Project Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Felder


Acceptance problems of scientific research in the light of linguistic formation processes

Knowledge, creation of factuality and worldview formation through language as an interdisciplinary challenge


Those who put facts into words create realities. Realities can be portrayed as the attempt to describe the creation of factuality linguistically. Therefore, public debates about research outcomes often include a fight for the right term: Is it legitimate to talk about “therapeutic cloning” or should one rather call it “research cloning”? Which concept stands behind the element of word formation “nano-”? Is there a difference between “euthanasia” and “assisted suicide”? Who can effect the adoption of a term in public debates, often has the interpretative power over the respective reality. As media recipients and citizens we are exposed to a great deal of reality; reality here referring to linguistic products of the media that pretend to be portraying real-life facts. Through the intake of sociopolitically relevant events such as research outcomes we are thus dealing with artificially created phenomena: the language of the media, its images and graphs.  This factor becomes relevant, when experts complain about the way in which research topics are represented by the media. This experience raises the question of how the media in contrast to the experts of the respective domains of knowledge constitute facts and thus create reality. If, in addition, one remembers the seemingly trivial matter that any knowledge must be put into words in order to be communicated, it becomes evident that language (both professional jargon and everyday speech) as a creative medium of specialist knowledge merits special attention.


Aim of the project


The aim of the project is twofold. With regard to content, the exemplarily named topics (i.e. cloning, nano-technology, euthanasia; to be completed by further topics of the Marsilius-Fellows) will be of the highest social relevance in the next few years. They, therefore, require to be researched both by science and the humanities. With regard to method the interdisciplinarily developed and tested technique of description of such discourses – especially regarding the gap between specialised and public discourse – will be transposed into a Heidelberg Marsilius-paradigm. What is innovative about this approach is that analyses of scientific debates are not only done ex post, but also synchronically. Objects of analysis will include both specialised and non-specialised current debates. Another aim will be to attempt to influence the debates in merit of the insights gained. This requires a special commitment between linguists and linguistically interested experts of various domains of knowledge such as it is already the case in the interdisciplinary and international research network “Language and Knowledge” (


Editor: office
Latest Revision: 2011-07-13
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