Specialization II: Literacy, Multilingualism, and Multimodality
This area of focus examines how and under which conditions multilingual potentials and skills develop positively. On the one hand, it concerns the problem of individual language development in the context of multilingualism. Here, this is understood not only in the conventional sense as a conglomerate of several different spoken languages or varieties; it also includes different language modalities— for example, sign language, whose development is studied subject to the age at which its acquisition begins. These different language modalities also include how utterances are presented, i.e., are they spoken or written. Topics of interest in this area include, for example, the reciprocal influences that spoken and written modalities wield on each other. We know that reading exerts an influence on writing in the early phase of writing acquisition. However, is this still the case when the person already has very advanced writing skills? And can these research findings, most of which were obtained in the context of monolingualism, be readily transferred to writing acquisition in multiple languages?
In addition to issues related to the individual and their language development, this area of focus also involves research that revolves around the best possible design of educational institutions and educational processes for the development of multilingualism. Not least, this area of focus investigates which measures are suited to mitigating potential disadvantages of multilingualism on educational outcomes and, on the other hand, strengthening those concomitant features of multilingualism that can be advantageous for educational success, social integration, and social participation.
This research should help to identify and empirically support a sustainable concept of general language education that can withstand the challenges arising due to linguistic diversity. Beyond the cognitive and monetary gains of education, which are currently the primary focus, researchers will pursue questions regarding the contribution of general language education to cultural development, to the formation of aesthetic and ethical-moral judgments, and to the fostering of creativity.