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NWO grants for four new research projects

Date of news: 18 July 2022

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded grants to four new research projects involving researchers from the Faculty of Arts. They will focus on young children learning from their language mistakes, the 'leak' between two languages in a person's head, reconstructions of life stories from (post)colonial Indonesia and the hidden aftermath of Dutch slave trade around the Indian Ocean.

Within the NWO domain Social Sciences and Humanities a total of 39 million euros has been awarded to 58 projects in the Open Competitions-SGW round 2021. In this round NWO wants to promote curiosity-driven research. Researchers from the Faculty of Arts are involved in four of the projects awarded funding: Stefan Frank and Paula Fikkert from the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) and Marit Monteiro and Dries Lyna from the Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH). Read more about the projects below.

The Language Leak
Dr Stefan Frank

People who speak multiple languages do not have a “fire wall” in their brain to keep the languages apart: knowledge of one language affects use of the other. The researchers will develop a precise, mathematical description of this “language leak” by having a computer simulate its causes and its consequences.

Learning from your errors: the development of word production in young children
Prof. Claartje Levelt (University Leiden), Prof. Paula Fikkert

Young children will often say ‘“tuck” when referring to the word ‘truck’. Is “tuck” a speech error or does it result from flawed articulation? They could also have stored the word ‘truck’ as ‘tuck’ in their mental dictionary, due to incomplete perception or storage of all the sounds. Learning to speak involves the simultaneous acquisition of knowledge at several different levels and practice with applying this knowledge swiftly and smoothly when required. Errors are bound to arise in the immature system, but they also highlight what needs to be updated to the learner. This learning process will be charted.

Child separation: Politics and practices of children’s upbringing by faith‐based organisations in (post)colonial Indonesia (1808‐1984)
Prof. Marit Monteiro, Prof. Geertje Mak (NL‐Lab; Huygens ING)

Not only in Australia and Canada, but also in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia, groups of children were separated from their parent(s) to be fostered, adopted or raised in faith‐based children’s homes. This project analyses the entanglement of these practices with colonial and national politics, and traces the voices and perspectives of affected children and their descendants. The output will include a digital map of children’s homes, which will help former pupils and their relatives to trace fractured family lines. In addition, reconstructions of life stories will bring institutional records into conversation with personal memories and family archives.

Forgotten ancestry? Lives after slavery in Dutch and British colonies before 1850
Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe (Leiden University), Dr Dries Lyna

This research project explores the paths through which generations of the formally enslaved and their descendants gradually forgot their past of enslavement under Dutch and British imperial rule and became local subjects. Its central question is why and how forgetting rather than memory became the basis of belonging and selfhood. This project is a rooted study of the hidden afterlives of Dutch slavery in these Indian Ocean territories across generations, in which processes of identity, group and community formation became entangled with forgotten slave ancestries under layered colonialism.

More information can be found on the NWO website