Hallo! — My name is Dimitrios Meletis; my pronouns are he/him. I’m an Austrian/Greek linguist working as a postdoc researcher at the University of Zurich. My main fields of expertise are grapholinguistics—the interdisciplinary study of writing—and (especially digital) literacy from sociolinguistic and metapragmatic perspectives.

click to listen to my name’s German (di’mi:tʀiɔs mɛ’lɛtɪs) or
Greek pronunciation (ði’mi:tɾɪs mɛ’lɛtɪs)

If you are interested in (a lot) more prose detail, I invite you to read on. You can also find a download link to my current CV in the menu at the top of this page.

After I had been raised bilingually (German/Greek) for the first years of my life and had then attended a bilingual elementary school, I developed a fervent interest in all things language. It doesn’t come as a surprise, thus, that in 2010, I started studying linguistics at the University of Graz (Austria). Although I instantly loved it, I wanted to complement the theoretical study of language(s) with delving deep into a new language myself, so I also took up studies in Russian, learning it from scratch. In 2013, I completed my two bachelor’s studies with a psycholinguistic thesis on the comma’s function in the reading process[1] and a cultural-analytical thesis on the Russian remake of the popular US sitcom How I Met Your Mother.[2] Given my strong wish to pursue an academic career, I continued with respective master’s studies, obtaining MA degrees in linguistics (in 2014) with a thesis on psycholinguistic issues relevant in graphetics,[3] the (structuralist) study of the materiality of writing, and in Russian (in 2016) with a study of the semantics of the Russian genitive of negation.[4] 

[1] The thesis reported on an experiment in which I—in no sophisticated statistical manner (in my defense, it was the first thesis I ever wrote)—compared reading durations of, on the one hand, correctly punctuated sentences and, on the other, sentences which lacked commas before syntactic parentheses. In many cases (especially when the removal of a comma resulted in a transitive verb being directly adjacent to a possible object) led to interesting garden path effects.

[2] The bottom line was that the Russian remake, whose title Kak ja vstretil vašu mamu is a literal translation of How I Met Your Mother, was an almost completely faithful copy of the original (which is actually common for Russian TV remakes), with the exception of a few culturally significant changes—such as turning a gay character straight. This thesis was fun to write not only because the topic of such cultural remakes is fascinating but also because I am very interested in television (and television studies), particularly TV criticism and the reception of TV. Something that I’d one day like to do more research on is the various forms of backlash that TV series receive for various narrative decisions, especially against the backdrop of the current cultural climate.

[3] In 2015, after being contacted by publisher Werner Hülsbusch, I decided to publish a modified version of the thesis. That was the right decision—I was extremely delighted to receive (personal) positive reactions from, among others, Hartmut Günther, who had been instrumental in founding graphetics as a linguistic subfield. The book was also reviewed by Andi Gredig [here] and is now openly accessible in the repository of the University of Graz [here].

[4] The thesis was published in 2017 in the book series Grazer Studien zur Slawistik, edited by the then-head of the University of Graz’ Slavic department. It is titled Sein oder des Nichtseins – Die Semantik des Genitivs der Negation im Russischen, where German ‘Nichtsein’ (a rather seldom-used noun for ‘not to be’) appears in the genitive, reflecting an attempt at linguist humor. Also, the topic of negation fascinated (and still fascinates) me so much that I later taught a course on negation, and I hope to do more research on it in the future.

Following my master’s thesis, the study of writing systems became my focus (and passion), so when I started my PhD studies in 2015, it was clear that I would choose a writing-related topic for my thesis. Combined with my interest for both theory and the ‘bigger picture’, this prompted my decision to analyze typologically diverse writing systems to carve out core concepts—such as the grapheme—in the (structural) analysis of writing and thereby sketch a descriptive grapholinguistics. I would then embed this descriptive theory in a functionalist framework that incorporates usage-based psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives. In October 2015, I started working as a predoc assistant at the linguistics department of the University of Graz and my research steadily gained pace: my thesis on graphetics was published as a monograph, and I was given the chance to write the overview article on graphetics as well as over thirty smaller entries on related lemmas for an encyclopedia on Grapholinguistics (as a part of the De Gruyter series Dictionaries of Linguistics and Communication Science).[5] In 2016, I attended my first Association for Written Language and Literacy (AWLL) workshop in Nijmegen, NL, where I got to present the concept of my PhD thesis, and I’ve been to each of the association’s workshops since.[6] Later that year, I organized a (multinational) workshop on grapholinguistic theory and methodology at the 42nd Austrian Linguistics Conference.[7] I also received my first-ever invitation as a speaker—for a talk at a symposium dedicated to the registers of digital writing at the University of Hamburg in June 2017. Of course, I happily accepted and my talk dealt with metapragmatic discourses (more specifically: the online dislike) surrounding the infamous typeface Comic Sans.[8] In 2017, I was awarded a 26-month fellowship to complete my PhD by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Other noteworthy highlights include three talks in 2017, 2019, and 2021 at the very open-minded and stimulating Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS) conferences in Canada (or online, in the case of the 2021 conference), which were special to me given not only that significant grapholinguistic presentations had been given at LACUS in the past[9] but also because I won prizes for all three talks I gave there.[10] Also, I embraced the opportunity to present a sociolinguistic/metapragmatic project I had started working on (and which is the basis for my postdoctoral project, cf. below), focusing on the practice of so-called orthographic shaming (i.e., pejoratively correcting others’ spelling mistakes publicly online, mostly in social media) as well as general attitudes on orthography[11] at the Sociolinguistics Symposium[12] in Auckland, NZ in 2018, at the International Pragmatics Conference in Hong Kong in 2019, and at the Prescriptivism Conference in Vigo, ES (online due to Covid-19) in 2021.

