SFB 833: The Construction of Meaning

The Dynamics and Adaptivity of Linguistic Structures

*** Funding of SFB 833 ended on 30.09.2021 ***

How does the meaning of linguistic expressions arise? This was the central research question of the SFB 833 'The Construction of Meaning. The Dynamics and Adaptivity of Linguistic Structures.'

Focusing on the fact that meaning emerges as a function of time and situation, the SFB’s joint research goal was a better understanding of linguistic meaning and its dynamic adaptation to the various factors that impact it. The central question of how meaning arises was investigated

  • (a) in context (λ Theoretical Linguistics: Section A "Context"),
  • (b) during cognitive processing (Ψ Psychology: Section B "Cognition"),
  • (c) according to the grammars of individual languages (ϸ Historical and Comparative Linguistics: Section C "Variation").

Our research program was an interdisciplinary one, and accordingly the SFB 833 was a joint project including linguists – theoretical linguists, specialists in particular languages and computational linguists – as well as cognitive scientists and literary scholars. Traditionally, linguists have focused on the structural aspects of the language system while cognitive scientists have concentrated on language related processes. Investigating the construction of meaning opens the door to a more integrated view of structure and process. This, we believe, is essential for a more realistic investigation and interpretation of language data. It was part of our general vision of integrated theoretical and empirical research. The SFB 833 used diverse types of empirical evidence (corpus data, questionnaires, psycho- and neurolinguistic experiments, crosslinguistic and diachronic studies) to contribute towards a theory of the construction of meaning.