Immersed in a sea of words: Poetic metaphors

Carina Rasse | Foto: aau/Müller

It’s a familiar situation: We gaze at a poem and wonder – what was the author trying to express? What was his or her intention in using that specific metaphor? And how should we, as readers, interpret it? Over the next two years, Carina Rasse, holder of the DOC-scholarship awarded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and currently working at the Department of English, will explore how metaphors emerge and how they are deciphered by readers.

Carina Rasse has specialised in contemporary lyrical works, so that she can interview authors about their creative processes associated with metaphors. In a first step, she approached fifty authors in the English-speaking world and asked the following questions: How would you describe your metaphors? What role do they play in your works? How do you go about creating metaphors? Thirty poets responded. One of them, the American-Canadian poet and assistant professor James Arthur, has invited Carina Rasse to visit him at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she will attend Arthur’s Creative Writing classes in February 2020. This will give her the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of how aspiring poets create metaphors. Furthermore, various insights provided by the authors during the interviews gave rise to interesting questions, which Carina Rasse would like to pursue further. This work doesn’t merely involve isolating specific terms as metaphors within poems; rather, the poem as a whole should often be understood metaphorically. Lakoff and Johnson’s Conceptual Metaphor Theory, which is predominately used for the examination of metaphors in the field of linguistics, cannot alone serve this purpose, as poems are too complex. For this reason, Carina Rasse will be devoting the months ahead to refining an innovative theoretical-empirical concept, which will allow a more profound exploration of the object of her investigation.

Launching this project, Carina Rasse, who had previously specialised in literary aspects of English and American Studies, has now forged a link to linguistics. Her interest in languages was influenced in part by her family background. Russian is her second mother tongue, while English, Italian and Latin were added during her school years. “Nonetheless, studying poems allows me to stay true to literature as well“, she tells us during the interview. Her work is supervised by Alexander Onysko. Thanks to the Young Scientists Mentoring programme at the University of Klagenfurt, Carina Rasse was able to gain the support of the renowned cognitive psychologist and leading metaphor scholar Raymond W. Gibbs as her mentor.

Carina Rasse completed both her Bachelor’s degree and her Master’s degree in English and American Studies in Klagenfurt. The Master’s degree in “Media and Convergence Management” added a valuable second pillar. However, as she tells us, research remains her primary aim: “Drafting and submitting the project proposal was quite a challenge, but the effort certainly paid off.” The ÖAW-DOC scholarship for the project titled “Poetic Metaphors: Creativity and Interpretation” will allow her to devote all her energy to her scientific endeavours for a period of two years.

A few words with … Carina Rasse

What would you be doing now, if you had not become a scientist?

I would probably be working as translator or interpreter.

Do your parents understand what it is you are working on?

For the most part. I discuss my work frequently, especially with my mother.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at the office in the morning?

I greet my colleagues and deal with my e-mails.

Do you have proper holidays? Without thinking about your work?

I do think about work occasionally while on holiday. It doesn’t bother me, though, as fresh impressions often lead to interesting new ideas.

What makes you furious?

Deceitfulness and dishonesty.

What calms you down?

Going for a walk with my dog.

Who do you regard as the greatest scientist in history, and why?

For my research area, the people to name are George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, who radicalised the connection between language, thought and experience, and who showed that the basic structures of our daily activities are metaphorical in nature.  For me, personally, my supervisor, Alexander Onysko, and my mentor, Ray Gibbs, are great scientists in many regards.

What are you afraid of?

I fear loss.

What are you looking forward to?

I am excited about spending time with my colleagues and with students; I am also looking forward to developing new projects, attending conferences, and teaching courses.

Degree programmes at the Department of English


Der Beitrag Immersed in a sea of words: Poetic metaphors erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

“O Canada” – Part 4

In her final post in the O’Canada blog series, Tamara Urach, student on the teacher training programme, reflects on this year’s student excursion to Canada and decides whether it’s an opportunity worth taking. 

