Collaborative Research Center: Multilingualism
Since its founding in July 1999, the Collaborative Research Centre on Multilingualism has worked on documenting, analysing, and describing language in the context of multilingualism. This includes patterns of language use in multilingual environments, bilingual language acquisition, and the role of multilingualism and language contact in language change. The Centre consists of a network of individual research projects following a range of different research paradigms, each with its own theoretical approach, but united by a number of common interests and basic assumptions regarding multilingualism. At the core lies the conviction that human language capacity is inherently geared towards multilingualism and that multilingualism has been the rule rather than the exception throughout human history, both on a societal and an individual level.
Three aspects have formed the main focus of research at the Centre thus far: (a) the development of multilingualism on the individual level, i.e. the acquisition of more than one language (and, in particular, more than one grammatical system) by individual speakers; (b) functional conditions and patterns of communication in multilingual environments; and (c) processes of language change under conditions of multilingualism and language contact, as well as linguistic variation as a cause or an effect of change through contact.
In the fourth and current funding period (2008–2011), projects have been grouped into two branches, of which each will further focus on a central set of common issues. Four projects form the branch Multilingual Language Acquisition, where the mutual focus lies in the nature of “critical phases” in language acquisition. Eight projects form the branch on Historical Aspects of Multilingualism and Variation, dealing with questions concerning language change and language contact. A new shared focus in this area will be the analysis of recent or ongoing language contact situations and will therefore expand the research of language change into the realm of spoken language.
Languages currently studied at the Research Centre include the following: Danish, Catalan, English, Faroese, French, German, German Sign Language, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish, as well as several historical or regional sub-varieties of some of these languages.
The Research Centre is also proud to produce research results that have immediate relevance for short or medium-term practical applications. The Centre has already been able to provide a substantial amount of research-based counselling and information offers for others. A new branch of five practical transfer-oriented projects was established in 2007. These projects have the goal of developing concrete solutions for practical problems relating to multilingual situations based on research results derived from other projects.
Since all projects work empirically on the basis of natural linguistic data, the source focus of the work at the Centre is to ensure that these data are documented and preserved in such a way that they remain useful and accessible to the research community beyond the lifetime of the Centre itself. To this end, a project has been established with the task of developing computer assisted methods for the creation and analysis of multilingual data.
Projects in Group E, Acquisition of Multilingualism, investigate the simultaneous acquisition of more than one first language and the successive acquisition of additional languages, comparing both with monolingual first language development. Research is also conducted on language disorders in bilinguals.
(Coordinator: Tanja Kupisch)
The eight projects in this group (H1, H3, H5, H6, H8 and H 9 as well as K4 and K8) have emerged from groups H and K respectively for the SFB’s third phase. Projects in Group H: Historical Aspects of Multilingualism and Variance, deal with the influence of multilingualism and language contact situations on processes of language change.
(Coordinator: Kurt Braunmüller)
A fourth group, the Transfer Group T, Multilingualism, was founded in March 2007. The projects in Group T develop and test practical applications based on the results attained by the Research Centre since 1999 together with external cooperation partners. Their transfer into practice is scientifically evaluated.
(Coordinator: Kristin Bührig)
1999 - 2002 First funding period
2002 - 2005 Second funding period
2005 - 2008 Third funding period
2007 - 2010 Transfer Group: Multilingualism
2008 - 2011 Fourth funding period