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2020 (UnConTrust)

From Uncertainty to Confidence and Trust (UnConTrust)

The theme of this year is From Uncertainty to Confidence and Trust (UnConTrust=short forms for UNcertainty+CONfidence+ TRUST, but also no contrast, emphasizing the common ground and not differences between national groups in SE Europe). The project has a long-term tradition of teaching academic and journalistic writing, based on successful summer schools from 2013 to 2019. It will unite in Serbia previous partners from universities in Germany, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia as well as new partners from Bosnia and Kosovo. The project's theme is connected with the previous theme, Conflicting Truths. Uncertainty is seen here as a natural starting point for scientific and journalistic writing, which, through detailed work and conscientious presentation, first leads to trust in oneself and one's own work, and finally fosters trust in the listener or reader. The theme perfectly reflects several uncertain aspects in the Balkans, which the project partners (teachers) will critically evaluate, to shape a (small) new unified academic community from the Balkans.
In "corona times", growing uncertainty may lead to less trust, but if you see uncertainty positively as a normal challenge and risk awareness, this can give confidence in your own strengths (and awareness of limitations!) and this makes cooperation and trust possible and even vital. Awareness of uncertainty is good in science, only politicians think they cannot live with it.
All our project concepts crisis (2017), honesty (2018), truths (2019), uncertainty (2020) and chaos2order (?2021) are more important than ever - wrote about them critically, this is our contribution to the public understanding of science!

We hope that the project will be continued in 2021 with new partners.

Study and exchange

The TU Chemnitz English Department welcomes students and scholars for semesters abroad and our international Master's study program in English. Find more information on exchange opportunities on the website of our International Office. TU Chemnitz students are also encouraged to explore our Erasmus partnerships with South Eastern Europe.


Digital Workshop 2020: June 22 (2-4pm) and June 24 (10-12 noon)

Online conference test session on June 15

The workshop will be organised online on Big Blue Button, an open-source web conferencing system. 

Presentations and workshop recordings

All partners, including new ones from Kosovo and Bosnia, will discuss organisational aspects of the upcoming summer school in Serbia (e.g. group activities) and theoretical concepts.


Monday, June 22

[2-3 pm] Josef Schmied, “From uncertainty to confidence & trust: Concepts & examples” Feedback

[3-3:20 pm] Marina Ivanova, "Building trust between editors and contributors: Formal and methodological considerations for REAL 18" Feedback

[3:20-3:30 pm] Jessica Dheskali, "How to teach and train confidence and trust in academic writing classes" Feedback

[3:30-4 pm] Project partner discussion + brainstorming


Wednesday, June 24

[2-2:25 pm] Jasmina Đorđević & Ivana Šorgić, "Sociocognitive discourse markers of suffering during the Corona crisis: Can we trust the news?" Feedback

[2:25-2:50 pm] Ivana Mitić, "Syntactic forms used to build trust: The state of emergency because of the coronavirus in Serbia" Feedback

[2:50-3:15 pm] Bledar Toska & Armela Panajoti, “Transitivity analysis from (un)certainty to (dis)trust in COVID-19 Albanian newspaper reports” Feedback

[3:15-3:40 pm] Jelena Prtljaga, “Using deontic modality to create (in)confidence and (dis)trust ” Feedback

[3:40-3:55 pm] Irina Petrovska, “ ”Language tools of expressing uncertainty, confidence and trust in coronavirus Macedonian newspaper reports” Feedback

[3:55-4:20 pm] Gordan Matas and Danica Škara, “The global pandemic and the war of words: Metaphor, humour and trust” Feedback

[4:20-4:35 pm] Radmila Palinkašević, “In times of uncertainty who can we trust? – Discourse analysis of government announcements in Serbia in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic” Feedback

[4:35-4:55 pm] Jovanka Lazarevska-Stanchevska, "From denial to acceptance and confidence: Linguistic analysis of reports of coronavirus in the news" Feedback

[4:55-5 pm] Workshop closing

Please submit your feedback till the end of the week and contact students that would like to present on the conference Digital English World-Wide (send presentations by July 5).