[5] The overview article can be found [here] (unfortunately, it is not open access) or downloaded as a PDF [here]. The encyclopedia is currently still in the works and new entries are continuously being added. The plan is (to my knowledge) to publish it also in print once it is completed, and the first dictionary in the series has now indeed been published in print. Also, as a side note: For the entries Graphetik, Kineto-Graphetik, and Phano-Graphetik, I won the Award of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Graz for a peer-reviewed publication on the basis of a Master’s thesis, cf. [here].

[6] The Nijmegen workshop was the 10th workshop in the AWLL workshop series; my contribution was published as an article in a special issue of Written Language and Literacy and can be found [here]; you can download a pre-print version below. (I am grateful that Peter T. Daniels, whose research I admire very much, gave me his comments on a draft of the paper.) AWLL11, where I talked about the definition of the grapheme, was held in Nagoya (JP) in August 2017, and AWLL12, where I discussed the relationship between speech and writing in models of writing, took place in Cambridge (UK) in March 2019. Finally, at AWLL13, which took place virtually and was hosted by the University of North Carolina (US) in October 2021, I gave a talk about graphotactics.

[7] Christa Dürscheid, author of Einführung in die Schriftlinguistik [‘Introduction to grapholinguistics’] was a keynote speaker; Martin Neef was also slated as a keynote presenter but, unfortunately, had to cancel. Other speakers included Anja Voeste and Christina Noack (cf. below for the full list). The workshop program can be viewed [here].

[8] In March 2020, a volume edited by Jannis Androutsopoulos and Florian Busch based on the symposium was published by De Gruyter; it can be found [here].

[9] Important grapholinguistic talks at LACUS include a programmatic talk by prolific writing researcher Peter T. Daniels in which he argues against a linguistic graphem(at)ics (1991), and a rebuttal by Earl M. Herrick (1994) as well as two more responses by Daniels and Herrick (both 1994). Also, David G. Lockwood (2001) contributed an interesting paper on the grapheme. A highlight of mine was meeting people who had actually been present in person when these important talks were given and who in some cases remembered details. In that vein, in July 2021, at the (virtual) LACUS Forum (hosted by the University of Toledo, Ohio), I gave a talk about grapholinguistic historiography and addressed, among others, the important dispute between Daniels and Herrick that took place at earlier LACUS conferences (cf. also the following footnote).

[10] In 2017, in Hamilton, I was the runner-up for a Presidents’ Prize for an Outstanding Paper given by a Jr. Scholar, and then, in 2019, in Waterloo (Ontario), and again in 2021, when the conference was held virtually (hosted by the University of Toledo) due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, I won first prize. The prize is decided on by past presidents of LACUS who attend the conference and is awarded to the best talk given by a junior scholar who has not yet completed his PhD or has not had his PhD for more than five years.

[11] In the course of this project, I collected 100 examples of what I termed orthographic shaming [from comments on posts posted to public pages on Facebook], i.e., what so-called spelling ‘nazis’ or grammar ‘nazis’ do when they publicly correct others’ spelling mistakes on the internet in a denigrating way, mostly to discredit the person making the mistakes to deflect from the actual topic that is being discussed. I also conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with people aged 18–29 about their opinions about this practice as well as their general attitudes towards orthography, orthographic mistakes and people who make them, and orthography reforms; I talked in more detail about these interviews at the 6th Prescriptivism Conference hosted by the University of Vigo (ES), which was held online (due to Covid-19). The interesting results of both the corpus analysis and the interviews (still unpublished but mentioned in The Nature of Writing, pp. 378–381) inspired me to pursue a sociolinguistic topic for my postdoc research project.

[12] Here’s a happy GIF of me at the Sociolinguistics Symposium, where I received great feedback after my talk and met wonderful people.

