Images not displaying correctly?

AThEME project newsletter

Summer 2016


to our fourth newsletter, and thank you for your interest in AThEME
We are delighted to inform you about the launch of our new website: Here you can find information about the research themes, the latest news, publications and dissemination.

From 2014 to 2019, the AThEME researchers will investigate what happens when someone speaks more than one language. You can read about the work that is already underway in the Research news section. To help make sure that people know about AThEME, branches of the public engagement initiative ''Bilingualism Matters'' have been set up in each country. You can find out more about their activities in the Dissemination news section. Furthermore, you'll find a list of major Upcoming Events and a short interview in our Meet the Researcher section with AThEME researcher Constantin Freitag from the University of Konstanz.

Best Wishes, 

The AThEME dissemination team


 Dr Maaike Verrips       Prof Antonella Sorace      Fleur Verbiest MSc MA


Research news

There are four AThEME research groups, each tackling different types of questions. Find out more about what each group has been up to over the past six months.

Regional Languages in Multilingual Europe

The EU recognises over 60 regional languages, and up to 40 million speakers of those languages across the EU. Regional languages are therefore a key element of multilingualism in Europe.

In May 2016 the Basque Institute, partner of AThEME at the University of the Basque Country, presented updated versions of the Corpus of Contemporary Basque and Corpus Based Translations tools. They invited stakeholder Mr. P. Baztarrika, head of the Language Policy Department from the Ministry of Education, Language Policy and Culture of the Basque Government. The Corpus of Contemporary Basque includes texts from the XXIst century and contains more than 270 million words. It is the largest corpus of Basque consisting of book texts, newspaper articles and many other texts written in this century.

Furthermore, Adam Zawiszewski, Mikel Santesteban and Itziar Laka from the University of the Basque Country explored the electrophysiological response of Basque speakers when processing subject-verb person and number phi-feature agreement violations. They published their findings Phi-features reloaded: An ERP study on person and number agreement processing in Applied Psycholinguistics. 

Since January 2016 the Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes increased their collaboration with the cultural association Chubri. They focus on the promotion of the regional language Gallo. Chubri provided recordings and surveys from interviews among Gallo speakers. Jieun Bark from the University of Nantes has started working on the phonetic transcription of this audio data focusing on palatalization and liquid consonants. The audio data is analysed in order to create a corpus and to develop the Gallo writing system.

Samantha Becerra-Zita, also from the University of Nantes, recently received a regional grant from Pays de la Loire to study the semantic and syntactic properties of negative elements in Gallo.

The Universities of Trento and Verona have put up a website for crowdsourcing called VinKo (''Varieties in Contact''). The following five varieties are explored by means of VinKo: Ladin and Trentino dialects (Romance varieties), Cimbrian, Mòcheno and South-Tyrolean (German varieties). By means of this website it will be possible to collect quantitative data to integrate the more traditional fieldwork that has been carried out in the past two years: anybody speaking one of the varieties investigated in the project can help, providing them with new phonological, morphological and syntactic data. VinKo's most innovative feature is that informants can record their own voices with the built-in microphones of their PCs while uttering single words or whole sentences depending on the task. In September 2016 VinKo will be introduced to all AThEME researchers.

In May 2016 Ana Bratulić from the University of Rijeka gave a guest lecture entitled “Vitality of the Fiuman dialect” in the Sociolinguistics of Minority and Endangered Languages MA course in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Rijeka. She provided a short description of this dialect spoken in the city of Rijeka and talked about the dialect's origin, history, geographical distribution and different factors contributing to its vitality.

Moreover the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences team at the University of Rijeka has been conducting an extensive research into the challenges of the implementation of the policy of multilingualism in Croatia. The results were presented in June at the CLARC 2016 international conference, ''Perspectives on Language Planning and Policies''.

Myrthe Bergstra from Utrecht University has developed her analysis of the ongoing changes in Frisian due to language contact with Dutch. She presented her work at the Conference of the Student Organisation of Linguistics in Europe (ConSOLE XXIV) in York (January 2016) and at the Linguistics in the Netherlands-Day in Utrecht (February 2016). Slides of her presentation can be found here

During the last six months Michela Bonfeni from the University of Edinburgh created and ran an experiment on the relationship between language and attention in three different bilingual populations. In Edinburgh she tested late bilinguals of Italian and English and in Sardinia she tested simultaneous bilinguals and passive bilinguals of Italian and Sardinian. Michela Bonfeni wants to understand what main factors contribute to the so-called bilingual advantage. Currently she is working on her data analysis.  

