The Research Area "Language Development and Multilingualism" (FB II) investigates the development of linguistic competence from the sentence to the text level in various groups of speakers. The focus is on language acquisition by children of pre-school and elementary school ages, growing up mono- and multilingual environments, on early assisted and unassisted second language acquisition, as well as selected processes of language development through all stages of life.
Based on empirical data, both natural and experimental, general paths of development in the construction and maintenance of communicative abilities are determined, especially of narrative storytelling abilities and participation in social communication. Furthermore, the influence of individual personal circumstances is established, like education, professional and non-professional activities, social environment and age. In this way, it is hoped that individual differences in language competence can be better understood and explained. The focus is in the first place on developmental processes in multilingualism. Here we investigate both normal paths of development and indicators and characteristics of acquisition processes by children and young people that deviate from the norm. Additional research topics that we intend to pursue in the future are language development and language loss among speakers above approximately 50 years of age, and the development of the ability for argumentation.
The results of our research are utilized in order to create validated language aptitude evaluations, instruments for the diagnosis and therapy of language development disorders as well as methods for supporting the acquisition of German, which take into account the speaker’s knowledge of their native language. With the extension of our investigations to older speaker groups, we will utilize our results and experiences to create language aptitude tests and language support programs, which contribute to the deceleration of undesired changes in the linguistic competence over the lifetime, as e.g. language decay processes in older people.