The URPP Language and Space encompasses two research themes – "Linguistic Areas" and "Interactional Spaces".
The distribution of languages and dialects has traditionally been the domain of dialectology. Since then, areal typology has developed as a strong current in typological research and is of fundamental relevance for the study of linguistic diversity. A necessary complement of dialect geography and areal typology is contact linguistics, since the clustering of language structures in areal patterns is likely to be due to contact between speakers. Following this research line, several research groups within the URPP Language and Space initiate and carry out projects on language and dialect contact, dialect geography (with special focus on morphosyntax), and on corpus-based areal typology. Within these projects research questions related to the diffusion of linguistic features, and the triggers and mechanisms of the diffusion processes are explored. The projects aim at a common reflection on questions of area formation, boundary formation, language contact (including dialect contact), language/dialect diffusion and finally the association of language and geography.
Setting up a corpus of non-standardized language varieties is work in progress overarching all research projects in collaboration with the CorpusLab. It is central for building a representative empirical basis of our research, but brings with it particular challenges, too. Besides empirical linguistic research (often in fieldwork or experiments) new quantitative methods of data analysis are carried out and developed further. Investigations into the diffusion of linguistic features and its appropriate visualization are realized in interdisciplinary projects and in collaboration with the GISLab. With respect to the linguistic phenomena studied, questions concerning the structure of nominal phrases is one focus, not excluding other linguistic phenomena, however. Current trends and issues concerning the spatial distribution of linguistic features are presented in accompanying workshops and guest lectures.
The research group Interactional Spaces initiates projects concerned with how the spatial and architectural environment of communication becomes relevant within, and by means of, communication. What we want to study is the situational anchoring of interaction in the “here and now” of a concrete “speech situation”, i.e. the many ways in which the relevant spatial parameters are achieved through interaction and the resources the participants can make use of. These resources are linguistic ones (deictic and semantic, for example), of sensomotoric, and cognitive nature, as well as spatially bound (through architecture or furniture, for example). Their simultaneous use constitutes the multimodality of communication that is central for this research group and that demands the use of advanced, video-based methods for data collection and visualization techniques.
Concrete projects focus on multimodality as presented in face-to-face interaction on the one hand, and keyboard-to-screen communication on the other. Analysis of face-to-face interaction is currently dedicated to spatially-bound architectural resources (Interaction Architecture), which have been largely neglected in relevant research, and which the URPP analyzes in terms of different manifestations of institutionalized communication. Analysis of keyboard-to-screen communication is currently concerned with the constitution of virtual spaces that are conveyed via screen (linguistically, graphically, pictorially). Workshops and guest lectures are regularly held in both research fields.