes and identity
  • Language prestige and capital
  • Gender linguistics

Next to these subjects, I have identified several objectives of methodological character which to my mind, need to be addressed on a broad scale in sociolinguistics in order to make it actually socially relevant:

  • Implementing mixed-method approaches in sociolinguistics
    • e.g., making Linguistic Landscape research more quantitative and reflecting on the biases it involves, so as to overcome dangers of superficiality or banality in the analysis
  • Fostering sociolinguistics of space
  • Fostering applications of Grounded Theory approaches in linguistics
  • Drawing academia’s attention towards the speakers’ perspective

I am currently working on two research projects in parallel.

The first one is at a more advanced staged and can be considered a case study. It is titled Urban linguistic landscape as ideological battlefield: the case of Novi Sad, Serbia and is based on my fieldwork study carried out in Serbia in July 2023 on the expression of national ideologies through language in public spaces in the city of Novi Sad. There, the accent is especially on graffiti and the tensions between so-called bottom-up (i.e. private, crafted by individuals) vs. top-down (official, made or commanded by institutions) instances of language in the linguistic landscape.

The second one is currently being developed and focuses on the language practices of the heritage speakers of BCMS (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian) in Switzerland and how they are perceived both by the speakers themselves and Swiss society. Its tentative title is Language Practices of BCMS Heritage Speakers in Switzerland: Usage, Perception and Prestige.

This project has a much broader scope than the first one and aims to fill a noticeable gap in sociolinguistic research by investigating dynamics of language prestige in Switzerland and how these impact dynamics of identity in first to second generation immigrant communities.

You can stay up-to-date on my research activities by checking my personal page at the University of Zurich’s Slavic Department.