In 2015 Frank Marušič, Petra Mišmaš and Rok Žaucer from the University of Nova Gorica coauthored and launched a regional language-related book: Spletna jezikovna svetovalnica za slovenski jezik/Servizio di consulenza linguistica on-line per la lingua slovena - izbor gradiva/materiali scelti. The book addresses questions about lexical and grammatical features of the Primorska Slovenian varieties spoken in Italy

Heritage Languages and Language Users in the EU

A heritage language is one that families bring with them when they move to a different country. Speakers of heritage languages often face particular barriers relating to perceptions of immigration and ethnic diversity across Europe.


The team of the University of Konstanz investigates the developmental path of German grammar of children who grow up learning Italian and Turkish at home and who also acquire the ambient language (German) in Germany. In November 2015 Janet Grijzenhout from the University of Konstanz acted as a panel member at a panel discussion about Multilingualism at the XV settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo” in Freiburg. The aim of the panel discussion was to inform the public about benefits of multilingualism and to help disperse negative views.

Furthermore, in May 2016 Janet Grijzenhout gave a talk about her ongoing research, ‘The Prosody-Morphology Interface in Child Language Acquisition’ at University of Nantes in France.


Multilingualism and Communicative Impairment

Many people experience a form of communicative impairment - from stammering, dyslexia and Specific Language Impairment in children, to aphasia following a stroke or traumatic brain injury later in life. But what happens when someone with communicative impairment speaks more than one language?

From October till December 2015 Constantin Freitag from the University of Konstanz collected experimental data from L2 Learners of German in India (Jawaharlal Nerhu University, New-Delhi). The Konstanz team conducted three different psycholinguistic experiments (i.e. a sentence matching task, an elicited production task, and an elicited imitation task) with two learner groups (beginner and advanced) that investigated the acquisition of the verb second property in L2-learning.

Constantin Freitag and Nathalie Scherf (Humboldt-Universität, Berlin) gave two talks together. First they gave a talk in November 2015 entitled: "COMP as you are: the relation of left periphery, (in)dependent clauses, and verb second phenomena" at the 36th Annual Conference of Linguistic Society of Nepal (36th LSN), in Kathmandu, Nepal. Their second talk,
entitled: "Embedded V2 revisited: Dependent vs. subordinated clauses", took place in March 2016 at the workshop Rethinking verb second: Assessing the theory and data at the University of Cambridge.

Josef Bayer from the University of Konstanz organized a research colloquium in December 2015. Alessandra Tomaselli and Andrea Padovon from the University of Verona presented their work which resulted from their AThEME-project entitled: “Do borrowed complementizers always enter the C-layer from the topmost projections? On the top-down direction of functional word borrowing”.


Being Multilingual

This research theme will focus on the cognitive aspects of multilingualism. Researchers will look at the possible relationship between language and other mental operations like attention and memory, and try to find which factors can best predict how well someone learns a second language.

Ana Bratulić and Siniša Smiljanić gave a talk at the 30th International Conference of the Croatian Applied Linguistics Society (CALS), “Language in Research and Teaching” which took place at the University of Rijeka (May 2016). Their talk was entitled: “What do we talk about when we talk about bilingualism? Exploring Croatian pre-service teachers’ beliefs”. They presented the preliminary results of an exploratory questionnaire-based study in which they investigated Croatian pre-service teachers’ beliefs about bilingualism, namely their definitions and perceived advantages of bilingualism, as well as their subscription to some of the most common misconceptions about (early) bilingual language development.

In April 2016 Sara Andreetta from the University of Nova Gorica and Ludivine Dupuy from Université Lyon participated in the International Symposium on Bilingual and L2 Processing in Adults and Children at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany. They gave a talk entitled: “The effect of bilingualism on the processing of scalar implicatures''.

Researchers from Spain published two articles:
  1. One from the University of the Basque Country in Frontiers in Psychology about how early and late L2 learners process L2 grammatical traits that are either present or absent in their native language (L1). Electrophysiological correlates of second-language syntactic processes are related to native and second language distance regardless of age and acquisition.   
  2. And another one from the University of Pompeu Fabra in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience about the difficulties experienced during sentence comprehension in a foreign language (L2). World Knowledge integration during second language comprehension.

Upcoming events

Key dates for your diary over the coming months.

June 28, 2016 (Gorizia, Slovenia)
The University of Nova Gorica together with the Slovene Research Institute (SLORI) is organizing a bilingual Slovenian/Italian public event: "Living with two languages: from childhood to third age. What research says”.

September 13 and 14, 2016 (Trento, Italy)
The University of Trento is organizing the second dissemination network meeting of Bilingualism Matters entitled: "Engaging in research on bilingualism''. More information can be found here.

