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Vision of our group

When we talk about language change, we are by definition talking about the latter dimension, time, which leads us towards the field of historical linguistics. This branch of linguistic research compares the state of affairs for a certain phenomenon in a certain component of a language system (e.g., changes in word order, in inflection and conjugation, in sound systems, or stress patterns) at two or more different points in time, establishes what has changed, and tries to understand and explain how the change has unfolded and what forces have contributed to it. These forces may be language internal, which means that they involve the architecture of the language system and interactions between the different components of the grammar.


But there is more. Since processes of language change usually wash over a language area in waves, there is not only a point in time, but usually also a point in space (a place or an area) from where they originate. The mechanism of geographical spread and its reflection in the dialect landscape are the object of dialectology. Language change can also occur after prolonged and intensive contact with another language system (through bilingual or multilingual speakers); such language-external change, which is studied by language contact researchers, will eventually have to be embedded in the system of the receiving language as well.

Language change is rarely an 'all or nothing phenomenon'; there are almost always social groups within a country, place or region that are ahead of the troops. Within these groups, the spread of a linguistic innovation is often more likely to take place in certain types of linguistic interaction (and the associated style levels), typically in informal oral language use. A factor that has proven to be partly responsible for a large number of recent language changes is the evaluation of these by language users as, for example, 'cool', 'modern', and 'naughty'. By studying changes and their driving forces in experimentation and corpora of language use in social media, we can discover how they nuance and recreate existing language norms. In other words, in social space, too, a given language change takes place in several dimensions and at any given moment in the process of change, there is graduality which manifests itself as quantitative variation.


Each of the four main dimensions is represented in this research group through one or more chairs, and the researchers have expertise in different languages and language areas. Moreover, our research often focuses on the interaction between dimensions (between, for example, language-internal factors and language contact, between internal and external variation and the social evaluation involved) or on the tension between change and language norms. The perspective of teaching methodology and didactics also has a special role to play here. For the successful development of teaching methods, it is important to unravel the process of linguistic reasoning, identify its sources ( linguistic intuitions, the linguistic reality, language theory and or language norms), determine the conceptual content and identify the linguistic questions that are central to the research.