Director: Marit Westergaard
Principal investigators: Yulia Rodina & Fatih Bayram (Theme 1), Merete Anderssen & Natalia Mitrofanova (Theme 2), Øystein Vangsnes & Terje Lohndal (Theme 3), Jason Rothman & Evelina Leivada (Theme 4)
Humans are unique among animals in that we have language, a complex system enabling communication about any topic, be it past, present or future. In fact, humans are not limited to one language, but can acquire several under the right conditions. Nevertheless, bi- and multilingualism (henceforth referred to as multilingualism, unless further specified) is not an either-or phenomenon, as multilingual minds may (and typically do) undergo numerous changes across the lifespan, as a result of linguistic and non-linguistic factors. This means that multilingual minds comprise dynamic linguistic systems, as co-existing languages affect each other in a multitude of ways, both in the acquisition process and beyond.
The AcqVA Aurora Center will conduct ecologically valid research, reflecting today’s globalized world, where learning multiple languages at various points in the lifetime has become increasingly common. Our research will focus on a range of multilingual speaker groups and thus feed into current challenges related to migration, education, and health, addressing important and yet unanswered questions for science and society. AcqVA Aurora will combine solid empirical work with advanced theoretical (and statistical) modeling in three domains: A) Acquisition: how multilingual minds develop in children and adults, B) Variation: how and why languages may differ considerably across individuals and groups in space and time, and C) Attrition: how and why language erosion may occur over the course of the lifespan. The three domains will be studied within four cross-cutting themes, focusing on interrelated issues of multilingualism: 1) how linguistic and non-linguistic experiential factors shape linguistic and cognitive outcomes, 2) how multiple languages in the same mind influence each other, 3) how closely related varieties co-existing in the same mind are processed, and 4) how representing and juggling multiple languages manifest and result in adaptations at the neurological and domain-general cognitive levels.
Both senior and junior scholars will be represented among the PIs, which will ensure future recruitment and fulfil the intention of the Aurora call, preparing team members for further grant proposals, e.g. a Center of Excellence (CoE) from the Research Council of Norway (RCN) and European Research Council grants (ERCs). AcqVA Aurora will hire four postdoctoral fellows and four international Adjunct Professors (20%), one for each theme, plus a lab manager. Furthermore, we will fill a gap in our current theoretical and methodological focus by hiring one full professor with a strong track record in neurocognition of multilingualism and qualifications in neuroimaging methodologies (e.g. MRI), complementing the behavioral and psycholinguistic methods already in use in our labs. This means that AcqVA Aurora will add ten outstanding scholars to the current team, making UiT a world-leading center for research on the linguistic and cognitive sciences of multilingualism.