Linguist Goldberg and media scholar Levin first became Einstein Visiting Fellows in November 2010,with groups at Freie Universität Berlin, one of Germany's leading research institutions that were granted excellence status within the country's Excellence Initiative.
Goldberg’s group is part of the university’s Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotions”; Levin collaborates with the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, both institutions founded within the German Excellence Initiative to promote high-quality research. Not only do Goldberg and Levin's fellowships strengthen the ties between Princeton and Berlin, they have also triggered a new collaboration between the two Einstein Visiting Fellows, the Princeton-based “Aesthetics, Language and Media” initiative – an interdisciplinary cooperation that will transcend the duration of their fellowships.
Goldberg’s work within the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion” encompasses work onembodied cognition and language acquisition. In collaboration with her Berlin-based postdoctoral Fellow, Francesca Citron, and Professor Friedemann Pulvermüller of Freie Universität, she is pursuing both behavioral and neural methods with the aim of better understanding traditional questions such as: What is the nature of meaning? And how are the complexities of language learned?
"Belonging to a rather small group of linguists who combine innovative theoretical development in acore area of linguistics with hands-on methodological expertise in psycholinguistic research, Professor Goldberg has proven to be exceptionally well suited to the research profile of our Cluster,” says Professor Hermann Kappelhoff, director of “Languages of Emotion“.
Levin’s multifaceted theoretical and methodological expertise is also what makes him an inspiration for the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School. The project he is pursuing in Berlin explores a largely forgotten chapter of media history: the acoustic letter. The practice of recording spoken letters on small gramophone records, which would then be sent through the mail, was very widespread in the first half of the twentieth century throughout Europe and the Americas. Curiously overlooked by media studies, the phenomenon known as “Phonopost” is a literal precursor of today’s voice mail.
The digital research archive of gramophonic letters that Levin is building together with his team, the first ever of its kind, is making it possible to explore, for example, what happens to the form of the letter when it is spoken rather than written.“
With the help of the Einstein Foundation I could put together at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School an interdisciplinary research group with extremely talented and experienced media scholars,” says Levin. “Together we are excavating the media archaeology of home recording, i.e. the moment when for the first time on a large scale people could hear themselves as others heard them.” An exhibition, an international conference and a monograph on the acoustic letter are to follow.
The Einstein Foundation was founded in 2009 by the State of Berlin to support excellent academic personalities and projects in the German capital.