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University of Bayreuth, Press release no. 028/2024, 07/03/2024

Federal Cross of Merit for Bayreuth linguist Prof Karin Birkner

Prof. Dr Karin Birkner was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by the Bavarian State Minister for Science and the Arts, Markus Blume, on 7 March 2024 in Munich. She has held the Chair of German Linguistics at the University of Bayreuth since 2008 and has also been Deputy University Women's Representative since 2018.

Minister of Science and the Arts Markus Blume presented the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Prof Dr Karin Birkner in Munich today. The linguist from the University of Bayreuth was honoured for her outstanding commitment to tolerance and peaceful coexistence in our society.

"Prof. Dr Karin Birkner lives integration, equality and tolerance: with her scientific work and her far-reaching commitment, she shows how well humanity and compassion harmonise with facts and research," emphasised Science and Art Minister Markus Blume at the award ceremony on Thursday afternoon at the Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich. "In addition to her research work, Prof Dr Birkner is committed to equal opportunities and combating discrimination in numerous functions and projects - this is how she shapes peaceful coexistence in our diverse society!"

"I warmly congratulate Prof Dr Karin Birkner on being awarded the Federal Cross of Merit," says Prof Dr Stefan Leible, President of the University of Bayreuth. "She has shown great commitment to the University of Bayreuth for many years. Her involvement in campus life goes far beyond the normal duties of a professor. Whether as Deputy Women's Representative or as an active organiser during and after the wave of refugees in 2015, Karin Birkner thinks purposefully and always goes above and beyond the call of duty."

In addition to her work as a professor at the University of Bayreuth, Karin Birkner has been an active volunteer in the Society for Applied Linguistics (GAL e.V.) for more than 20 years; she has been its elected president since 2024. She initiated the "Language Sponsorships" project at the University of Bayreuth back in 2014. UBT students volunteer as language mentors at the Luitpold Primary School in Bayreuth. There, they playfully support the language acquisition of children who have recently arrived in Bayreuth without any knowledge of German.

In the wake of the large influx of refugees in 2015, she played a key role in setting up language courses and integrating refugees who were able to study at university. Prof Dr Karin Birkner was also involved in the context of the upsurge in refugee movements in the wake of the war in Ukraine. For example, she contributed her experience from previous years to the "Linguistics for Ukraine" initiative, in which various linguistic societies worked together to connect Ukrainian academics with German academia via a website and relevant online events.

Since then, Prof. Birkner has also given Dr Oksana Horbach a new (academic) home in Bayreuth. The German scholar, formerly a lecturer at the Chair of Legal Linguistics at the National Academy of Internal Affairs in Kyiv, has been a guest of Prof Birkner since October 2021 as part of the "Bayreuth Bridge" project. Together, they are developing a theoretical-practical specialised course on "Specialised languages in contemporary German" with a focus on the fields of business, media and science. She also encouraged Ms Horbach to get involved in the language sponsorship programme at Bayreuth's Luitpold School and to help Ukrainian children who have fled to Germany to learn German. As part of the research focus on refugees at the GAL, which she has been organising with two colleagues since 2016, language acquisition under refugee conditions is reflected on in regular academic conferences in order to encourage those involved in research and practice to work on the topic.

Prof Birkner has been working as a women's representative at the University of Bayreuth for many years, where she developed the guidelines for gender- and diversity-appropriate language use, among other things. This high level of commitment, with which she - in addition to her academic merits - is involved in social areas as a linguist and language mediator, has now been honoured with the Order of Merit.

Photos of the handover ceremony with Art Minister Blume can be downloaded free of charge from 17:30 at

 Staatsminister für Wissenschaft und Kunst Markus Blume im Bild (bayern.de)

Prof. Dr. Karin Birkner, Uni Bayreuth

Prof. Dr. Karin BirknerChair of German Linguistics

Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-3610
E-mail: karin.birkner@uni-bayreuth.de

Jennifer Opel

Jennifer Opel (on maternity/parental leave)Deputy Press & PR Manager

Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5357
E-mail: jennifer.opel@uni-bayreuth.de