Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - German in Multilingual Contexts


Current projects

Research Unit "Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations" (RUEG)

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. 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.

Web portal Kiezdeutsch

Kiezdeutsch is a new urban dialect of german. Like other urban dialects (e.g., Berlinish), Kiezdeutsch is characterised by the great linguistic diversity that is typical of cities. Kiezdeutsch has emerged in neighbourhoods where different dialects, linguistic styles, and languages come together, and this diverse linguistic context has made Kiezdeutsch a particularly innovative dialect of German. This information portal on Kiezdeutsch is a project of the Chair of German in Multilingual Contexts (Prof. Dr. Heike Wiese) at the Humboldt University of Berlin, which was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Register perception in a multilingual context of German (SFB 1412, C07)

The research project investigates how formal and informal registers are perceived in the multilingual context of German spoken in Namibia. Through corpus-linguistic and experimental methods we investigate register differentiation (e.g., What new registers of German emerge in multilingual settings?), awareness (e.g., What features do language users pick up in their perception of register distinctions?), and attitudes towards different registers (e.g., What role do different types of features play for sociolinguistic evaluations and associations?).

Cooperation with Yale University

The project supports the cooperation of our group with that of Maria M. Piñango, Chair of Psycho- and Neurolinguistics, Yale University, USA. We conduct cooperative studies on the interface of grammar and the conceptual system, contribute to conferences and co-author papers, and organise an exchange of advanced students through lab internships.

Completed projects

Limits of variability: Integration of linguistic ressources in highly diverse urban settings (SFB 1287, A01)

The project investigated the multilingual context of an urban street market, where speakers regularly access a wide range of linguistic resources. While previous research on such contexts focused on the characteristic diversity and fluidity, our investigation will emphasised stability and is guided by the hypothesis that the observable and sometimes chaotic variability does not establish randomness, but is constrained by systematic patterns and restrictions. To capture this variability as well as its constraints, we combined ethnographic and sociolinguistic methods with grammatical analysis and theoretical linguistic modeling.

DAAD Guest Chair “The Multilingual Lexicon”

The guest chair "The Mulilingual Lexicon" was organised in cooperation with the Potsdam Centers "Language, Variation and Migration" (Heike Wiese) and "Research Institute for Multilingualism" (Harald Clahsen). It served as a focal point for three Master's courses (International Master's / Doctoral Program Experimental and Clinical Linguistics; Linguistics: Communication - Variation - Multilingualism; Foreign Language Linguistics) and strengthened the linguistic focus on multilingualism across faculties, which gained a strong profile through the chair.


Project B6 within the Collaborative Research Area 632 ‘Information Structure’ of University of Potsdam and Humboldt University Berlin. In this project, we investigated Kiezdeutsch, an urban contact dialect that emerged in multilingual and multiethnic neighbourhoods of Germany. We developed a corpus of naturally occurring speech based on self-recordings of adolescents, available as audio files with transcriptions in EXMARaLDA, and several annotation layers.

Educational Modules on Language Variation: Dialects, Multilingualism, and the Question of "Correct German"

The project transfers research results from the domain of “Language variation in urban areas” into the educational domain. We developed multimedia materials for new supplementary modules for initial and continuing education programmes of social actors who play key roles in the education of children and adolescents and are important in shaping public opinion on language and language competences, namely teachers in primary schools, secondary schools and in the early education of public day-care facilities for young children.

“Let’s Do Language” - ‘hood Goes Uni

Kreuzberg pupils investigated language variation and multilingualism: Together with linguists from Potsdam University’s German Department, pupils from three schools in Berlin-Kreuzberg conducted their own research projects on linguistic topics they identified themselves, e.g., the myth of “double semilingualism” of young people with a migrant background, youth language in general, “Kiezdeutsch” (youth language in multiethnic urban neighbourhoods in Germany) in particular, and code switching or switching between linguistic varieties within one’s linguistic repertoire.

Linguistic Realities of Young People in Multiethnic Urban Europe

The project established a network for working groups with a focus on linguistic practices of young people in multiethnic urban neighbourhoods, the attitudes towards these practices and the views that are evident in public discourse. It brought together the areas of language structure, language use, and language ideologies.

Language-specific effects on conceptualisation in the domain of lexicalised compounds

The project investigated language-dependent differences in the conceptualisation of referents of such exocentric-metaphorical compounds as English ‘hedgehog’ or German ‘Schildkröte’ (literally ‘shield-toad’). The study was based on an analysis of morphosyntactic and morphosemantic representation in composition, and compared native speakers of German and (US-American) English.

The Architecture of the Mental Lexicon in Language Comprehension

In this project, we conducted a cross-linguistic investigation (German, English, Spanish, Persian) on the representation of lexical elements in language processing, which yielded psycholinguistic evidence on the access to grammatical-semantic features distinct from general-conceptual and syntactic features.