Insights from last year's workshop:

Conference participation

Three master's and PhD students from Niš and Vršac in Serbia and Kosovo/Chemnitz presented their research projects in the online conference Digital English World-Wide: Corpus and Discourse Analyses. The students managed to spark intriguing discussions on uncertainty, confidence and trust in media and scientific discourse and to gather useful feedback and reading recommendations.

Last year, the students enjoyed a study visit in Chemnitz where they attended trainings in academic writing and presentation and gave talks in the conference Digital English World-Wide: Corpus and Discourse Analyses.

Digital Summer School: October 15, 27 and 29

The summer school will be organised online on Big Blue Button, an open-source web conferencing system. Students will participate in workshops on discourse analysis, cooperate in international groups and present their national experiences of uncertainty, confidence and trust.

Link to the online conference room on BBB

Link to the BBB recordings from 27.10

Link to the BBB recordings from 29.10

Link to the Cloud with presentations and materials

Student groups (table)

Check out the statement on the UnConTrust summer school by Vlore student Rikela

Thursday, October 15, 10-12 am

[10-10:30] Welcome and introductory talk by Josef Schmied

[10:30-11] Workshop on analysing newspaper discourse by Jasmina Đorđević

[11-12] National experiences by each school (5-10 minutes) - each national group can meet in person and be in one room (if possible)

Tuesday, October 27, 10-12 am

[10-10:30] Welcome back + National experiences

[10:30-11:00] Workshop on smart online research and discourse annotation by Marina Ivanova

[11:00-11:15] Transitivity analysis from uncertainty to certainty in COVID-19 newspaper reports by Bledar Toska and Armela Panajoti

[11:15-12] International interactive breakout rooms and reports (use your own computer)

Thursday, October 29, 10-12 am

[10-11:30] Five group student presentations on results from media research - (inter)national perspectives on UnConTrust

[11:30-12] Lessons learned

Student contributions

Please send your discourse analysis homework to Jasmina Đorđević at djordjevic.jasmina@...

Please send your REAL contributions (essays, papers, photo collages, photo creations) to Marina Ivanova at marina.ivanova@...

Insights from last year's summer school:

REAL abstract submissions (Deadline: September 1)

On uncertainty, confidence, and trust in journalistic and academic writing: concepts and examples

This general survey re-analyses the key concepts of our times and of our successive cooperation projects: crisis (2017), honesty (2018), truths (2019), uncertainty, confidence, trust (2020) and chaos, order (?2021) and follows their development of the international discourse over the last few years. It defines uncertainty, confidence, and trust from linguistic and from philosophical perspectives so that the project shares a common conceptual frame and reference.

The basic argumentation is: In "corona times", growing uncertainty may lead to less trust, but if you see uncertainty positively as a normal challenge and risk awareness, this can give confidence in your own strengths (and awareness of limitations!) and this makes cooperation and trust possible and even vital. Awareness of uncertainty is good in science, only politicians think they cannot live with it.

Keywords: key concepts, uncertainty, confidence, trust, scientific writing, journalistic writing

Sociocognitive discourse markers of suffering during the Corona crisis: Can we trust the news?

Based on Van Dijk’s theory of Sociocognitive Discourse Studies and Chouliaraki’s theory on the Mediation of Suffering, this research is aimed at identifying sociocognitive discourse markers which have been employed with the specific intention to attract readers’ attention and sell the story no matter what. Even when the news are to orientate a Western spectator towards the suffering of ‘Others’ who belong to the same category of the economically and politically strong world, the news resort to sociocognitive discourse markers with the aim to attract readership rather than boost confidence and trust. The obvious outcome is that the suffering thus presented in the news causes even more uncertainty among the readers. The corpus compiled for this research consists of news representations of the Corona crisis in 2019/2020 in the Canadian daily paper The Globe and Mail. By identifying sociocognitive discourse markers that clearly reflect a mediated representation of distant suffering, this research will demonstrate that news agencies will try to overcome the “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” phenomenon even in cases when economic and political power relations are equal. In other words, news agencies will resort to whatever resource possible, even violate the core principles of journalism just to sell their story.

