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C. Purschke appointed Associate Professor in computational linguistics

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Publié le jeudi 15 octobre 2020

Member of the University of Luxembourg since 2014, Christoph Purschke becomes Associate Professor in computational Linguistics at the Institute for Luxembourgish Language and Literatures.
We asked him what is his background and what are his goals and motivation for this new position.

What is your personal background as a researcher?

When I first joined the University almost 6 years ago, I was fascinated by the country's multilingualism and its societal embedding. Together with the colleagues at the Institute for Luxembourgish Language and Literature, I have spent quite some time investigating different aspects of this fascinating topic. For example, we have developed a mobile research application to document and analyze visual multilingualism in the public sphere ("Lingscape"). In addition, I have dealt intensively with the recent political discourse on the societal status of Luxembourgish and its symbolic role for a so-called "national identity". Having a background in sociolinguistics, my main interest as a researcher has always been the complex interrelation between language as a cultural symbol system and society as social practice.

What are your motivations for the new position?

My recent focus in computational linguistics is fed directly from my broad sociolinguistic interest. On the one hand, language models and algorithms from computer science enable us to answer sociolinguistic questions from a new perspective, and on a much broader data base. On the other hand, I would like to contribute with my work to enrich applications based on Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence with sociocultural data, and thus hopefully reduce their level of bias and improve their applicability in everyday life. In this context, I am also interested in the social and ethical implications of AI applications as "artificial social actors" (with real decision-making power) for our understanding of social processes, but also for scientific practice in the humanities.

What are your specific goals for the next years?

In the next few years I would like to set up a group for computational sociolinguistics and cultural data science at the faculty. There are several practical goals associated with this: First, we will focus on the development of language technological resources for Luxembourgish as a "small language", for example, for automatic text processing or speech recognition. Second, I would like to promote my idea of a "culturally aware AI" in close cooperation with international colleagues to make a specific humanities contribution to the responsible use of technology in everyday life. Third, our work should contribute to strengthening the faculty's digital profile, both for research and technology transfer, but also in the areas of teaching and outreach. And fourth, our work will be supplemented by dealing with the theoretical foundations and social implications of digitality in view of the current transformation in our entire understanding of social practice. That should be enough for at least 6 more years at the University of Luxembourg.