In 2019, I completed my PhD (which was supervised by Bernhard Hurch, University of Graz, and Christa Dürscheid, University of Zurich) and since April 2020, I hold a postdoc position at the University of Zurich (Department of German Studies). One of my main research interests continues to be the promotion and advancement of foundational grapholinguistic research and theory, and I have published (or submitted) work on basic but hitherto neglected concepts such as the grapheme,[13] allography,[14] and graphetics[15] (all open access) in the hope of shaping a more comparative grapholinguistics; articles on graphotactics and types of orthographic standardization are to follow. Also, in November 2020, a modified version of my dissertation was published as an open access monograph titled The Nature of Writing: A Theory of Grapholinguistics[16] in the new Grapholinguistics and Its Applications series[17] (published by Fluxus Éditions). The Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Graz awarded me a prize for it. In late 2020, I was invited to write a personal essay on the field of grapholinguistics and my own ‘journey’ in it for the proceedings of the conference Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century (June 2020, online). Although this was an intimidating task, it was also an exciting one—the resulting essay ‘On being a grapholinguist’ can be downloaded below.[18] Then, in early 2021, I was asked to write an accessible article (in German) about my PhD thesis for a magazine published by the University of Graz, and I must say I enjoyed writing for a broader, non-scientific audience a lot.[19] My next venture into science-to-public was a talk (in German) about core findings of my PhD thesis at the Scientifica in Zurich in September 2021; it can be watched here. Finally, my interdisciplinary and international grapholinguistic workshop Writing: System, use, ideology was held as part of the 46th Austrian Linguistics Conference (hosted by the University of Vienna) in December 2021. The workshop description as well as the program and the abstracts can be downloaded here.[20]

[13] My article on the grapheme was published in Writing Systems Research and can be found [here]. I am ecstatic that it has only been online since December 2019 and has already amassed almost 5,000 views, becoming the second most-read paper of the journal. It also turned out that the volume in which my article was published (vol. 11) was the last one, as Writing Systems Research was, unfortunately, ceased by Taylor & Francis.

[14] The paper in which I describe different types of allography at different (graphetic and graphematic) levels has been published in the OA journal Open Linguistics published by De Gruyter; it can be found [here].

[15] The monograph on graphetics as well as the encyclopedia article on it were published in German. In my first English publication on the topic, I give a definition of the field and an overview of its core concepts and ideas. It is an article that was accepted in 2020 (and will finally be published in 2022 in the much-delayed 2020 issue) by Scripta—an OA journal focusing on writing systems, previously co-edited by Zev Handel and published by the Korean Hunmin jeongeum Society, which also organizes international and domestic (i.e., held in South Korea) conferences on grapholinguistics every year, cf. [here].

[16] The book can be downloaded below, but also at the official website [here]. Also, it can be purchased as a paperback book on Amazon [here] (this links to the German version of Amazon; it can also be bought at other regional versions of Amazon). Here is a picture of me being happy while holding it for the first time: Me happily holding my book.

[17] The series can be found [here].

[18] The essay’s abstract reads: In this essay, I discuss the challenges of (engaging in) grapholinguistics, a young field that focuses on writing, a topic mostly marginalized in ‘mainstream’ linguistics to this day. Issues that are raised include the lack of writing-related classes in linguistic study programs, institutionalization (e.g. departments or chairs for grapholinguistics), and pertinent publication and presentation outlets. Furthermore, the essay highlights problems caused by the interdisciplinarity of grapholinguistics, including linguistic, theoretical, methodological, and terminological boundaries that must be crossed. These issues are partially addressed through a personal lens, i.e. my own ‘journey’ in the field thus far. This allows me to speak from (some) experience not only about the risks of focusing on a topic at the periphery of many disciplines and some of the setbacks this entails but also about my motivation behind proposing a (sketch of a) theory of writing in my PhD thesis that—based on linguistic Naturalness Theory—aims to offer a unified descriptive and explanatory framework for studying writing systems and writing in general. It also gives me a chance to argue that writing, which can be studied with many of the concepts firmly established in other fields of linguistics (as well as additional writing-specific concepts), is central to every language that is spoken, signed and written in literate language communities and should therefore be an integral rather than an optional part of linguistic theories and paradigms in general. Essentially, this essay highlights why doing research in grapholinguistics should be embraced rather than justified.

[19] The article is titled Warum ist Schrift so, wie sie ist? (‘Why is writing the way it is?’) and was published in the spring 2021 volume of Gewitter, a magazine published by the students’ representation of the humanities at the University of Graz. The article can be downloaded [here].

[20] The workshop’s speakers were Florian Busch, Florian Coulmas, Peter T. Daniels, Zohar Eviatar, Amalia E. Gnanadesikan, Stefan Hartmann, Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo, Hye K. Pae, Jürgen Spitzmüller, Rebecca Treiman, Heather Winskel, and yours truly.

