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Research Unit "Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations: A Comparative Approach" (FOR 2537)

Prof. Dr. Heike Wiese
Universität Potsdam

Vice speaker:
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Artemis Alexiadou
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The Research Unit plans to investigate the linguistic systems and linguistic resources of bilingual speakers
from families with an immigrant history, “heritage speakers”, in both of their languages across different
language pairs, registers, and age groups. We will investigate speakers of Russian, Turkish, and Greek
as heritage languages in Germany and the U.S., in addition to German as a heritage language in the
U.S., as well as monolingual controls for majority and heritage languages. We will study noncanonical
phenomena as indicators of new grammatical options in bilingual systems. All projects will contribute to
three “Joint Ventures” targeting (1) the development of new dialects vs. incomplete acquisition or erosion
(“Language Change Hypothesis”), (2) the relevance of internal vs. external grammatical interfaces (“Interface
Hypothesis”), and (3) the distinction of contact-induced change vs. language-internal developments
and variation (“Internal Dynamics Hypothesis”). As a result of our collaborative research, we expect new
insights into the special dynamics of language variation, language change and linguistic repertoires in
contact situations and the modelling of noncanonical structures in the grammatical system, and new impulses
for the investigation of heritage speakers and of speakers’ resources.

The projects are supported by two Mercator Fellows:

Shana Poplack, University of Ottawa

Maria Polinsky, University of Maryland