Keywords: Suffering, sociocognitive discourse markers, uncertainty, trust, Corona crisis.

Uncertainty in science vs. certainty in politics: Contrasting axioms in Corona texts

This discussion highlights the completely different “professional expectations” that lead to interesting misunderstandings and controversies in the national discourse on “Corona” in Germany in early 2020. Whereas “real, good scientists” are expected to indicate uncertainty, i.e. to mark the limits of their professional knowledge, “real, good politicians” are expected to avoid uncertainty, i.e. to come across as a determined leader who knows what to do. This leads to the perception that scientists come across as “changing the goal posts” (“you can never agree on figures” or “just give us the right parameters to follow”) and politicians come across as “undercomplex” (“simple minds who always want simple answers”). In talk shows on German TV, for instance, the change of indicators (days of doubling infection rates – ratio of infections to population – case numbers) was taken as confusing by politicians and as necessary adaptation to pandemic developments by scientists. But some scientific pre-publications were also criticized. This contribution looks critically at argumentative patterns and linguistic markers. It thus tries to make a contribution to the general understanding of science in corona times and beyond.

This analysis discusses uncertainty markers in four different genres on the same topic, “Heinsberg-Study” on mortality rates in April 2020: the research article as first publication draft, an accompanying “press briefing”, a following newspaper report and hundreds of public comments underneath.

It also analyses critically the German public debate on the “Drosten study” on the virus load in school children, which was important in the “opening debate” in Germany in May 2020.

The national discourses in Germany show that although scientists are still accredited with high credibility, the procedures of scientific enquiry are difficult to understand at least for some politicians and contributors to traditional and digital media.

Keywords: scientific writing, journalistic writing, public discourse, (un)certainty, trust

Using Deontic Modality to Create Confidence and Trust during the COVID19 crisis

During the corona virus lock down in Serbia (16 March 2020 – 7 May 2020) there were media conferences given by the president and the members of the government, as well as experts every day at 3 PM. Apart from the daily updates on the developments regarding the situation of COVID19, the messages sent were permeated by deontic meanings, imposing obligations, giving orders, pieces of advice and promises, but also expressing threats. Having in mind how little was known about the virus itself, the whole world was shaking with uncertainty and the governments were to prescribe measures to protects their citizens. In such a context admitting uncertainty as a reality while trying to foresee the consequences of people’s behaviour would have led to constructing confidence and trust of the public. The aim of the paper is to explore if the recommendations expressing various degrees of deontic meanings contributed to the building of trust and confidence in the general public. Regardless of the term used by different linguists to denote it (deontic, non-epistemic, root, intrinsic, speaker-oriented, modality of event or motivational modality) they all agree that there is a type of modality enabling the speaker to influence the behaviour of his/her addressee. The contemporary menu of directive and quasi-directive speech act verbs belonging to the domain of deontic modality are “fine-tuned to allow the speakers to express their wants in relation to other people without appearing to impose, pressure, intrude, violate someone’s autonomy” (Wierzbicka 2012). Having a rich inventory of speech act verbs at hand allows speakers to be highly explicit and at the same time very precise in the way they express or describe the motivations and assumptions accompanying verbal interactions. The occurrence of modal and other directive and quasi-directive verbs belonging to the domain of deontic modality was observed in order to explore to what an extent and how they had been used to influence the public. The corpus consists of deontic utterances appearing while addressing the public at daily news conferences by the members of the pandemic Crisis Staff in Serbia. The analyses revealed that there are numerous examples of utterances expressing strong deontic meanings implying high authority of the source of obligation, but scarce instances allowing a certain degree of uncertainty and thus making dialogic space for alternative possibilities and trust.

