Views in*t(w)o Literacies. Digital Literacy Narratives about reading, writing and language learning


The project Views in*t(w)o Literacies asks for the many aspects of literacy-related practices and learning processes as experienced by language learners and literacy users.

Citizens are encouraged to share their personal experiences with literacy acquisition and processes of reading, writing and language learning in form of oral, written or digital Literacy Narratives. We invite participants of any age (child, teenager, adult, or senior) with diverse learning experiences, educational backgrounds, occupational or legal status, at any level of language proficiency, to contribute to our collection of Literacy Narratives. Participants can upload their stories on the project’s interactive web-platform.

(Digital) Literacy Narratives are first-hand narratives about reading, writing and language learning in any form, context or media. These digital stories are composed of language(s) in oral or written form combined with images, video, music, motion or other modes. They may tell us stories about books, bed-time-stories, learning Chinese characters or reading a Holy Book, about struggling readers, developing a personal handwriting, about changing your online status or composing websites and about all the experiences related to these events.

Literacy Narratives give us an understanding of socially constructed values and beliefs that shape and are shaped by literacy practices in complex cultural, political and historical contexts. Major objectives of the project are to encourage individuals to express their experiences, thoughts, attitudes and ideas about successful learning processes and to pool experiences of academic and non-academic individuals. Each contribution may help to improve and diversify the ways literacy and languages are learned or taught and to create new directions for language teaching and learning.

All incoming contributions will be accepted as part of the corpus. Only those contributions that authors wish to share will be published on the website. Commenting, liking, asking and discussing are other forms or participation that contribute to our research aim: to encourage reflexive processes of favorable and adverse conditions of literacy acquisition and language learning.

Project lead: Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo
Project team: Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo, Werner Mayer, Sarah Ritt, Eva Vetter
Funding: a Top Citizen Science project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy (BMWFW), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Oead
Funding period: January 2017 - March 2020

Sprachkompass suffizientes Handeln


Zwischen August 2018 bis voraussichtlich Juli 2021 wird in Wien und Bern ein anwendungsorientiertes diskurs- und ökolinguistisches Forschungsprojekt durchgeführt, das die Stiftung Mercator Schweiz finanziert. Die Diskurslinguistik hat in den letzten Jahren neue Erkenntnisse über den Zusammenhang von Sprache, Denken und Handeln zutage gefördert. Wie wir unsere Umwelt und andere Menschen wahrnehmen, ist wesentlich – und nicht selten unbewusst – durch die Art und Weise geprägt, wie wir sie sprachlich erfassen und darstellen. Das Projekt Sprachkompass suffizientes Handeln untersucht relevante öffentliche Diskurse zu den Themen Mobilität (Alltagsverkehr und touristisches Reisen) und Ernährung im Hinblick auf ihre erkenntnis- und handlungsleitende WirkungEs erforscht, in welcher Weise die verwendeten sprachlichen Darstellungsformen zu einem suffizienten Umgang mit den natürlichen Ressourcen anleiten oder diesen behindern. Die Ergebnisse werden über verschiedene Kommunikationsformate ausgewählten Zielgruppen und einem breiten Publikum zugänglich gemacht und erlangen so gesellschaftliche Wirkung.

Die Hauptträgerinstitution des Projekts ist das Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) der Universität Bern. In Wien ist das Projekt am Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Wien angesiedelt.

Projektleitung: Dr. Hugo Caviola (Bern, Projektleitung), Ass.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Martin Reisigl (Wien, stellvertretende Projektleitung)
Mag. Andrea Sabine Sedlaczek (Wien, Assistenz), Mike Weibel, MA (Bern, Kommunikationsberatung), Dr. Anne Zimmermann (Bern, Nachhaltigkeitsberatung), Dipl. Ing. Hans Weiss (Bern, Kulturingeneur, v.a. in den Bereichen Landschaftsschutz und Raumplanung), Dipl. Ing. Andreas Kläy (Bern, Nachhaltigkeitsexperte)
Laufzeit: August 2018 – laufend
Das Projekt ist ein Nachfolgeprojekt des Projekts Sprachkompass Landschaft (

The Characters that shaped the Silk Road

A Database and Digital Paleography of Tarim Brahmi

From the 2nd century CE on, Buddhist communities and monasteries developed along the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road in and around the Tarim Basin in today’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. These were centers of writing, copying, translating, and transmitting texts similar to the monasteries in medieval Europe.