The postdoc project I had originally planned and submitted for funding grew somewhat organically out of my previous metapragmatic/sociolinguistic research on discourses surrounding Comic Sans, orthographic shaming, and typographic mimicry and is located at the interface between grapholinguistics and sociolinguistics/pragmatics:[21] its main question was how the structure of different writing systems (such as Norwegian and Japanese) as well as specific sociolinguistic embeddings and conditions of literacy influence categories of normativity that users employ to evaluate not only writing but language in general. In a nutshell: whether there is an orthographic relativity to linguistic normativity. However, as of now, my plans have somewhat shifted from working on this specific topic towards focusing on a project that investigates a broader range of—mostly digital—literacy practices; it is tentatively titled Digital literacy, normativity, and self-prescriptivism.[22] Some of my next smaller projects within the broad scope of grapholinguistics will be articles on graphotactics, types of orthographic standardization, and grapholinguistic historiography. Also, the editors of the Oxford Handbook of Iconicity in Language have invited me to write a paper on iconicity in alphabetic writing systems, which I am very excited about. Another major current project worth mentioning is a book I wrote together with Christa Dürscheid; it is an overview of grapholinguistics titled Writing Systems and Their Use and was published (open access) in the series Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs at De Gruyter; you can download it here. Also together with Christa Dürscheid, I was invited to present a keynote at LautSchriftSprache (LSS) 5, which will be held in Kristiansand (Norway) in October 2022. I was also invited by the editors of the new handbook series Handbooks of Germanic Linguistics to edit the volume on writing systems, which of course I gladly accepted! Martin Evertz-Rittich and Rebecca Treiman accepted my invitation to come on board as co-editors, so together we will be working on the Handbook of Germanic Writing Systems. Finally, I am also currently working on another edited volume (in German) on variation in literacy practices with Florian Busch.

[21] Another sociolinguistic/socio-semiotic project that I worked on is a chapter that Anja Voeste and Ursula Rautenberg invited me to write for their handbook on typography, which consists of overview chapters and shorter corresponding case studies. I wrote a case study on typographic mimicry (i.e., when a typeface in a script such as Roman script is made to visually resemble a foreign script such as Arabic script). It complements Jürgen Spitzmüller’s overview article on typography as a social practice. An extended version—in English—was also published as an open access article in Social Semiotics and can be found [here].

[22] The project I had originally planned was titled The written language bias in practice: A comparative sociolinguistic study of literacy’s effects on normative attitudes about language (which is a title that is still fitting for part of my new, broader project). I submitted a proposal for a grant (by the Austrian Academy of Sciences) which was very favorably reviewed by two anonymous reviewers but, alas, for budgetary reasons, wasn’t funded.

Other, more personal facts about me include that I love to travel; in that vein, I am incredibly grateful that my positions at universities have allowed me to go to conferences and visit places that for financial reasons I would probably have never had the chance to visit.[23] With respect to everyday life, I live and work in my favorite cities: Vienna and Zurich.[24] I often look for outlets for my creativity (most would say I’m very creative). In fact, I had originally wanted to study screenwriting and directing at the Film Academy Vienna (at which Academy Award-winning director Michael Haneke has taught, among others); however, unfortunately, also for financial reasons, I could not move to Vienna at the time and decided to study linguistics in Graz instead (the rest is history, cf. above). I still dabble in screenwriting (or other forms of creative writing) now and then,[25] but most of the time, I am actively consuming films and TV series—as in engaging in criticism and discussion and observing ongoing discourses. My theoretical interest in the materiality of writing also translates to practice, so it comes as no surprise that I am fascinated by typography and calligraphy and engage in (amateur) design (of posters, booklets, and, obviously, powerpoint slides, cf. below). Also, ever since attending a bookbinding workshop, I will occasionally be found binding my own notebooks—which one could say is my personal take on meditation. Since 2019, I have been undertaking a program of advanced training to become a writing consultant (specialized in academic writing); I have already organized workshops and offered one-on-one consultations at the Writing Center of the University of Graz and must say: it feels great to put the theoretical knowledge of (and of course the practical experience with) academic writing to use by means of supporting people in the writing process. What more? I am sharing my life with my partner, who is a speech and language therapist (a good fit for a linguist—that was a coincidence, though), and two Russian blue cats named Mila and Cookie[26] (I am a cat fan through and through).[27] Finally, if you ever meet me at a conference, chances are I will be wearing a shirt with small animal print.[28]

[23] My favorite travel destinations so far have been Toronto and Tokyo (the alliteration is incidental, but cool nonetheless).

[24] These two cities, incidentally, have topped best quality of life-lists for years, cf. [here].

[25] I actually wrote (and starred in) two short films when I was 16 and 17 and participated in a film program for teenagers and young adults.

[26] Here is a photo of the two sisters (yes, I am that guy who has photo of his cats on his semi-professional website): Me happily holding my book.

