Demystifying multilingualism

Demystifying multilingualism

(Drittmittelfinanzierte Einzelförderung)

Titel des Gesamtprojektes:
Projektbeteiligte: ,
Projektstart: 21. September 2017
Projektende: 20. September 2018
Mittelgeber: Volkswagen Stiftung


Within the last hundred years, cognitive psychologists’
views on bilingualism have changed diametrically. In the first half of the 20th
century, there was a general agreement that growing up with two languages leads
to mental confusion and retardation. Researchers from the late 20th and early
21st century, however, have claimed that bilingualism provides the brain with
extra training, which enhances cognitive performance and health. This reversal
was paralleled by a general ideological shift in Western societies, from the
monolingual nation-state model to the celebration of bilingualism under
multicultural and neoliberal ideologies. In fact, the very countries that
developed into strongholds of research into bilingualism and cognition at
different moments in time were precisely those where bilingualism has been a
politically contested issue. Analyzing scientific publications as pieces of
metalinguistic discourse, we argue that the way how psychologists have
interpreted their data and construed explanatory models is tacitly based on
commonly held beliefs on language and its role in society, and closely
entangled with different actors’ interests. Scientific practice does not exist
in a vacuum but emerges from social and cultural experience in tune with the
zeitgeist and overarching political atmosphere.