The old Indo-European languages Sanskrit, Tocharian, and Saka were the major languages of the monasteries in the Tarim Basin. The most important writing system these languages were written in was a special Central Asian variety of the Indian Brahmi script. The earliest material written in this Tarim Brahmi is among the oldest attested Buddhist texts. Most of the material written in Tarim Brahmi is scattered over different editions and not digitally searchable.

It is the goal of the project to make all texts written in Tarim Brahmi available to paleographic investigation in an online database.

The project centers on the question of who wrote what, when, where, and how. These classical issues of paleography so far can only be applied to a small portion of the material or have only been addressed rudimentarily.

The project aims at answering these questions by means of a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The database will combine linguistic, philological, and paleographic data. It will directly link the texts with their digital images. This will make it possible to search for specific characters, ligatures, and words in the entire corpus. Additionally, the quantifiable features of all characters, ligatures, and words will be extracted and compared using software tools. This will, for the first time, make it possible to identify scribes, scribal schools, as well as regional and diachronic variants of Tarim Brahmi.

Almost all texts of the languages written in Tarim Brahmi are in a fragmentary state. Therefore, one of the most important results of the project will be that the countless smaller fragments will be able to be joined together based on objective paleographic criteria. The new texts, contexts, and word forms will lead to new linguistic and philological insights for Sanskrit, Tocharian, and Saka.

Since the paleography will also shed light on the dating and localization of texts it will provide new perspectives on regional, social, and diachronic layers of the languages and texts. This will in turn elucidate the relationship between languages and texts, which will provide insights into the origin and evolution of literacy along the Silk Road and have important consequences for the understanding of the transmission of Buddhism in Central Asia and, from there, to China.

Projektleitung: Hannes A. Fellner
Bernhard Koller, Martin Braun
Kollaboration: Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (ACDH), Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW)
Finanzierung: FWF, START Programm
Laufzeit: Februar 2018 – laufend

Language Learning Abilities

Exploring individual differences in language learning abilities: from linguistic morphology to brain morphology

The present PhD theses project, covering in a rare interdisciplinary way the fields and work of three PhD students, have the overarching aim of investigating individual differences in first and second language acquisition performance, proficiency and aptitude – from linguistic, psycholinguistic, psycho-cognitive and neurological perspectives. All topics are interrelated and profit from the exchange of theoretical background and methodological experimental material. Individual differences in the process, performance and proficiency levels of first and second language acquisition have long been observed by us, but are very difficult to be investigated experimentally, because of their eclectic interdisciplinary nature (spanning the fields of psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, social sciences, biology and neurosciences). Here the doctoral students propose a novel interdisciplinary project to overcome these experimental difficulties by investigating language acquisition from three different standpoints: a psycholinguistic view (PhD 1), a cognitive-psychological view (PhD 2) and a cognitive-neuroscientific one (PhD 3). The far-reaching aim of the project is to improve and develop testing material (language acquisition and aptitude tests) which could be further used in the fields of linguistics, psycho- and neurolinguistics and be useful for advances in language teaching methodology.

BetreuerInnen: Wolfgang Dressler (Institut für Sprachwissenschaft), Annemarie Peltzer-Karpf (Anglistik, Universität Graz), Susanne Reiterer (Institut für Sprachwissenschaften; ZLB), Peter Schneider (Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg), Annemarie Seither-Preisler (Zentrum für systematische Musikwissenschaft, Universität Graz)
ÖAW DOC Team StipendiatInnen: Markus Christiner (Institut für Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Wien), Sabine Sommer-Lolei (Institut für Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Wien), Sabrina Turker (Institut für Anglistik, Universität Graz)
Finanzierung: ÖAW
Laufzeit: September 2017– August 2020

Unalternative Constraints Cross-Linguistically


The project "Unalternative Constraints Cross-Linguistically" uses methods from logical semantics and pragmatics to develop a cross-linguistically valid framework for the modelling of focussing, the linguistic signalling of emphasis through stress, melody, morphology or word order.

Even though our cross-linguistic knowledge of grammatical focussing devices has significantly expanded in recent decades, very little of this knowledge has informed the development of the formal apparatus. The project aims to fill this gap, by exploring a new technique of relating grammatical focussing to interpretation, so-called Unalternative Semantics (UAS).