[27] I even thanked my cats in the acknowledgments of my dissertation: “Lastly, I want to thank my three cats. (Yes, I am serious.) It is undeniable that at several stages of my writing process, they had to listen to most of my ramblings about graphemes, naturalness, etc. (and could not even complain to anyone about it). If certain studies are accurate, they have elongated my life by preventing cardiovascular diseases which are very likely a common side-effect of an academic lifestyle. Thank you for purring.” (And yes, I even cited a study on cardiovascular benefits of cats.)

[28] It will likely be a shirt with small foxes, penguins, birds, or—my favorite—raccoons.


My main research interest is the interdisciplinary study of aspects of writing and literacy—which I term grapholinguistics. Within that field, in my pre-doc research, I focused on theory and comparison/typology. Accordingly, in my dissertation, one core goal was to define the concepts central in describing writing—such as grapheme and allography—in broad terms, aiming to make them applicable to all types of writing systems. These, in turn, can be more straightforwardly compared. The second and paramount goal, then, was to elevate the hitherto descriptive theory to an explanatory level, focusing not on how writing systems are structured but why they have developed as they have. This question can, in my opinion, only be answered in a functionalist framework and with the help of extralinguistic external evidence. The interaction between humans and writing is crucial: humans have invented writing, and their continuous use shapes it. In this vein, I have described four ‘fits’ that can be used to describe writing systems and explain the genesis of their structures: the systematic fit (how systematic are the relationships between the units of a writing system?), the linguistic fit (how well does a writing system fit its language?), the processing fit (how well does a writing system fit human processing needs—both physiological and cognitive?), and the sociocultural fit (how well does a writing system suit our sociocommunicative needs and a given sociocultural setting?). Together, comparative grapholinguistic concepts such as grapheme, allography, graphotactics, etc. and these four fits combine to constitute a first rough sketch of an explanatory grapholinguistic theory.

In the following, you will find an exhaustive list of my publications including—when possible—a download link to a full text. Below that is a list of my talks and poster presentations which you can download by clicking on the thumbnails (all in PDF format).



2022. (with Christa Dürscheid) Writing systems and their use. An overview of grapholinguistics (= Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs; 369). Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110757835. [Publisher] [PDF]

What started out as an idea to translate Christa Dürscheid’s influential German textbook became something entirely new that has benefitted from two different perspectives and generations.

2020. The nature of writing. A theory of grapholinguistics (= Grapholinguistics and Its Applications; 3). Brest: Fluxus Editions. DOI: 10.36824/2020-meletis. [Publisher] [PDF]

This is a heavily modified version of my 2019 PhD thesis Naturalness in scripts and writing systems: Outlining a Natural Grapholinguistics, which can be downloaded [here]. In late 2021, I was awarded a prize by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Graz for it (cf. [here]).

2017. Sein oder des Nichtseins: Die Semantik des Genitivs der Negation im Russischen (= Grazer Studien zur Slawistik; 8). Hamburg: Dr. Kovač. [Publisher]

This is a modified version of my eponymous 2016 master’s thesis, which can be downloaded [here].

2015. Graphetik: Form und Materialität von Schrift (= Typo|Druck). Glückstadt: Werner Hülsbusch. [OA Repository] [PDF]

This is a modified version of my 2014 master’s thesis Psycholinguistische Aspekte der Graphetik: Die Relevanz der Form und Materialität von Schrift. A review of it by Andi Gredig was published in Zeitschrift für Rezensionen zur germanistischen Sprachwissenschaft 8.1-2: 119-123 (2016). DOI: 10.1515/zrs-2016-0022

Edited volumes

in preparation. (with Martin Evertz-Rittich and Rebecca Treiman) Handbook of Germanic Writing Systems (= Handbooks of Germanic Linguistics). Boston, Berlin: De Gruyter.

in preparation. (with Florian Busch) Schreiben in Kontexten: Variation in schriftlichen Praktiken.

Articles (peer-reviewed)

accepted (invited). Phonographic writing systems. In Olga C. M. Fischer, Pamela Perniss & Kimi Akita (eds.), Handbook of iconicity in language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

accepted. There had already been a structural graphemics. Revisiting and contextualizing a grapholinguistic dispute. LACUS Forum 47.

in press. Universality and diversity in writing systems. LACUS Forum 46. 

