Theresa Matzinger Successful in "Disruptive Innovation – Early Career Seed Money" Call


Theresa's interdisciplinary project on "Biophysiological Explorations of Aesthetically Appealing Linguistic Patterns" secured funding from the ÖAW and FWF.

Theresa Matzinger provided us with a Summary of her project which will see her explore Aesthetically Appealing Linguistic Patterns from a Biophysiological Perspective.


Project summary

The underlying rationale of this project is that the aesthetic appeal of linguistic features may influence how easily and effectively these features can be learned and transmitted to future generations of speakers. This, in turn, will influence how stable aesthetically appealing features are during long-term linguistic change. Further, the project will help to understand language-based biases of people.

In this project, Theresa Matzinger will test the so-far unexplored core premise of this proposal, namely whether everyday linguistic features inherently differ in their aesthetic appeal at all. To quantify the aesthetic appeal of everyday linguistic features objectively, Theresa will combine participants’ ratings of aesthetic appeal with biophysiological measures such as heart rate measures, electrodermal activity, pupil dilation, or brain responses.


Some questions Theresa plans to answer within the project are:

  • (How) do different everyday linguistic patterns (such as phonemes, phonotactic patterns, rhymes, alliterations, grammatical structures) differ in their aesthetic appeal?
  • Do preferences for particular linguistic features differ across social groups (e.g. speakers of different native languages or dialects, or age groups)?
  • How much individual variation is there in the perception of aesthetic appeal?
  • What are the biophysiological correlates of aesthetic appeal in linguistic patterns? Which biophysiological measures are most successful in capturing perceptions of aesthetic appeal?
  • How do those biophysiological correlates compare to biophysiological correlates of traits closely linked to aesthetics (such as processing fluency, emotional value, or arousal)?





Theresa Matzinger is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of English and American Studies. Her work focuses on the biological and cultural evolution of language(s), language learning, historical language change, and non-human animal communication and cognition. In her research, she combines methods from the fields of psycholinguistics, evolutionary linguistics, historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, sociolinguistics, behavioral economics, and behavioral biology.


Theresa is Network Associate at the Vienna Cognitive Science Hub.


© Theresa Matzinger