Looking back – going back?

It has been a few weeks since we arrived back home from our trip to Canada, and the question now is – what remains? What remains are many memories – good ones, funny ones, awkward ones and also slightly unpleasant ones, but this is what makes an awesome journey.

We experienced many hilarious things, such as a woman dancing with her shoes to Paramore’s “Still into You” (in case you’re wondering, no, she wasn’t sober) as well as people trying to sell us their EP’s on the street. We were also the ones who acted weird at times, for example, when we visited the botanical garden in Montréal and sprung a question on a local lady about whether she knew the whereabouts of Mother Earth (a famous live sculpture at the gardens). We must have appeared to be religious missionaries. Some of us also went crazy about the French word “arrêt” on stop signs (I blame Guido).

Our memories are mainly funny and good ones. Some of us lost our sympathy for dinosaurs after our museum guide in Toronto tried to explain Canada’s nation building with dinosaurs. Far cuter animals were raccoons – some of us immediately fell in love with Dash (yes, he introduced himself to us), a sweet raccoon who begged us to give him some sweets on Mont Royal in Montréal. Most importantly, we discovered that Canadians are really friendly people (except from the one or other bus lady). Some of us got lost in the underground cities and on the Metro multiple times, but we were always helped by friendly locals.

Is it worth going on this excursion with the university?

The answer is short and simple – YES, definitely! The tour was worth the money and the experience was extraordinary. If you have the chance as a student to go on this excursion, go for it! We did not have to worry about anything as we were picked up from and dropped off at the airports and train stations, the hotels were booked, the staff were always very helpful, and we had a great programme that was well suited to the topic of the course “The Founding of Canada – Canada’s Development from Settlement to Nation.”

We learnt a great deal about the various aspects of Canada’s history, especially the First Nations and the Colonial era. Furthermore, because our programme mainly took place before midday, we were able to visit places that were interesting to us during the afternoons. Even our evenings were full of fun activities, such as going to the cinema, enjoying a good meal with friends and colleagues, or simply relaxing by the pool in our hotel.

One of the best parts of this excursion was that we were able to get to know many new people. Before the trip, some of us did not know each other at all, so it was a nice opportunity to meet new people and form new friendships. We got along very well with each other and our teachers René, who put so much effort into planning the excursion, thank you so much, and Natilly, who was willing to go on an adventure with this bunch of students and even sang karaoke with some of us.

So to end this series, here’s to a trip that none of us will ever forget, and hopefully, to another trip to Canada in the future, which we will consider taking part in again.

Text and photo by Tamara Urach

Der Beitrag “O Canada” – Part 4 erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

“OntoDebug” – a development of the Applied Informatics in Klagenfurt

ISBI News internship

Artificial intelligence systems — for instance, in biomedicine — are often based on knowledge bases, which store
expert knowledge in machine readable form. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that mistakes creep in while knowledge bases are created.
Such mistakes can have serious consequences, for example, if the system suggests a wrong medication for a patient. Finding such faults is, however, a very hard task, often just because of the sheer size of the knowledge bases.

For this reason, a team of researchers from the Department of Applied Informatics has developed the “OntoDebug” tool, which is used by people from all over the world. In an article that was recently published in the prestigious “Knowledge-Based Systems” journal, the usefulness of this tool could be scientifically validated by means of several user studies. In particular, it was shown that the effort neeed for the discovery of faults in knowledge bases is significantly reduced when OntoDebug is used.

For more information on OntoDebug, please check out here.

Der Beitrag “OntoDebug” – a development of the Applied Informatics in Klagenfurt erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

New cooperative FFG research project: AYUDO

The project AYUDO (Spanish: „I assist”) aims to support elderly or chronically ill people by digitizing their health data in order to be able to take early and regular measures to preserve or improve their health. The focus is on recording and supporting one’s own management of those factors that have a positive effect on physical and mental well-being and influence one’s own performance and resilience.