2021. (With Terry Joyce.) Alternative criteria for writing system typology. Cross-linguistic observations from the German and Japanese writing systems. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 40.3 (Special Issue): 257–277. DOI: 10.1515/zfs-2021-2030. [Publisher]  [PDF]

2021. ‘Is your font racist?’ Metapragmatic online discourses on the use of typographic mimicry and its appropriateness. Social Semiotics Online First. DOI: 10.1080/10350330.2021.1989296. [Publisher]  [PDF]

2020. Reintroducing graphetics: The study of the materiality of writing. Scripta 11: 91–131. 

2020. Types of allography. Open Linguistics 6: 249–266. DOI: 10.1515/opli-2020-0006. [Publisher]  [PDF]

2019. The grapheme as a universal basic unit of writing. Writing Systems Research 11.1: 26–49. DOI: 10.1080/17586801.2019.1697412. [Publisher]  [PDF]

2018. What is natural in writing? Prolegomena to a Natural Grapholinguistics. Written Language & Literacy 21.1: 52–88. DOI: 10.1075/wll.00010.mel. [Publisher]  [Preprint PDF]

2017. Fearing the Joys of Old Age: Contradictory Discourses of Aging in Adelaida Gercyk’s On Old Age. In Dagmar-Gramshammer-Hohl (ed.), Aging in Slavic Literatures (= Aging Studies; XI), 203–222. Bielefeld: transcript. DOI: 10.14361/9783839432211-011. [Publisher]  [PDF]

Considering my other linguistic publications, this venture into literary studies might seem like an outlier. I was invited by Dagmar Gramshammer-Hohl of the University of Graz, who had also supervised my cultural-analytical BA thesis at the end of my Russian studies, to turn a seminar paper I had written into a chapter of a volume she edited, which I gladly did, as the topic (aging and old age in literature) is indeed fascinating.


2022. (invited). Typographische Mimikry. In Ursula Rautenberg & Anja Voeste (eds.), Typographie: Disziplinäre Zugänge – Fachliche Konzeptionierungen – Forschungsfragen und Projekte, 68–79. Stuttgart: Hiersemann.

2021. On being a grapholinguist. In Yannis Haralambous (ed.), Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century. June 17–19, 2020. Proceedings, Part I (= Grapholinguistics and Its Applications; 4), 47–62. Brest: Fluxus Éditions. DOI: 10.36824/2020-graf-mele. [Publisher] [PDF]

2020. Warum hassen alle Comic Sans? Metapragmatische Onlinediskurse zu einer typographischen Hassliebe. In Jannis Androutsopoulos/Florian Busch (eds.), Register des Graphischen: Variation, Praktiken, Reflexion, 253–284. Boston, Berlin: De Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110673241-010. [Publisher] [PDF]

2019. (With Christa Dürscheid.) Emojis: A grapholinguistic approach. In Yannis Haralambous (ed.), Graphemics in the 21st Century. Brest, June 13–15, 2018. Proceedings (= Grapholinguistics and Its Applications; 1), 167–183. Brest: Fluxus Éditions. DOI: 10.36824/2018-graf-duer. [Publisher] [PDF]

2017. Der Genitiv der Negation im Russischen: Ein konzises semantisches Profil. In Anna Weigl et al. (eds.), Junge Slavistik im Dialog VI. Beiträge zur XI. Slavistischen Studentenkonferenz (= Studien zur Slavistik; 40), 195–206. Hamburg: Dr. Kovač. [PDF]

Encyclopedia entries

2015-2017. Single articles: Apex [PDF] · Balken [PDF] · Bogen [PDF] · Bogenverbindung [PDF] · Buchstabenform [PDF] · Buchstabenmorphologie [PDF] · Duktus [PDF] · Elementarform [PDF] · graphisches Kontinuum [PDF] · Graphonomie [PDF] · Grundform [PDF] · Kineto-Graphetik [PDF] · Kurvilinearität [PDF] · kurzer Buchstabe [PDF] · langer Buchstabe [PDF] · Linearität [PDF] · Neigungswinkel [PDF] · Phano-Graphetik [PDF] · Rektangularisierung [PDF] · Rektilinearität [PDF] · Schleife [PDF] · schrägovaler Stil [PDF] · Schreibraum [PDF] · Serife [PDF] · Signographie [PDF] · Skriptgraphetik [PDF] · Strich [PDF] · Symmetrisierung [PDF] · Vertex [PDF] · Vertikalitätsprinzip [PDF] · Zeichenform [PDF]. In Martin Neef/Said Sahel/Rüdiger Weingarten (eds.): Schriftlinguistik/Grapholinguistics (= Wörterbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft; 5). Boston, Berlin: De Gruyter.

2015. Overview article: Graphetik. In Martin Neef/Said Sahel/Rüdiger Weingarten (eds.): Schriftlinguistik/Grapholinguistics (= Wörterbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft; 5). Boston, Berlin: De Gruyter. [PDF]


2022. A paradigm shift in the study of early Greek writing – Review of Natalia Elvira Astoreca. 2021. Early Greek Alphabetic Writing. A Linguistic Approach (= Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems; 5). The Classical Review. DOI: 10.1017/S0009840X22000725. [Publisher]

2021. Review of Wolfgang Steinig/Karl Heinz Ramers. 2020. Orthografie (= LinguS: Linguistik und Schule; 7). Zeitschrift für Rezensionen zur germanistischen Sprachwissenschaft 13.1–2: 52–57. DOI: 10.1515/zrs-2021-2067. [Publisher] [PDF]