September 15 and 16, 2016 (Verona, Italy)
The University of Verona is organizing the second AThEME consortium meeting. More information soon.

September 30 and October 1, 2016 (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
De Taalstudio
is organizing the fifth DRONGO language festival. AThEME will be present with a booth and with interactive scientific labs. Several researchers of AThEME will present their research in an interactive manner and meet a broad range of different visitors within the field of the language industry.

October 27 and 28, 2016 (San Sebastian, Spain)
The lab IKER (UMR5478), in collaboration with the research group BasDisyn (University of the Basque Country) and the partners of WP2 of AThEME, organize the international conference Language Contact from an I-language Perspective at the University of the Basque Country. More information can be found here.

Meet the Researcher

Constantin Freitag is a PhD student at the University of Konstanz. He works within the research theme Multilingualism and Communicative Impairment and is mostly interested in syntax and sentence processing. He is preparing his dissertation about the processing of V2 order in German by native speakers and L2 learners. Constantin and his team have conducted about 5 experiments with native speakers that investigate the processing of V2 order. Last year he went for 3 month to New Delhi to conduct 3 experiments with L2 learners of German in two groups of different levels of proficiency (beginner, advanced).

How would you define "bilingual"?
Initially I believed that the term "bilingual" applies only to individuals who properly acquired two languages from early childhood on. Now after I entered the multilingualism research scene I would say that "multilingual" means that an individual has an active or passive competence in more than one language/variety.

How did you first become interested in bilingualism?
The mother of an old friend of mine speaks Czech as a native language. Even though my friend doesn't speak Czech he can understand it quite well. I was always fascinated how my friend and his sister could understand the code switching, in which their mother mixed German and Czech within one sentence. Later when I studied linguistics I received a little Czech dictionary. So next time I called the family I looked up some Czech greeting hoping that the mother of my friend would be on the phone. To my surprise my friend was on the phone. But even though I spoke out the phrase that I just learned "hey, jak se máš?" 'hey, how are you?'. My friend simply answered in German "danke, gut" 'thanks, I'm fine' and went on talking. Later I asked him if he had noticed that just spoke in Czech to him. And he said that only now that I had pointed it out he had realized that it was Czech. I was fascinated how his passive knowledge could kick in so automatically that he didn't even notice that somebody very unexpectedly used this language.

Can you tell us about any recent bilingualism research you have been involved in?
German and all other Germanic languages (except English) exhibit a very interesting word order phenomenon, the verb second property. This means that the finite verb occupies the second position in main clauses. Within AThEME I'm investigating the acquisition of the verb second order by L2 learners of German. This is very interesting because the systemic cause for the verb second order seems to be quite abstract (e.g. marking illocutionary force). Therefore it is interesting to see how learners master this, especially in contrast to L1 acquisition. With psycholinguistic experiments we are aiming to identify the specific sentence structures that the learner has internalized. Additionally we are interested whether the word order in the first language influences the acquisition of word order in German. From October to December last year I went to the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and conducted experiments with Hindi speaking learners of German.

Do you speak any other languages?
German is my native language. I also speak English, French, a bit Russian and Latin.

What have you found to be the hardest thing about researching bilingualism?
The hardest thing might be the complexity of the research object. In addition to the grammatical phenomena, the number and order of acquired languages might influence the acquisition process. Other influences might be the age at which the learners started, whether they had classroom training, etc. We are investigating groups of learners but every individual has his or her own experiences. This makes it tough to reach solid generalizations.
Complete the sentence: speaking another language is...
like seeing the world with new eyes. Languages developed different formalizations to describe the world and I find it very revealing to learn about alternative ways to express our thoughts.
What do you think is the most important issue in bilingualism research right now?
Hard to decide, especially because I think I do not know about all aspects of multilingualism research. But I think a very fascinating topic is the difference between L2 acquisition by young children and by adults. For example getting in contact with refugees, I'm just baffled that children who live in Germany for three months speak almost perfectly German, whereas adults still struggle with simple sentences.

front cover of AThEME leaflet
AThEME leaflets available to download.

Dissemination News

Bilingualism Matters logo Each participating country (Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom) now has a branch of Bilingualism Matters, responsible for coordinating dissemination in that country. Find out more about your local branch and what they have been up to!

All branches share a central aim: to raise awareness and promote evidence-based information about bilingualism and language learning across Europe. As the AThEME project develops, branches of Bilingualism Matters will be able to communicate the AThEME findings and policy recommendations in all sectors of European society.

