Dr Iris Bachmann

MA DPhil (J.W. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
Research Fellow in Portuguese Linguistics


I conduct research on Iberoromance languages including Creole languages. My focus is on language in its concrete historical and social manifestations with special expertise in language practices in the Americas and in the Caribbean.

I have published widely on the history of Creole Studies and Papiamentu, a creole language spoken in the ABC islands. I explore perceptions of creoles in the nineteenth and twentieth century by linguists and non-linguistics and how they changed from ‘português perturbado’ or ‘broken English’ to full-fledged languages. In my monograph on Creole Studies (2005), I argue that this change takes place through the shift from text-based philological studies to a focus on natural spoken language.

This change in perception went hand in hand with major changes in communicative practices. Creoles emerged as objects of linguistic interest – together with dialects and colonial varieties of European languages – precisely at a time when increasing education for the poor started a slow process of language shift towards the acquisition of national standard languages. The resulting contact between standard languages and vernaculars, spoken and written language has only recently made a return to linguists’ research agendas and I explore this aspect more fully in my contribution to the Cambridge History of Romance Languages (2013).

The insights into material conditions of language practices and how they shape the perception of speakers and linguists, led to my British Academy-funded research project on language and mediality ‘Transnational Portuguese: Language, Space and Media’. I investigated a corpus of different genres of Brazilian TV (national and diaspora TV) to analyse how language on TV is shaped by the specific conditions of an audio-visual medium directed at national and transnational audiences. This resulted in publications on language ideologies and perceptions of language contact and multilingualism on TV (2008, 2009, 2011) as well as a microanalysis of pronoun loss and anaphoric reference, which shows that language norms, speakers’ attitudes and mediality together account for a specific realisation of linguistic resources (2011).

I have recently turned my interest to the auditory aspects of language with a project tentatively titled ‘Archive(d) Voices: Changing Perceptions of Language in the Age of Recording’. Looking at the era of early twentieth century radio and twenty-first century digital media as periods of change in the use of recorded voice, I interrogate medial aspects, which have long been neglected in language studies during centuries of reliance on written text.



I held my first academic position at my alma mater J.W. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and until 2015 I was Lecturer in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Manchester. I have received numerous invitations from leading research institutions to lecture and to teach, notably at Oxford and Cambridge, at NYU and Duke University in the US, at USP (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil) and Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina) in South America and at Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut  http://www.iai.spk-berlin.de/en/home.html in Germany. Educating the next generation of modern language students in a spirit of critical research and with a passionate interest in Iberoromance languages and cultures is to me a great privilege of our profession. 




In preparation: Creoles becoming Languages: A History of Creole Studies (London: Palgrave Macmillan) [revised and expanded edition of my German book (2005)].

Die Sprachwerdung des Kreolischen. Eine diskursanalytische Untersuchung am Beispiel des Papiamentu (Tübingen: Narr, 2005)

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

‘Los intercambios científicos en la lingüística: Desplazamientos geográficos e intelectuales’, Las ciencias en la formación de la nación en América Latina (1810-1925). Edited by Sandra Carreras and Katja Carrillo (Frankfurt/Madrid: Vervuert/Iberoamericana, 2014), 249-269 [Read online]

‘Creoles’, Cambridge History of the Romance Languages (CHRL). Vol. 2. Contexts. Edited by Martin Maiden, J.C. Smith and Adam Ledgeway (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 400-44 [Read online]

‘Norm and variation on Brazilian TV evening news programmes: the case of third-person anaphoric reference’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 88, 2011, 1-2 [Read online]

‘A Gente é Latino: The Making of New Cultural Spaces in Brazilian Diaspora TV’, Spanish at Work. Edited by Nuria Lorenzo-Dus (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 50-66 [Read online]

‘Planeta Brasil: language practices and the construction of space in Brazilian TV abroad’, Language ideologies and media discourse: Texts, Practices, Policies. Edited by Sally Johnson and Tommaso M. Milani (London: Continuum, 2010), 81-100

‘El Papiamentu en los estudios criollos: una topografía de la concepción del lenguaje’, Revista Internacional de Lingüística Iberoamericana 13, 2009, 215-32

‘Planeta Brasil: prácticas de lenguaje y la construcción del espacio en la televisión brasilera en el extranjero’, Signo y Seña 20, 2008, 107-125. [Revised Spanish version of book chapter in Johnson and Milani 2010]

‘Negertaaltje or Volkstaal: The Papiamentu Language at the Crossroads of Philology, Folklore and Anthropology’, Indiana 24, 2007, 87-105 [Read online]

‘Las lenguas criollas en la historia de la lingüística: crónica desde los márgenes’, Sprachgeschichten und Sprachgeschichtsschreibung. Edited by Wulf Oesterreicher & Jochen Hafner (Tübingen: Narr, 2007), 313-326

‘Colonial Exchange: Creole Languages between Missionary Linguistics and Romance Philology’, Papia. Revista Brasileira de Estudos Crioulos e similares 16, 2006, 81-95. [Read online]

‘Natürlich Sprache: Jacques Derrida und Leo Spitzer über Muttersprache’ [on the concept of mother tongue], Lateinamerika: Orte und Ordnungen des Wissens. Festschrift für Birgit Scharlau. Edited by Sabine Hofman & Monika Wehrheim. Tübingen: Narr, 2004, 193-207

‘Übersetzen in Kreolsprachen: Predigten, Preziosen, Prestige’ [on translating into Creole languages], Übersetzen in Lateinamerika. Edited by Birgit Scharlau. Tübingen: Narr, 2002, 203-225

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