2018. Review of Nadine Schimmel-Fijalkowytsch. 2018. Diskurse zur Normierung und Reform der deutschen Rechtschreibung. Eine Analyse von Diskursen zur Rechtschreibreform unter soziolinguistischer und textlinguistischer Perspektive (= Studien zur deutschen Sprache; 75). LINGUIST List 29.4445. [Publisher] [PDF]

2017. Review of Ulrike Domahs/Beatrice Primus (Hg). 2016. Handbuch Laut, Gebärde, Buchstabe (= Handbücher Sprachwissen; 2). Zeitschrift für Rezensionen zur germanistischen Sprachwissenschaft 9.1–2: 109–115. DOI: 10.1515/zrs-2017-0019. [Publisher] [PDF]

2016. Review of Tilo Reißig. 2015. Typographie und Grammatik. Untersuchung zum Verhältnis von Syntax und Raum. Zeitschrift für Rezensionen zur germanistischen Sprachwissenschaft 8.1–2: 147–152. DOI: 10.1515/zrs-2016-0027. [Publisher] [PDF]

Conference activity

Organized workshops

Writing: System, use, ideology (Workshop at the 46th Austrian Linguistics Conference, December 9–10, 2021, University of Vienna [virtual], Austria) [Description, Program, and Abstracts]

Featuring talks from: Florian Busch, Florian Coulmas, Peter T. Daniels, Zohar Eviatar, Amalia E. Gnanadesikan, Stefan Hartmann, Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo, Hye K. Pae, Jürgen Spitzmüller, Rebecca Treiman, Heather Winskel, and myself.

Theorien und Methoden in der Schriftlinguistik (Workshop der 42. Österreichischen Linguistiktagung, 18.–19.11.2016, Universität Graz, Österreich) [Program] [Abstracts]

Featuring talks from: Dörte Borchers, Florian Busch, Stefanie Dipper, Christa Dürscheid, Konstanze Edtstadler, Agnes Kim, Birgit Mesch, Christina Noack, Simon Pickl, Nikolas Ruge, Anja Voeste, Sandra Waldenberger, and myself.


06/2022. Types of orthographic standardization: A sociolinguistic approach (Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century 2022, Télécom Paris, Palaiseau, France)

You can watch the recorded talk [here].

03/2022. How visual stereotypes work: The structure and sociosemiotics of typographic mimicry (Multilingual Writing, University of Bern, Switzerland, virtual)

12/2021. Structural, psycholinguistic, and sociolinguistic typologies of writing (46. Österreichische Linguistiktagung, Workshop ‘Writing: System, Use, Ideology’, University of Vienna, Austria, virtual)

10/2021. Graphotactics, spatiality, and why writing should be studied independently of speech (13th International Workshop of the Association of Written Language and Literacy, University of North Carolina, USA, virtual due to Covid-19)

You can watch the recorded talk [here].

09/2021. Literacy and self-prescriptivism: A metapragmatic discourse analysis of attitudes towards orthographic regulation (6th Prescriptivism Conference: Modelling Prescriptivism – Language, Literature, and Speech Communities, Universidade de Vigo, Spain, virtual due to Covid-19)

09/2021. Wie der Mensch die Schrift prägt (Scientifica 2021, ETH Zürich/Universität Zürich, Switzerland)

You can watch the recorded talk [here].

07/2021. Grapholinguistic wars: How three arguments reflect an emerging discipline’s core questions (LACUS Forum 47, University of Toledo, USA, virtual due to Covid-19)

For this talk, I won the Presidents’ Prize for an Outstanding Paper given by a Jr. Scholar awarded by the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States [again… meaning I won twice back-to-back].

06/2020. Is the syllable universally the most salient unit of writing? (Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century—From graphemes to knowledge, CNRS, Paris, France, virtual due to Covid-19)

You can watch the recorded talk [here].

03/2020. (With Terry Joyce.) The ‘evolution’ of writing systems in terms of typological and other criteria: Crosslinguistic observations from the German and Japanese writing systems (42. DGfS-Jahrestagung, Arbeitsgruppe 5: The Evolution of Writing Systems: Empirical and Cross-linguistic Approaches, Universität Hamburg, Germany)

01/2020. Die neue Schriftlinguistik? Von reiner Deskription zur erklärenden Schrifttheorie (Linguistisches Kolloquium, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria)

12/2019. Warum sind Schriftsysteme wie sie sind? Natürliche Schriftlinguistik als erklärende Schrifttheorie (45. Österreichische Linguistiktagung, Universität Salzburg, Austria)

10/2019. Schrift/Linguistik – Eine Theorie zwischen interdisziplinärer Schriftforschung und deskriptiver Linguistik (Deutsches Seminar, Universität Zürich, Switzerland)

07/2019. Comparing the incomparable: Introducing Natural Graphematics and categories for the comparison of diverse writing systems (LACUS Forum 46, University of Waterloo, Canada)

For this talk, I won the Presidents’ Prize for an Outstanding Paper given by a Jr. Scholar awarded by the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States.

