Research Training Group 1808: Ambiguity - Production and Perception

Research Training Programme funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) since October 1, 2013. Doctoral students will enjoy excellent conditions in an interdisciplinary environment and will participate in a systematically structured curriculum, comprising project-oriented guidance in small teams as well as activities of the entire Research Training Group, including a practice-based programme. A visiting researcher programme will enhance international cooperation and exchange.

Ambiguity, defined as an expression or utterance that has two or more meanings, is a characteristic feature of language and communication. It is as relevant to the most ordinary situations of everyday life as it is to the most complex text productions. Accordingly, ambiguity has been a central topic of investigation in linguistics and in other disciplines concerned with the interpretation of language. These different approaches, however, have never been systematically brought together. In order to understand why communication may be successful in spite of or even because of ambiguity, why ambiguity may also cause its failure and what effects it has, the isolated approaches will have to be overcome.

It is the aim of our Research Training Group (RTG) to show that by a collaborative approach of language-oriented disciplines new insights may be gained into the production and perception of ambiguity, i.e. when it comes into being and when it is resolved. The pursuit of this aim is based on the conviction that ambiguity is an excellent paradigm for developing new ways of collaboration between the various language-oriented disciplines (Linguistics, Literary Criticism, Rhetoric, Law (& Legal Studies), Theology, Psychology; Media Studies; and Philosophy/Ethics).

The research programme links investigations into the language system as a field of linguistic research with investigations into the areas of discourse focused upon by the other discipli­nes. This will lead to innovative approaches: From a linguistic perspective, the challenge will be to represent (strategic) ambiguity in a broad range of texts, and from the perspective of the other disciplines, it will mean taking into account the role of grammatical structures for the interpretation of ambiguity. Our programme rests on the assumption that both the production and the perception of ambiguity, as well as its strategic and non-strategic occurrence, can only be understood by exploring how these factors interact when ambiguity is generated and resolved. This may concern the speaker-hearer-interaction as well as long-term developments such as the strategic reinterpretation of canonical texts.