Keywords: deontic modality, corona times, uncertainty, trust

Syntactic forms used to build trust: The state of emergency because of the coronavirus in Serbia

The aim of this paper is to investigate syntactic forms as markers of trust in headlines published by online news outlets in Serbia as opposed to the posts of businesses, such as cafes, restaurants, gyms, etc. on the social networks Facebook and Instagram. In the context of the state of emergency caused by the 2019/2020 coronavirus, markers of trust will be explored from the perspective of syntacto-semantic analysis based on the identification of the syntactic forms used to announce the consequences of the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus and the semantics of those syntactic forms. The objective is to identify how trust is being built. The expected results are that online news outlets will contain verbs in the first person plural indicating that the president and the government are taking care of the citizens, while posts from businesses, such as cafes, restaurants, gyms, etc. on social networks will contain verbs in the second person plural focusing on its audience.

Transitivity analysis from (un)certainty to (dis)trust in COVID-19 Albanian newspaper reports

Based on Halliday’s transitivity theory (1985), this paper discusses important aspects related to (un)certainty and (dis)trust conveyed through verb processes in Albanian newspaper reports on COVID-19. Analyzed examples in this article demonstrate how participants, events and Corona situation are shaped and perceived in discourse as well as how relations between them are established in material, mental, relational, verbal, behavioral and existential processes. The relation among words (and/or linguistic structures), portrayed/conveyed Corona situation and (un)certainty/(dis)trust representations is instantiated with different examples throughout the paper. A tentative qualitative transitivity analysis considers several short news published from March to June 2020 and confirms our initial hypothesis that these verb processes enable the representation of transitivity foregrounding the promotion of (un)certainty/(dis)trust aspects for psychological, social and persuasive purposes.

Keywords: transitivity, verb processes, COVID-19, (un)certainty, (dis)trust

Trust in police and national institutions in the US? A critical discourse analysis of ‘I can’t breathe’

This paper addresses what appears to be the changing discourse around the phrase ‘I can’t breathe’ which has become shorthand for claims of police brutality and distrust in the very institutions meant to provide safety and protection to all Americans. Compared to similar protests after the death of Eric Garner and subsequent acquittal of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York in 2014 when ‘I can’t breathe’ first emerged as a rallying cry for activists, Black Lives Matter seems to have more inclusive, widespread support. In this pilot study, I use critical discourse analysis to examine the official responses of President Trump, former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden to the death of George Floyd and the widespread Black Lives Matter protests which followed. I see Floyd’s death as a discursive event (Foucault 1989) which has generated a great deal of public discussion and debate, reflecting the tension which exists between colorblind and post-racial ideologies (Bonilla-Silva 2015) and demands for an end to systemic racism within American institutions. In this synchronous analysis, I consider how the context of the global pandemic affected the relevance and urgency of the statement ‘I can’t breathe.” Drawing on Reisigl & Wodak’s (2017) discourse-historical approach, I examine Trump, Obama and Biden’s discursive strategies and the ways in which language is used to address growing distrust and frustration within the Black community. Occurring just months before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, I argue that the responses of these three political actors not only reflect existing ideologies and power structures, but also have the potential to set the agenda for future debates and policies which may lead to either a challenge or a continuation of the status quo.

From denial to acceptance and confidence: Linguistic analysis of reports of coronavirus in the news

The discussion is focused on the language of news media reporting the spread of coronavirus. A linguistic analysis is performed on news headlines and lead paragraphs describing the danger of the virus. The aim of the analysis is to determine which linguistic tools are used, the lexical and grammatical choices that are made in order to transfer certain information, how emotions are expressed, and what perspective is taken in order to present the threat of the dangerous virus and to influence the public.