The project applies this formalism to known puzzles in the theory of focus (among them overfocussing, discontinuous foci, the thetic-categorical distinction, contrast vs. anaphoric deaccenting), to previously unformalized focus related phenomena in the standard European languages (additional intermediate phrase boundaries, double focussing, focus/givenness movement a.o.), and, centrally, distinct focus realization strategies in non-European languages such as focus position, ‘un-focus positions’, morphological and syntactic focus markers and others. It aims to develop a formalism that is more adequate, more versatile and ultimately more predictive than existing versions of focus semantic, one which allows the incorporation of currently only informally (if at all) described cross-linguistic phenomena into a coherent formal framework.

Methodologically, the project combines the systematic collection and elicitation of primary linguistic data, written and recorded, with cutting edge formalizing and theorizing, using the familiar tools (and methods) of logical semantics and formal pragmatics.

Projektleitung: Daniel Büring
Projektteam: Muriel Assmann und Izabela Jordanoska
Finanzierung: FWF
Laufzeit: Dezember 2016 – Oktober 2019

How language shapes perception and cognition:

A constravice studiy of space and evidentiality in German and Korean

The project investigates the details of how language influences human perception and cognition in two domains: Space, a perceptual domain, foundational to cognition (e.g., action control, navigation), and 'evidentiality,' a cognitive domain of source monitoring (e.g., direct evidence vs. hearsay), important for generalization and inference. We specifically examine whether the language-specific grammar of Korean vs. German for (1) spatial causal events (e.g., X puts Y into/onto Z) and (2) information sources influences humans’ perception of motion, control of visual attention, inference ability, and event memory: German and Korean differ significantly in grammar. We therefore examine both children and adults to understand the developmental changes in language, perception, and cognition. We hypothesize a dynamic relationship between language, perception, and cognition such that while speakers universally perceive features, the language they speak influences the relative weights of attention to features: To the extent that perceptual and cognitive processes indeed depend upon language, these processes should differ between German and Korean speakers, and the differences should emerge as children acquire their native tongue’s grammar. We propose a set of experiments with diverse methods to pinpoint similar and differential behaviors to sort out the degrees and developmental changes of the influence of language on perception and cognition.

Projektleitung: Soonja Choi und Ulrich Ansorge
ProjektmitarbeiterInnen: Florian Goller, Alexandra Kroiss, Daniel Mitic, Kathrin Rosensprung
Finanzierung: WWTF (Wiener Wissenschafts-, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds)
Laufzeit: Juni 2016 – Mai 2020

My Literacies. Approaches to literacies in multimedia and multilingual contexts — The view of the child


The Sparkling Science-Project, My Literacies, investigates the diversity of literacy practices in a multimedia and multilingual society from the child’s perspective.

In everyday life, literacy – the use of writing and written language – forms part of our social practices. In a modern information society, the written word is present not only in books, newspapers and magazines, but also in posters, labels, stickers, traffic signs etc. Literal practices are closely connected with the use of new technologies such as the Internet, mobile communications, video games etc. (multimedia). Furthermore, the written word is increasingly associated with other perceptual modes such as colour, picture, sound or motion (multimodality). The diversity of literacy practices in our society is further broadened by the ability of people, who have grown up with different language backgrounds (multilingualism), different writing systems and the diversity of ways that writing is combined with other modes and is incorporated in different media (multiliteracies).

The aim of the project is to explore literacy as part of the diversity of social practices from the perspective of the child as multilingual, multiliterate and multicompetent “literacy user”. A further aim of the project is to build on the repertoire of methods in reading research and sociolinguistics using methods such as Linguistic Landscape and Social Semiotics, videography, picture analysis and discourse analysis, which have so far scarcely been used in reading research.

As part of this project, students from the 3rd and 4th grade in three Viennese primary schools are encouraged to record the extracurricular use of everyday literacy practices in their families and communities in photos, text, pictures and films. Materials collected by the children and their commentary, description and interpretation will be analysed by linguists and will also serve as reading resources in teaching projects.


Project lead: Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo
Project team: Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo, Werner Mayer
Funding: funded by Sparkling Science - a programme of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy (BMWFW)
Funding period: 01.11.2014-31.10.2019