An integrated personal digital health record with health data from the medical and domestic environment currently does not exist in Austria.  AYUDO would like to realize exactly this and integrate already distributed stored digital health data, such as vital data, lifestyle data, wellbeing data or also medication, intake or findings data of an elderly or chronically ill person in the longer term in his/her ‘Personal Digital Health File’. This ‘collection’ should also be continuously supplemented as barrier-free as possible through new, intelligent services for personal health management.

Interoperability and data security play an important role in the architecture of the planned technical solution. Interfaces to user’s individual digital data sources should be flexibly adaptable. It should also be possible to supplement health data that is not digitally available as barrier-free as possible via suitable user interfaces.

In addition to conventional interaction models, natural language interaction models are also to be developed. The aim is to investigate the acceptance and security of these blended solutions for the AAL sector. End users will be strongly involved in development and evaluation activities.

AYUDO aims to increase the quality of life of elderly, chronically ill or multimorbid people by improving their self-assessment of their own state of health and self-prevention. If desired, access rights to AYUDO services can also be transferred to the social environment (care and nursing). We expect new findings and results in particular in the following areas:

  • use cases of a personal digital health record through new intelligent services;
  • application, acceptance and security of (blended) digital language assistance for AAL solutions;
  • helpful communication/visualization of health data for patients and caregivers;
  • flexible integration of individually already available, distributed, inhomogeneous, non-integrated and incomplete digitalized health data;

contact: Dr. Claudia Steinberger

project start: October 2019 – September 2022

project partners: AINF/AAU (coordination), ISYS/AAU, Groiss Informatics, FH Kärnten, Klinikum Klagenfurt


Der Beitrag New cooperative FFG research project: AYUDO erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

“O Canada” – Part 3

In her third post on this year’s excursion to Canada, Tamara Urach journals the group’s time in Montréal, the final stop on the students’ tour.

Montréal – Excusez-moi, parlez-vous Anglais?

Our third and last stop is probably the most French-infused location of North America – Montréal. We start our program on the day following our arrival on June 2, with our first point on the agenda being a two-hour historical group tour of Vieux-Montréal, where we also witness French-Canadians taking the French way of (love) life very seriously.

Other stops on our city tour lead us to the Stewart Museum and the Pointe-à-Callière Archaeological Museum, as well as the wonderful Château Ramezay, where the tour guides show us not only the artefacts in the museum, but also an awesome garden with plants used for different medicinal purposes. Another garden that some of us decide to visit is the Botanical Garden of Montréal, where the Chinese Garden and Native Garden amaze visitors everyday. Our question about where Mother Earth is (a beautiful living sculpture at the gardens, which is in fact, nowhere to be found), only earns amazed and confused faces.

Nature is also present on the Mont Royal, name giver of Montréal, which is more of a hill rather than a mountain (we might not want to tell the Québécoise). Nevertheless, the Mont Royal is a nice place for a relaxed afternoon, even some squirrels and a racoon begging for food cross our way both up and down the hill. Another highlight on the penultimate day is our group dinner at the Vieux-Port Steakhouse, where we apparently forget about money saving and decide to enjoy an extraordinary meal – French onion soup, steak, salmon fillet and delicious desserts such as crème brûlée and chocolate mousse cake are just some of the meals worth mentioning. After some drinks at a bar, we are all ready to go to sleep and rest before some individual activities on our last day, June 7. Some of us visit the Notre Dame Basilica in Montréal, others decide to make one last shopping trip at the Eaton Centre, before we gather for our trip to the airport at 3 p.m.

After a long flight back to Venice, we safely arrive at the airport and take our bus back to Austria. It’s always nice to come home to your loved ones. Canada and our trip there will for sure stay in our hearts, and suitcases full of souvenirs and minds full of fun memories will always remind us of this extraordinary trip.

