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D - Levels of descriptions and interactions in linguistic representations

The results of dynamic processes in language variation and change are commonly described using supra-individual, social, abstract and often idealized concepts: systems, structures, variables, forms, functions, etc., along with classical notions from structural linguistics; however, the last decades have seen a growing interest in the concrete linguistic activities of individual language users and their dependency on perception, categorization, articulation, knowledge, meaning, motives, attitudes, identities, etc.

Accordingly, there is a challenge in explaining the dynamic processes involved in language variation and change: The micro-level of dynamic individual activities and processes on the one hand, and the macro-level of static, abstract structures on the other hand. These two must be bridged theoretically. Then, how can the phenomena from one level be explained by recourse to those of the other level in the face of their different levels of abstraction?

Project D seeks a post-doctoral researcher who, in close dialogue with the individual projects, models the concept of “mental representation” with which it becomes possible to bridge the phenomena of the micro- and macro-levels of description explaining language dynamics. The goal is to identify a notion of “mental representation” that integrates stability and dynamics on the micro-level simultaneously with the macro-level. This will make it possible to explain the interdependences between phenomena on the micro- (A2, C1) and macro-levels of description (C2, C3) in processes of language variation and change. The dialogue with neurolinguistic, acquisition and intervention projects will broaden our perspective of mental representations in such a way that the resulting concept is integrative enough to allow for ontogenetic dynamics (B1, B2) and manipulation (B3), and restrictive enough to allow for discrete, as well as continuous, cognitive phenomena on the perceptual (nano-)level (A1).