From the What to the Why: Combining etic and emic perspectives in studying language, media, and digitization

Call for Papers | AILA World Congress | Groningen | August 15–20, 2021 | AILA Research Network on Media Linguistics


If research wishes to both describe and explain real-life activities, it needs to ask both what- and why-questions. These questions can be answered by combining complementary, etic and emic, perspectives. Whereas outsiders’ (etic) perspectives tend to capture observable activities, insiders’ (emic) perspectives foreground practitioners’ sense-making practices.

Conventionally, emic data sets have been gathered through interviews. This entails a methodological problem: Exploring routinized processes by asking general questions is as if the researcher was outsourcing the task of generalisation to the informant. However, informants cannot be expected to apply methodological rigour when explaining why they actually do what they do. To mitigate this inherent dilemma of emic perspectives, real-life research can be supported by etic data.

In our symposium, we welcome contributions discussing the interplay of researcher-analysts’ etic and practitioner-informants’ emic perspectives, as well as the challenges of integrating them. Besides theoretical discussions, the symposium presents illustrative solutions from the field of media linguistics. By doing so, the contributions highlight the value of methodologically integrative approaches, despite their demanding nature – especially when it comes to investigating new phenomena such as language users’ appropriation of the most recent dynamics in digital media.

Please check the conference website for presentation formats
and submit your proposal by September 16:


Geert Jacobs, University of Ghent,
Daniel Perrin
, Zurich University of Applied Sciences,