The research activities of the Milan unit cover a broad range of themes and topics in the field of specialised communication, focusing in particular on methodological issues. Special attention is currently being devoted to identifying and developing analytical tools suited to the investigation of different varieties of text types and genres as a function of the specific research objectives to be attained. The theoretical framework within which the research activities are conducted draws on sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and argumentation theory, which are used in combination with corpus linguistics.
These analytical tools are applied to a variety of texts and genres within the fields of corporate and institutional communication, legal, political and scientific discourse, and journalism. In each of these domains, research starts from corpus collection and organisation, followed by the extraction of quantitative data which are then used for the linguistic and discursive analysis of the texts considered, in light also of contextual, pragmatic, social and cultural factors. In addition, wherever suitable, ethnographic techniques are also used in order to provide additional insights and confirm the results of linguistic and discursive analysis.
A cross-domain focus of investigation in recent years has been on genre variation in multimodal environments and in computer-mediated communication. Within this field, case-study-based empirical research has been accompanied by theory-building efforts aimed at adapting existing research methods and developing new ones suited to the study of the new media and of new modes of communication.
Among the research activities the Milan unit plans to carry out in the near future are the following:
- design and development of research models integrating corpus linguistics methods with qualitative ones (text linguistics, discourse analysis, genre analysis, argumentation theory);
- use of such research methods for the analysis of the corpora collected;
- organization of events for the dissemination of research results, and participation in conferences and workshops organised by the other units.