06/2019. The pragmatics of orthographic shaming: Written speech acts and the negotiation of power, normativity, and discussion culture (16th International Pragmatics Conference, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

03/2019. How we model writing – The relationship between language, speech, and writing (12th International Workshop of the Association of Written Language and Literacy, University of Cambridge, UK)

06/2018. Orthographic shaming – Attitudes towards orthography and orthographic mistakes in German (22nd Sociolinguistics Symposium, University of Auckland, New Zealand)

You can watch the recorded talk [here].

05/2018. Schrifttheorie und Schriftpraxis: vom Graphem zu orthographic shaming (Linguistisches Kolloquium, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria)

12/2017. „Schreib, wie es vorgegeben ist“ – Das Konzept Orthographie in den Schriftsystemen der Welt (43. Österreichische Linguistiktagung, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria)

11/2017. Die Natürlichkeit des deutschen Schriftsystems (Deutsches Seminar, Universität Zürich, Switzerland)

08/2017. What is a grapheme? Do we need it? Re-evaluating one of grapholinguistics’ core notions (11th International Workshop of the Association of Written Language and Literacy, Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan)

08/2017. Universality and diversity in writing systems: what can a universal model of writing systems achieve? (LACUS Forum 44, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)

For this talk, I won the Presidents’ Pre-Doctoral Commendation Prize for an Outstanding Paper given by a Jr. Scholar awarded by the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States.

06/2017. invited: Warum hassen alle Comic Sans? Wie die Materialität von Schrift ihre Verwendung einschränkt (Symposium Register des digitalen Schreibens, Universität Hamburg, Germany)

11/2016. Kategorien einer visuellen Typologie von Schriften (42. Österreichische Linguistiktagung, Workshop ‘Theorien und Methoden der Schriftlinguistik’, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria)

09/2016. Zur Materialität von Schrift: Zentrale Fragen der Graphetik (Deutsches Seminar, Universität Zürich, Switzerland)

06/2016. „Every language gets the writing system it deserves“: Probleme der Schrifttypologie (Linguistisches Kolloquium, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria)

05/2016. Naturalness of scripts and writing systems: Prolegomena to a Natural Grapholinguistics (10th International Workshop of the Association of Written Language and Literacy, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands)

04/2016. Sein oder des Nichtseins: Die Semantik des Genitivs der Negation (XI. Internationale Slavistische Konferenz, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany)


04/2021. Types of allography: Conceptualizing structural variation in writing at the material and linguistic levels (7th Young Linguists’ Meeting in Poznań: Rethinking language and identity in the multilingual world, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland; held online due to Covid-19)

09/2018. (Re)Introducing graphetics. The materiality of writing, its questions, and its problems (Workshop Writing conventions and pragmatic perspectives, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)

06/2017. Die Natürlichkeit von Schriften und Schriftsystemen: Entwurf einer Natürlichen Schriftlinguistik (Stipendienverleihung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Austria)

Teaching and supervising

In 2020, due to Covid-19, all my classes (such as this one on writing system typology) took place online.

Internet communication (with Christa Dürscheid, University of Zurich), taught 2021

In this course, which I taught together with Christa Dürscheid, we address communication on the internet in general and look at different media, their features, and practices in which users engage when using them: email and text chat, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Clubhouse, and Greenroom, to mention some. In this context, we also introduce methods of studying digital data in linguistics. Furthermore, specific timely topics of digital communication are treated such as communication with roboters and language assistants, memes, grammar nazis, shitstorms and cancel culture, and fake news and fact-checking.

Introduction to synchronic linguistics (University of Zurich), taught in 2020, 2021

In this introductory course, after explaining what linguistics is (and what it is not), I am teaching students the basics of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and—because it’s me who is teaching it, after all—grapholinguistics, especially graphematics and orthography. The focus is on German (because I am teaching it at the Department of German Studies), but I also give many examples from other languages.

The German writing system from a contrastive perspective (University of Zurich), taught 2020

Perspectives of grapholinguistics (University of Graz), taught 2017

In these seminars, I give an overview over the core topics of grapholinguistics. I introduce them focusing on the German writing system, which also serves as a basis for comparisons with other systems. The topics covered are the relationship of writing to speech and language, graphetics, graphematics, orthography, typology (phonography, morphography), the psycholinguistics of reading and writing, literacy acquisition and instruction, and the sociolinguistics of writing.

Grammatical theory and typology: Negation (University of Graz), taught 2019/20

In this seminar, I cover several different facets of negation: standard negation (in declarative sentences), negation in imperatives and existential sentences, negative concord and double negation, the acquisition and processing of negation, and the pragmatics of negation.


If you have questions, comments, or would like to collaborate, please feel free to e-mail me at