A qualitative approach will be applied in analyzing the news media language and will be based on the following strategies for linguistic analyses: lexical analysis, naming and reference, and the choice of rhetorical tropes. Special attention will be paid to the careful and deliberate choice of vocabulary such as adjectives, verbs and nouns in order to minimize or intensify described events. Metaphors and metonyms, especially war metaphors are applied in order to transfer the information so to influence or manipulate the audience, sometimes even causing anxiety on the part of the audience.

The language analyses will be conducted on news in the media of selected European countries from the very beginnings of the spread of the virus to the final acceptance of the threat and will reveal how they express their stance in regard to natural disasters.

Keywords: lexical analysis, rhetorical tropes, naming and reference, perspective, emotions

The role of media in shaping public perception of immigrants and protesters

Immigration has become one of the most important topics in the political debate and the public media for the last decade. This study attempts to gain an understanding of the strategic use of conceptual metaphors referring to the immigration discourse and the movement 'Black Lives Matter'. We will focus on conceptual metaphors and their linguistic manifestations in the British, American and Croatian mainstream newspapers. The cognitive theory is outlined (see Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Kövecses 2002, Goatly 2007, Barcelona 2000, Croft et al. 2004) and applied to the immigration discourse as found in the public media (see Wodak 2015, van Dijk 2000, Cunningham-Parmeter 2012, Musolff 2015, Drulak 2006, etc.). The results of the analysis of a representative data of immigration metaphors show that a small set of 'conceptual frames' underlies the perception of immigrants. Several competing metaphors have been identified: immigrant = alien, migration=water, flood, immigration = movement/journey, etc. These metaphors are constantly repeated in different discourses that revolve around the concept of immigration. Silence is violence is the most frequent metaphor used by the members of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. This study empirically attempts to identify how the media formulates its views about the migrants and protesters. In exploring the phenomenon of immigration and new social movements we have used an interdisciplinary approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research methods, including socio-political and linguistic perspectives. The outcome of this analysis may provide a relevant source for future research to measure the media's role in shaping and defining public opinion about new social realities.

Keywords: conceptual metaphors, immigrants, public discourse, media

In times of uncertainty who can we trust? – Discourse analysis of government announcements in Serbia in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought with it uncertainty on numerous fronts to individuals all around the globe. In these times of distress citizens turn to their governments for support and leadership in the hopes of successfully overcoming the crisis. Have the citizens of Serbia been able to find that support in the information that was given to them in this period or were the levels of uncertainty escalated? This is a socio-linguistic study which implements the method of discourse analysis. The aim of the study is to explore how information, in Serbia, was conveyed to the wider public during the uncertain times of the Coronavirus pandemic, specifically from its introduction to the public until the end of the national state of emergency in Serbia. The study analyzes a number of key government announcements which were made before and during the state of national emergency had been declared in Serbia due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The national state of emergency in Serbia lasted from March 15 to May 6, 2020. The selected public announcements were transcribed and analyzed. Statements which convey the speakers’ stance towards the seriousness of the virus, the situation and the measures that needed to be taken, were extracted and sorted for conflicting information and stances. After which the statements were analyzed in regard to the levels of certainty conveyed.

Keywords: trust, uncertainty, discourse analysis, socio-linguistics, coronavirus

How feigning certainty is used by the Serbian media for the promotion of news

This research aims at exposing the discrepancy between journalists’ fake promises of predicted outcomes and the actual, not so predictable and not so optimistic, reality. Focusing on epistemic modality and on different kinds of lexical choices journalists resort to when writing article headlines, this research attempts to show how journalists deliberately try to appear certain in those pieces of news they want to sell in order to attract attention and secure readership. Relying on Critical Discourse Analysis, the conclusions in this research are drawn based on the analyses of news reports dealing with the Corona crisis in Serbia. The corpus comprises ten pieces of news compiled from online newspapers published in Serbia during the coronavirus pandemic. The results of this research suggest that, especially at times like this – when audiences seek some kind of positive reassurance and even the slightest of faith in an optimistic outcome – people often find themselves being tricked into reading optimistic-sounding news, ultimately getting disappointed by the actual reality and losing trust in the media in the process. Although this method of feigning certainty quite often results in the loss of trust, it still proves useful to those journalists wanting to promote their news no matter what.

