(from 2012, when the research programme was called Language, cognition and learning in a multilingual world – language variation, innovation and interaction)
Linguistic competences are crucial for the success of individuals, social groups and companies in the modern, globalised information society. Social cohesion depends on sharing a common language and ensuring effective communication. One central question concerns the extent to which linguistic competences and communication skills can be attributed to the cognitive architecture of the brain, or to cultural and social conditions. This can also be seen in an evolutionary perspective by examining the possible connection between linguistic diversity, human genetic heritage and the development of communication tools. Linguistic research contributes not only to our knowledge of the scope and limitations of the human mind, but also to our knowledge about the diversity found in the world.
Research into and knowledge about linguistic interaction is in great demand – for instance in local government or hospitals, where the public sector needs to communicate with clients and patients. A great number of people are involved in these contexts; and it is important that these relationships can be maintained and strengthened, supported by the knowledge provided by a linguistic research programme. Furthermore, a deeper understanding of language and communication is paramount for diagnosing aphasia and other linguistic disabilities, and for rehabilitation following brain damage. In other words, linguistic theory can help to solve some of the challenges facing society.
Linguistic skills and the ability to learn new languages quickly are in great demand on the labour market of today. At the same time, global migration means that multilingualism, communication and language in general are becoming more vital than ever before. So it is clear that the world’s linguistic diversity and variation is a great challenge; but what are the problems and opportunities that language diversity actually creates for interculturalism in a globalised world?
Linguistic groups at the Faculty of Arts already have a number of established and ongoing collaborations with upper-secondary schools focusing on foreign languages, the teaching of mother tongues and linguistic diversity in the world today. The language teaching provided by upper-secondary schools in Denmark is currently being reorganised in line with new principles regarding language acquisition and writing – principles which have been developed at universities on an academic basis.
This research programme is not limited to language as a tool for communicating meaning. It also includes meaning as a general concept, both with regard to meaningful phenomena in other areas than language (images, sound and gesture), and with regard to the cognitive, neurobiological and formally logical foundation of human meaning formation.