Bilingualism Matters @ Rijeka Hosted by: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Rijeka

Bilingualism Matters in Rijeka gave a talk entitled “Foreign language learning with Bilingualism Matters@Rijeka: Language Tandem and additional lessons for Roma children” for teachers and other staff members at Rijeka’s Podmurvice Elementary School. Ana Bratulić and Siniša Smiljanić presented the branch and their free foreign language learning programme, Language Tandem. Irena Meštrović Štajduhar talked about their language teaching programmes, focusing on additional English lessons for Roma children at Rijeka’s Škurinje Elementary School, while the programme’s volunteers shared their experiences of teaching Roma children (November 2015)

The branch participated in May 2016 in the celebration of the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Day at the University of Rijeka. They organised a pub quiz about multilingualism in collaboration with the Rijeka School of Croatian Studies and were present with a booth in the entrance hall. They displayed a poster about the city of Rijeka language identity (referring to languages spoken in the city of Rijeka today and the past) and recently-published brochures.

Furthermore, they joined the CLARC 2016 international conference, “Perspectives on Language Planning and Policies” at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka (June 2016)

Bilingualism Matters @ Nantes Hosted by: University of Nantes

Bilingualism Matters in Nantes organized several ''Atelier du Bilinguisme'' events. Their target audience are teachers, researchers and parents whose children are bilingual. At the events they presented the branch and organized discussions in round-tables where people shared their experiences. They obtained knowledge about the questions that interest teachers, researchers and parents.  

Furthermore, the branch started new partnerships with the Café Bilingue Nantes association, Russies étonNantes (Association Franco-Russe), Elus de l'Union Democratique Bretonne (Town building of Nantes), La Maison du Citoyens du Monde association and CZESC (Association Franco-polonaise).


Zentrum für Mehrsprachigkeit/ Centre for Multilingualism Hosted by: University of Konstanz

The Centre for Multilingualism joined the ‘Language, Variation, Migration’ network lead by Prof. Heike Wiese. This is a national network which includes 20 centers for multilingualism/migration research and outreach. More information can be found here.

Three talks were presented at the research colloquium of The Centre for Multilingualism.
  1. ''Orkney Pronunciation: A Phoneticians Feast'' by Holger Schmitt (December 2015)
  2. ''Transfer into L3 English: Global accent in German-dominant heritage speakers of Turkish'' by Anika Lloyd-Smith (January 2016)
  3. Nora Budde-Spengler presented a talk on integrated language intervention for multilingual children in day care settings (February 2016)
Janet Grijzenhout participated with presenting several papers, talks and events. In October 2015 she presented a paper on ''Words, words'' at the Workshop ''What’s in a noun'' at the Universität Leipzig and in January 2016 she was invited to present a talk on ''Language development in children'', at the University of Tübingen.

Together with Tanja Rinker she gave a talk ''Maintaining Heritage Languages in Europe'' at the Cultural Science Colloquium and a talk ''Space for multiple languages: Individual abilities and the school classroom'' at the 38th annual meeting of the German Society for Linguistics (DGfS).

Furthermore, in February 2016 Janet Grijzenhout organized together with Nicole Dehé, the 38th annual meeting of the German Society for Linguistics (DGfS) in Konstanz. There were more than 450 participants, including many AThEME members. The AThEME logo was promoted extensively and coordinator of AThEME Lisa Cheng (Leiden University) was one of the keynote speakers with a presentation about ''Causal wh & extra wh''.

And last but not least, the Center for Multilingualism in Konstanz acquired a grant awarded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts in Baden-Württemberg for a five-year project (1 April 2016-31 March 2021). As part of the research project they will conduct studies on the use of academic language in the classroom and its effects on bi- and multilingual students. The project also aims at implementing a certificate course in German as a Second Language/Multilingualism in the classroom for future and current teachers.

Bilinguismo Conta Hosted by: University of Trento

Maria Vender from the Bilingualism Matters branch in Trento presented a workshop entitled ''Early Bilingualism and Developmental Dyslexia’’ at the international conference ''Dyslexia and Dyspraxia: from prevention to training'' in Verona (October 2015).

Furthermore, Patrizia Cordin from the Bilingualism Matters branch in Trento participated in three events:
  1. A meeting at E-pharma company kindergarten in Trento. During this meeting they discussed the activities of the E-pharma company bilingual (Italian and English) Kindergarten (November 2015). 
  2. A workshop "Teaching Italian in multilingual infant classes in Italy" at the University of Konstanz for the University course Mehrsprachigkeit  in der (europäischen) Romania (January 2016).  
  3. A presentation in Bassano del Grappa entitled: ‘’Mother language and multilingualism’’ (February 2016).

