Laufende Projekte

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


Universalien und Variation in Satzeinbettungen/Universals and variation in clausal complementation 


A core form of linguistic recursion involves verbal subordination configurations. A sentence with a main verb plus one or more auxiliary verbs is typically seen as a mono-clausal configuration, whereas a sentence containing an additional finite clause commonly instantiates a bi-clausal configuration. A simple mono/bi-clausal division becomes insufficient, however, once the entirety of embedding structures is considered. Instead we find different degrees of clausehood along a scale of syntactic complexity, with auxiliaries on one end and finite clauses at the other end. The over-arching hypothesis of this project is that the scale of clausehood is a fundamental property of language, which reflects an implicational hierarchy of minimal clause size as determined by an interplay of syntactic and semantic properties of embedding. The hypothesis is based on the observation that there is a cross-linguistically stable split of embedded clauses into three types of complements which are defined semantically and form the complexity scale: (most complex) propositional attitude » future » tenseless (least complex). This scale is observable cross-linguistically through a diverse set of restructuring signature effectsmorphological, syntactic, semantic, and processing properties, which distinguish between the three types of complements in showing increasing transparency potential and/or decreasing syntactic complexity from the left to the right on the scale. The specific hypotheses tested are: i) every language (with sentential embedding) shows at least some restructuring signature effect; ii) no language/property shows (a) increasing transparency or (b) decreasing complexity from right to left on the scale. Differences among different types of complementation can be found in a wide range of languages, but since language-specific factors often mask properties common across languages, a direct surface-oriented comparison of complementation configurations is not always possible. The use of implicational hierarchy effects and restructuring signature properties provides a new way to compare structural complexity across languages, despite language-specific differences. The tools and resources developed in this project allow approaching the question of what grammatical properties are common to languages at a more abstract level, and what the extent of variation is.

Projektleitung: Susanne Wurmbrand
Martin Prinzhorn
Magdalena Lohninger
Finanzierung: FWF, Lise Meitner Programm
Laufzeit: November 2017 – 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, Kathrin Rosensprung, Elena Vaporova
Finanzierung: WWTF (Wiener Wissenschafts-, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds)
Laufzeit: Juni 2016 – Mai 2019

(Proto-)Indo-European kinship terms and society — a comparative study on formation, relative chronology and development of kinship terms in the Indo-European languages


Reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) kinship terminology is of great importance for Indo-European studies because this lexical group belongs to the most conservative vocabulary along with designations of animals and plants, anatomical parts, and natural phenomena. The reconstruction of these words does not only give insights into archaic patterns of word formation but also, to a certain extent, into the life of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Accordingly, this topic has been extensively studied since the very first days of comparative linguistics. However, there still remain some major and minor problems and challenges.

In my research I will try to drive this topic out of the dead end by employing a new principle of semantic analysis that takes into account achievements of contemporary social anthropologists, ethnographic data of the recent decades, and new facts about ancient IE cultures from the evidence which was only found and deciphered within the recent hundred years (such as Hittite texts and Birch Bark Literacy form Novgorod). All this information was unknown to anthropologists (e.g., L. H. Morgan, J. J .Bachofen) and philologists of the 19th century (e.g., F. Bopp, B. Delbrück), whose works became a foundation of our concept of archaic societies including the PIE society. Their ideas (actual and innovative for their time but not quite up-to-date at the moment) need reconsidering and reformulating. Otherwise they cause unnecessary formalistic prejudices and obstruct the research.

The other essential point of my study is the assuredness that the vocabulary of any language (even a reconstructed one) is not a ready-made and homogeneous system but a result of a long development and has both synchronic and diachronic register variations. Along these lines, I view the PIE kinship terminology as a compilation of words originally belonging to different temporal and stylistic layers (which does not exclude the probability that at a certain period in Late PIE they might have been perceived and actively used as a full-fledged system). Therefore, some semantically related lexical items (such as “son” and “daughter”) can have no etymological connection to each other and should be analysed as words that were coined separately and, sometimes, not as kinship terms proper, and only later they were compiled together and formed the PIE kinship terminology we can reconstruct.

Projektleitung: Melanie Malzahn
Projektmitarbeiterin: Veronika Milanova
Laufzeit: Jänner 2016 – Dezember 2018

Zur diskursiven Konstruktion österreichischer Identität/en 2015: Eine Longitudinalstudie


Mit Jahresbeginn 2015 startete am Wiener Institut für Sprachwissenschaft ein dreijähriges Forschungsprojekt, das an bisherige diskursanalytische Arbeiten zur Konstruktion österreichischer Identität/en anschließt.

Die Jahre 2014-2015 bieten in mehrfacher Hinsicht Gelegenheit, die bisherige Forschung zur diskursiven Konstruktion österreichischer Identität/en im Sinne einer Longitudinalstudie fortzusetzen, zu aktualisieren, und auch den zugrundliegenden Forschungsansatz (Diskurs-historischer Ansatz, DHA) weiterzuentwickeln. Zum einen stellt 2015 abermals ein wichtiges Jubiläumsjahr für Österreich dar (u.a. 20 Jahre EU-Beitritt, 70 Jahre Unabhängigkeitserklärung, 60 Jahre Staatsvertrag). Zum anderen kann das Projektteam die Gelegenheit nutzen, Veränderungen der diskursiven Konstruktion österreichischer Identität/en über 20 Jahre hinweg aufzuzeigen.

Wir greifen dabei nicht nur auf umfangreiche Vorstudien zurück, die um 1995 und 2005 durchgeführt wurden, sondern setzen auch neue thematische Schwerpunkte: Zu den fünf Bereichen der bisherigen Projekte – die sprachliche Konstruktion des Homo Austriacus, einer gemeinsamen Vergangenheit, Kultur, politischen Gegenwart und Zukunft sowie eines „nationalen Körpers“ –, die in diesem Projekt weitergeführt werden sollen, kommen die folgenden Schwerpunkte hinzu: (1) der komplexe Zusammenhang zwischen der Konstruktion nationaler Identität, diskursiven und legistischen Aspekten von Staatsbürgerschaft und Einbürgerung einerseits und Migration sowie gesellschaftlicher Diversität andererseits; (2) kultur- und sprachnationale Elemente in der diskursiven Konstruktion nationaler Identität, insbesondere die Re/Entnationalisierung der Sprache; (3) die mediale Inszenierung menschlicher Körper am Beispiel der Konstruktionen eines nationalen Körpers; (4) die Rolle von Web 2.0 und Social Media in der Konstruktion nationaler Identität.

Übergeordnetes Ziel des Projekts ist es, im Sinne einer Longitudinal-Studie die Entwicklung der diskursiven Konstruktion österreichischer Identität/en nachzuzeichnen und dabei zu klären, ob und in welcher Form die bisher festgestellten Diskurse (Gleichheit, Differenz etc.) fortbestehen und durch neue ergänzt oder verdrängt werden.

Projektleitung: Ruth Wodak und Rudolf de Cillia
Projektteam: Markus Rheindorf und Sabine Lehner
Finanzierung: FWF
Laufzeit: Jänner 2015 – Dezember 2017

My Literacies. Schriftlichkeit im Kontext von Multimedialität und Mehrsprachigkeit aus Sicht von Kindern


Im Sparkling Science-Projekt My Literacies untersuchen SprachwissenschafterInnen gemeinsam mit SchülerInnen die vielfältigen Formen von Schrift und literalen Praktiken in einer multimedialen und mehrsprachigen Gesellschaft. Ziel des Projekts ist die Beschreibung kindlicher Zugänge zur außerschulischen Verwendung von Schrift und der Vielfalt schriftbezogener Praktiken in der Welt von Kindern und Jugendlichen, ihren Familien und Communities. Besonderes Interesse gilt der Variabilität, Multimedialität und Multimodalität literaler Praktiken in einer modernen Informationsgesellschaft.

Im Rahmen des Projekts dokumentieren SchülerInnen der 3. und 4. Schulstufe an drei Wiener Volksschulen in Unterrichtsprojekten literale Praktiken ihrer Familien und Communities in Fotos, Texten, Bildern und Videos. Die mit Hilfe von Kinderkameras erstellten Produkte sind als digitale Objekte auf einer Online-Datenbank ForscherInnen, SchülerInnen und LehrerInnen zugänglich und sind Forschungsobjekte und Leseressourcen für den Unterricht zugleich.

Die Analyse der digitalen Produkte und der Kommentare, Beschreibungen und Interpretationen der SchülerInnen soll Einblicke in verschiedene Bereiche außerschulischer schriftlicher Praktiken und Erfahrungen aus der Perspektive der „UserInnen“ selbst ermöglichen. Das Projekt leistet damit einen wesentlichen Forschungsbeitrag zu „Family Literacy“, „New Literacy Studies“ und Lesesozialisation in außerschulischen Kontexten von Alltag und Familie unter Bedingungen gesellschaftlicher Diversität. Die Ergebnisse bieten Anregungen für eine zeitgemäße, kindgerechte und motivierende Leseförderung abseits bzw. in Ergänzung zu vorwiegend buchbezogenen schulischen Lesepraktiken.


Projektleitung: Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo
Projektteam: Nadja Kerschhofer-Puhalo, Werner Mayer, Sarah Ritt
Finanzierung: ein Projekt im Rahmen des Förderprogramms Sparkling Science, gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft
Laufzeit: 01.11.2014-30.10.2017