Keywords: Critical Discourse Analysis, certainty, trust, epistemic modality, Corona crisis

Uncertainty in postgraduate training and supervision: A needs analysis for online course development

Uncertainty and self-doubt accompany postgraduates on their personal and career development, as the dissertation project is the first independent and innovative research endeavour they undertake. This case study presents a recent needs analysis at the TU Chemnitz English Department for the development of an online workshop series on empirical linguistic research. An online questionnaire allowed students to give feedback on their perceived difficulty of 64 research aspects from the categories: research design, data collection & analysis, writing & publication, and psychology & peer review. The many discrepant results demonstrated the different specialisations and skills of the students and accordingly the challenges of structuring unified postgraduate training. The contribution elaborates on the implications of the fully online format of the workshop series and provides suggestions for productive online teaching and discussions. Customised postgraduate training is seen as a key opportunity for students to acquire demanded research skills, overcome their uncertainties, and accordingly gain self-confidence and evoke trust in the research community.

Keywords: needs analysis, uncertainty, PhD workshop, research skills, confidence

UnConTrust in the media

Follow our activity under University News (below)

Publication Guidelines for REAL 18

(Deadline: September 1, 2020)

Model contribution

Preprint submission by Jasmina Đorđević and Ivana Šorgić. Sociocognitive Discourse Structures Presenting Suffering during the Corona Crisis: Can We Trust the News?


12-17 pages (min. 10, max. 25), 5000-9000 words (main text, counted without the abstract and references)

Basic structure

IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) or AIMAC (Abstract, Issue, Methodology, Analysis, Conclusion)

Feel free to change the section headings to suit your topic.


Authors should use the volume template which they will receive via email once they submit their abstracts. All paper components, including title, abstract, headings, text and captions should be formatted by applying the styles from the template.


REAL 18 uses APA 7 and all sources must be cited accordingly. One exception are in-text citations, where years and page numbers are to be given as "(yyyy: p)", e.g. "(2012: 33)". Try to provide as detailed citations as possible (including page number or at least chapter).

Primary sources

Primary sources present direct and immediate evidence. Those are e.g. corpora and examples from them, legal documents, literary works, etc. Make sure to always give telling names to your corpus files and cite them with each example.

Secondary sources


Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Publisher Name.

Edited book

Editor, E. E. (Ed.). (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Publisher.

Article or chapter in edited book

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year of publication). Title of chapter. In E. E. Editor & F. F. Editor (Eds.), Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle (pp. pages of chapter). Publisher.

Journal article

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.

Online news article

Lastname, F. M. (Year, Month Date). Title of article. Title of Publication. URL


For non-English sources, include an English translation in square brackets "[]" after the foreign-language text. Transliterate Cyrillic titles to the standard Latin ortography.

Consult the APA 7 manual and blog and the Purdue Online Writing Lab for other source types.


Resources on Uncertainty, Confidence and Trust

Reading recommendations

Fandrey, A. (2017). Academic slide design. Visual communication for teaching and learning. Scale & Fine.

Research topic in Frontiers in Psychology: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): The Impact and Role of Mass Media During the Pandemic.


The Eurobarometer 92 survey investigates media use and trust in the EU member states and 5 candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey). Find it online and in a report by the European Broadcasting Union.

Check out the Conference on Truth and Trust Online with its proceedings and online talks. In addition to the more technical contributions, there are talks on "Rational Choices about Trust", "Human Values in the Spread of Misinformation" and "Disinformation as Collaborative Work".


The Andrássy Gyula German Language University Budapest offers scholarships for Master's studies for students from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, N. Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia among others.

Press Articles