Bilingualism Matters @ NL Hosted by: De Taalstudio

The Bilingualism Matters branch in the Netherlands participated in three events:
  1. They joined a Roundtable expert meeting on Multilingual Education for Migrant Children in Europe organized by the Rutu Foundation and Utrecht University (November 2015)
  2. They participated in an international roundtable meeting of SARDES (a Dutch Educational Service) entitled: ''International Perspectives on Multilingual ECEC''. The aim of the meeting was to exchange knowledge and experience from a number of European countries, on multilingual child care (December 2015)
  3. In April 2016 they gave a workshop at Boekstart Baby Café. They gave personal advice and informed parents and people who work in the field of education about multilingual child raising.
Furthermore, in April 2016 AThEME coordinator Lisa Cheng was invited to present AThEME at the workshop ''Cultures & Citizenship: Research and Innovation'' from the European Commission. The workshop gathered active research projects from the EU on Social Sciences and Humanities. All projects presented their (initial) research findings and discussed how these might contribute to European policy making. More information can be found here.

Khalid Mourigh from Leiden University was mentioned in an article about Moroccan-Dutch in the magazine Onze Taal (June 2016).   


Večjezičnost Velja Hosted by: University of Nova Gorica

The Bilingualism Matters branch in Slovenia organised a second version of the event “Bilingualism: advantages, preconceptions and new discoveries”. The event took place at an elementary school in Gorizia (Italy) and was aimed at language teachers of the school. They described research results of AThEME experiments (in which students from this school participated) and the main aspects of bilingualism in terms of advantages and prejudices.  

Bilingualism Matters @ EHU Hosted by: Bilingual Mind Group at University of the Basque Country

Itziar Laka from the Bilingualism Matters branch of the Basque Country was interviewed about the sociolinguistic status of the Basque Language in the Basque Television Spanish language channel (December 2015). Mikel Santesteban was interviewed in the Euskalerria Irratia radio channel (January, 2016).  

Furthermore the branch presented three talks:
  1. “Izenburua” at the XV Semana de la Ciencia, la Tecnología y la Innovación by Kepa Erdocia in November 2015 in Victoria-Gasteiz.
  2. ''Agreement attraction effects in Basque production and judgement acceptability data.'' in the Experimental Approaches to Arabic and Other Understudied Languages (EXAL+) by Idoia Ros, Nera Egusquiza and Itziar Laka in Abu Dhabi (January 2016).
  3. ''Encender frente a llenar, entender frente a saber.'' by Itziar Laka at the JORNADAS GrOC (Gramática Orientada a las Competencias) at the Universitat de Barcelona (February 2016).

Bilingualism Matters Hosted by: University of Edinburgh

The Bilingualism Matters branch in Edinburgh participated in several events:
  1. ''Language at school and at home.'' Their aim was to inform parents about features of the Scottish school system and about the importance of maintaining the home language (November 2015).
  2. ''Edinburgh Exchange –multilingualism & business'' about the benefits and challenges of multilingualism for business. In collaboration with the University of Edinburgh careers service they informed business leaders and recruiters about this topic (January 2016).
  3. They provided information about bilingualism in younger children at the ''Early years information session'' at Dalry nursery. They reached parents from bilingual families and early years staff (February 2016).
  4. In February they organized bilingual theatre workshops for all levels of adult learners of French and English. These workshops were part of the ''Innovation learning Week'' and encouraged confidence in spoken language skills in a fun and safe environment.
In March 2016 they participated with an AThEME booth in the Language Show Live in Scotland. The AThEME booth showcased the research that the project’s team of linguists and psychologists are currently carrying out with multilingual speakers. They explained how the research is disseminated to government, schools and the public. Visitors to the booth had the opportunity to talk to AThEME researchers about their research, and to ask them questions and tell them about their own experiences. Moreover, they had the chance to take part in a computer-based ‘task-switch game’ as a demonstration of the sort of tasks that language researchers use to investigate how multilingualism affects the mind. Antonella Sorace (University of Edinburgh) and Theo Marinis (University of Reading) gave seminars on the practical applications of this research to language learning and language impairment.

Furthermore the branch was invited to give several talks, among others at the Norwegian Language Council,  at a business breakfast with the Financial Times, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and at the Association for Advancement of Science.
Copyright © 2014 AThEME, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you expressed your interest in the AThEME project.
You can unsubscribe from these emails at any time (click "unsubscribe from this list")

Our mailing address is:
Advancing the European Multilingual Experience
Leiden University Centre for Linguistics 
Postbus 9515 
NL-2300 RA Leiden 

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp