Research Projects (Summary)


Second language proficiency: The structure of language abiltiy and second language competence (in cooperation with Dr. Fritz Sang, Max-Planck-Institute for Educational Research, Berlin).

Investigation into the structure of linguistic and communicative competence of second language learners; study of the relationship between different skills and proficiency types as well as between L1 and L2 abilities; (re)analysis of test performances and results; application of different types of factor analysis; theoretical discussion and empirical evaluation of the construct of a General Language Proficiency Factor (GLPF); development of alternative data-based models for second language ability.(See  Publications , No. 15-19, 23, 25, 27, 35).


Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Patterns

(Cooperation with Prof. Juliane House, University of Hamburg, and other researchers from six different countries).

Based on linguistically diverse, yet culturally rather unbiased Discourse Completion Tests as a data elicitation procedure the project focused on the description and analysis of two basic speech acts (Requests and Apologies) and their linguistic realizations in a number of speech communities. Using several variables like gender, geographical origin, speaker-hearer-relationship (degree of social distance and acquaintance), degree of imposition etc. the resulting variations in speech act realization patterns were interpreted cross-linguistically and cross-culturally. I personally focussed on Apologies in German as L1 and in English as L2 (see  Publications , No. 31, 36, 39, 41).

The project required the development of new categories of describing and analyzing the pragmatic behavior of native and non-native speakers, also in comparison to one another, as well as validation procedures related to norms of acceptability. It triggered a number of stimulating insights into the speech act performance of culturally diverse groups as well as into their levels of pragmatic competence and/or deviance from the norms and conventions of the majority.


Bilingualism and Minority Languages in Canada

This project aimed at documenting and describing the situation of selected minority languages and minority cultures in Canada (e.g. status, existing varieties, degree of vitality, language corpus planning, policies of maintenance and chances of survival). In particular, the relationship between minority and majority language/culture was looked at (e.g. domains of language use, different aspects of contact linguistics, state of bilingualism/semilingualism, claims and realities of multiculturalism). The general patterns of inquiry were applied to the Francophones of Canada (especially in Quebec), to heritage language groups in Quebec and Ontario and to selected groups of native people, namely the Mohawks, the Crees (in Northern Saskatchewan) and the Stoney Indians (west of Calgary). The descriptive results were interpreted with view to discourse about multiculturalism in Europe and Germany in particular. (See  Publications , No. 37, 45, 47-52, 56, 64, 69 etc.)

Funding: Canadian Embassy, Gouvernement du Québec, German Research Foundation (DFG, Reisebeihilfen), Association for Canadian Studies in German-speaking countries.

As a result of this general investigation I did a case study (1992-1994) on Language Contact, Language Change and Multilingualism among the Hutterites in North America (in cooperation with Prof. Herfried Scheer, Concordia University, Montreal, and Prof. Shana Poplack, University of Ottawa, Canada). Part of that data stills has to be analyzed and summarized (see  Work in Progress )


Intercultural Discourse Ability of Second Language Learners: Strategies of the Hearer for Securing Understanding in Intercultural Communication

Empirical study on the qualities and strategies of interaction between learners of English and German in intercultural encounters, particularly focussing on speech acts and discourse elements/measures on the part of the hearer for securing the on-going process of understanding and cooperation. Based on audio- and video-taped interactional data (plus questionnaire and retrospective interview data) the study illuminates how negotiation of understanding between native and non-native speakers take place (outside the classroom, at university level, within quasi-natural intercultural situations). It also looks at whether or not misunderstandings occur and they are dealt with. Finally, based on the bulk of data, it is discussed inhowfar certain operative and/or cognitive aspects of interlingual and intercultural competence can be learned (purposefully) or even be taught in school. (See  Publications , No. 61-63, 72, 74).

Funding: University of Osnabrueck, German Association for Research on Learning and Teaching Foreign Languages, German Academic Exchange Service


Bilingual Education in Europe/Germany

Cooperation with the Council of Europe/Conseil de líEurope and with Dr. Eike Thuermann, Landesinstitut fuer Schule und Weiterbildung in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany (Soest).

Comparative study of approaches in bilingual education within Europe, namely of using English as a working language in connection with subject areas like geography, social studies and history. Of particular interest was the socio-political embedding of different educational contexts in Europe, the state of the art in theory building, in materials development, in the specifics of bilingual methodology (in comparison to that of a monolingually taught subject/discipline) and in cross-curricular implications. Also, the specific issues of second language acqusition through bilingual education were looked at (how to access and evaluate the acquisitional processes and outcomes, how the quality of interaction in the classroom affects language and subject matter learning, how negotiation of form takes place in the bilingual (as opposed to the traditional) classroom and whether it can be traced to acquisition-relevant linguistic behaviors and performances. Overall, the empirical data base for this project was too small to arrive at generalizable results and satisfying answers. It was mainly a pilot project for hypothesis building. (See  Publications , No. 54, 63, 70, 78-82).

Funding: Council of Europe, German Association for Research on Learning and Teaching Foreign Languages (DGFF), Ministry of Culture in Northrhine-Westphalia, Society of Friends of the University of Osnabrueck (travel grants).


Text Processing and Oral Proficiency in Bilingual Learners (Research in Progress)

This new research project draws on some of the results from its forerunner. Among other things, it will look into different performance measures of bilingual learners in Germany (namely grade 7-10), in comparison to those instructed monolingually. By way of case studies, the information/text processing strategies and procedures of certain types of individual learners will be documented and analysed in more detail (using introspective and retrospective methods of data gathering). Issues of second language acquisition through interaction in the classroom might also be dealt with, based on some audio- and video-recordings, transcriptions and selected sequences of interaction between learner/learner as well as teacher and learner. The overall funding of this project is not secured as yet.