Text and photos by Tamara Urach

Der Beitrag “O Canada” – Part 3 erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Language in politics: Why some act the strict father

USA | Foto: Maksym Yemelyanov/

The communication practised by politicians is highly calculated, supporting their aim to transport their own messages and to sway the voters. Applying a linguistic  perspective,  Marta Degani has studied speeches by US-American politicians, including election addresses by Barack Obama, but also by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“In the United States, political communication is conducted in a highly professionalized manner. Very little is left to chance”, Marta Degani (Department of English and American Studies) reports. Her research, along with additional studies by colleagues, has shown that numerous US-American politicians draw upon two “idealised” cognitive models in their language. These can be traced back to the linguist George Lakoff, who works with the model of the “strict father”  and  the “nurturant parent”. While the former model is based on authority, a hierarchical distribution of power, and a compelling leadership figure, the latter is characterised by equality, a horizontal distribution of power, and mutual solicitude. Depending on the socio-cultural setting in which someone grows up, she or he will favour one or the other model. “When politicians avail themselves of the most suitable respective model, when they use certain metaphors and concepts and tell matching “stories”, listeners are more likely to feel affected.”  Using this theory as a lens, Marta Degani analysed the election speeches held by Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign, and came to a clear conclusion: “The role of the “nurturant parent” corresponds to his political credo.”

The art of “storytelling” as a communicative strategy has an important part to play in political communication. Here, too, Barack Obama serves as a good example, according to Marta Degani. “He tells various stories: About himself, about his provenance, his family, but he also tells stories about ordinary  American citizens. In addition, there are stories that depict America as a great nation.” When asked whether European politicians are also adept at telling stories, Degani responds: “Yes, though maybe not quite as skilled as their peers in the United States.”

Political language is heavily influenced by the prevailing culture. This is the case on a regional level, but it is also true historically. Marta Degani’s current observations have detected a trend towards anti-intellectualism, which is emerging as a social phenomenon, and is occasionally rendered visible in the shape of certain types of political populism. She found interesting proof of this in the so-called “announcement speeches” held by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2015, when they announced that they were running as presidential candidates. Degani used “readability tests” to examine the complexity of these addresses. One of the results: “Donald Trump’s speech can be comprehended by a 10-year-old child.” Here is another example using figures: “12 percent of the words in Clinton’s address are complex, while in Trump’s case, only 7.7 percent of words are complex. Moreover, on average, Clinton’s sentences consist of 16 words, while Trumps are comprised of 10.”

Marta Degani. 2015. Framing the Rhetoric of a Leader. An Analysis of Obama´s Election Campaign Speeches. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Marta Degani. 2016. Endangered Intellect: A case study of Clinton vs Trump Campaign Discourse. Iperstoria. 8, 131-145. (


Der Beitrag Language in politics: Why some act the strict father erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

“O Canada” – Part 2

In the second post of a four-part series, student Tamara Urach journals about a recent student excursion to Canada. This week, it’s all about the group’s experiences in Ottawa.

Ottawa – Could you show me the way to the capital?

After spending five nights in Toronto, our trip continued to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Compared to Toronto, the city is rather small and does not immediately remind us of a typical capital city, but it is charming either way. Our program starts with the Canadian Museum of History on May 31st and continues with the Parliament, the Canadian War Museum and the National Gallery on the following days. One tour that is particuarly exciting is the Canadian War Museum, not only because our tour guide is so knowledgeable, but also because he presents the artefacts and information in a way that could make students whose least favourite topic is history, love history!

Ottawa is also a great place to explore today’s Canada on your own, although it is rather small. One place we visit several times is the Byward Market, where you not only find good food and a variety of different cuisines, but also souvenirs, and the possibility to go out in the evening. Others take the opportunity to marvel at the Rideau Canal and the characteristic “stairs” where the canal is lowered to the same level as the one of the Ottawa River. Although Ottawa is not what most of us had in our minds before arriving in Canada’s capital, it was a lovely city.

Text and photos by Tamara Urach

Der Beitrag “O Canada” – Part 2 erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI