An interdisciplinary series of Lectures on Multilingualism, in which the Departments of Anglophone Studies, Communication Studies, German as a Second/Foreign Language, German Studies, Netherlandic Studies, Romance Languages, and Turkish Studies participate, is regularly held in our faculty. Professors Katja F. Cantone-Altintaş, Daniel Reimann, Heike Roll and Evelyn Ziegler represent the faculty in the Ruhr Center Multi­lingualism, where linguists and language teaching researchers from the Universities of Bochum and Duisburg-Essen examine multilingualism from a variety of disciplinary angles, including socio­linguistics, psycholinguistics, and systematic linguistics. The main themes are language acquisition and multilingualism, preservation or attrition of migrants’ mother tongues, language use in institutional contexts, multilingualism in everyday communication, the development of German as a second language, the situation of Romance and Slavonic languages in Germany, English-French language contact in Canada, English in postcolonial contexts, and English as a lingua franca.

While the increase in multilingualism in regions like the Ruhr District is mainly due to a higher degree of mobility in our present day and age, border areas or multi-ethnic states tend to have a long history of multilingualism. The project directed by Prof. Evelyn Ziegler (conjointly with Prof. Peter Gilles, University of Luxembourg), Standardization in Diversity: The case of German in Luxembourg (1795–1920), is concerned with the standardisation process undergone by the German language in Luxembourg during the “long 19th century”. For this purpose they analyse bilingual (German-French) public notices put up by the City of Luxembourg. Luxembourg is distinguished by a long tradition of multilingualism as well as a varied political history. This is an area which is ideally suited not only for studying the specific conditions of multilingualism but also the link between social and linguistic developments. Additionally, the project makes a contribution towards studying urban spaces of communication in the 19th century with a special emphasis on administrative top-down communication (2013–2016, funded in a lead-agency process by the National Research Fund Luxembourg, FNR, and the German Research Foundation, DFG).

For at least 200 years our neighbour France has been a country of immigration for citizens speaking different languages – Italian and Polish migrants in search of employment in the 19th and early 20th centuries, refugees seeking sanctuary from political and ethnic persecution in central and eastern Europe, various groups of migrants from Africa, the Maghreb and, increasingly, from Asia. Whereas the diversité linguistique resulting from the coexistence of a standardised national language and various regional languages (which these days are in a precarious condition) has been exhaustively researched, the interest in the effect of migration on the general make-up of French has so far not been of much interest in France. Therefore, the panel The langues de l’immigration under discussion: Language policy and the linguistics of varieties (chaired by Prof. Dietmar Osthus and Julia Richter) at the 2014 congress of the ­association of franco-romanists FRV/AFRA was devoted to this issue. How do the langues de l’immigration survive today and what are the processes of language change or intergenerational language transfer under the conditions imposed by the French policy of integration? How do ­migrant languages influence varieties of (spoken) French and how is this process valued or appreciated in the general public (i.e. non-academic) debate? How do discourses on migration affect linguistic policies, and which concepts of Francophone language teaching exist for dealing with allophone migrants? In these areas comparative German-French perspectives are called for, as well as the examination of other Francophone areas such as Québec.

The linguistic variety of a region is not only audible but also manifests itself visually. The pro­ject Signs in a Metropolis: Visual Multilingualism in the Ruhr (funded through MERCUR; directed by Prof. Evelyn Ziegler, Prof. Heinz ­Eickmans, Prof. em. Ulrich Schmitz, Prof. Hacı-Halil Uslucan) “casts an eye” at ­visual signs. The basis of this comprehensive study conducted on behalf of the cities of Duisburg, Essen, ­Bochum and Dortmund is formed by a digitalised, geo-coded corpus of images comprising 25,000 visual representations. Multil­ingualism thus manifesting itself in street signs, placards, business advertisements and graffiti is not only closely interconnected with migration, ­culture and consumer tourism but also with ­regional difference resulting in more detailed symbols of cultural identification such as regional varieties. In an approach involving a diversity of disciplines and perspectives, several issues of ­relevance for urban sociology, linguistics and the theory of integration will be addressed. It is the aim of the project to assess, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, the increasing plurilingualism as a major feature of the Ruhr metropolis: In doing so, it examines the extent to which visual multilingualism can be regarded as being indicative of identity, alterity and multiculturality, ­societal recognition, a sense of belonging and feeling at home.

In fostering the above-mentioned sense of belonging and feeling at home among migrants in Germany, learning German and the preservation of the language of origin / heritage language play a decisive role. In the project Longitudinal Studies – Successive Bilingual Learning of German and Turkish, Prof. Katja Cantone-Altıntaş examines the conditions under which an unguided successive acquisition of both languages can be successful. In this context, researching the possibilities of language preservation is of equal relevance as the institutionalisation of multi­lingualism.