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Doctoral Projects

Current projects

Amador Garcia Terceror "The encoding of motion events by learners of German as foreign language in Spain"

Supervised by Claudia M. Riehl

In the course of globalization, learning and speaking foreign languages have a new meaning in the world. Technological developments, new economic and political orders or the increase of low-cost airlines have contributed to the fact that the way people communicate and interact with each other has changed in a short period of time. Foreign language didactics must meet the requirements of modern times and develop effective teaching methods that open the door to intercultural and communicative knowledge of another foreign language for the learners. The transmission and acquisition of this knowledge is not an easy task, because differences between languages are often very wide and represent peculiarities that are typical for only one or few languages.

This dissertation deals with the coding of motion events in learners of German as foreign language in Spain. Based on Talmy's typology of lexicalization patterns will be investigated what effect Spanish (V-language) or other learned language have on German (S-language) when learners express the conceptualization of a motion event lexically and grammatically in German. The aim is to find out whether the windowing of attention, which is typical for the first language, still remains in the foreign language when Spanish learners of German describe motion. According to Slobin's theory "thinking for speaking", the linguistic system of a language dictates how people express events linguistically. Aspects such as how people move, cross a border or describe the path are lexically coded differently depending on the language. Based on oral descriptions of movement events, this dissertation will provide information about the characteristics and difficulties Spanish learners have and which aspects German textbooks for Spanish speakers should take into account.

Selected Literature:

De Angelis, G. 2007. Third or additional language acquisition. Toronto: Multilingual Matter.
Filipović, L. 2007. Talking about motion. A crosslinguistic investigation of lexicalization patterns. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Liste Lamas, E. 2016a. Über einige Merkmale der Wegkodierung im Deutschen als Fremdsprache bei Lernern mit Spanisch als L1. In F. Robles i Sabater, D. Reimann & R. Sánchez Prieto (eds.), Sprachdidaktik Spanisch-Deutsch. Forschungen an der Schnittstelle von Linguistik und Fremdsprachendidaktik. Tübingen: Narr Verlag, 37-47.

Liste Lamas, E. 2016b. Path encoding in German as a foreign language: Difficulties encountered by L1 Spanish Learners. In J. Goschler / S. Niemeier (eds.), Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 47-65.

Papafragou, A. & Selimis, S. 2010. Event categorisation and language: A cross-linguistic study of motion. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25, 224-260.

Slobin, D. I. 2000. Verbalised events: A dynamic approach to linguistic relativity and determinism. In S. Niemeier & R. Dirven (eds.), Evidence for lingusitic relativity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 107-138.
Talmy, L. 2003. Toward a cognitive semantics: Typology and process in concept structuring. Cambridge: University Press.


Verena Rasp "Mehrschriftlichkeit. Zur Wechselwirkung von Schriftsprachkompetenzen in L1 und L2 am Beispiel der deutschsprachigen Minderheit in Ostbelgien." ["Multiliteracy. On the interdependence of written language skills in L1 and L2 exemplified by the German-speaking minority in East Belgium."]

Supervised by Claudia M. Riehl

Project description:

The dissertation focuses on language contact between German and French in the German-speaking Community (Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft = DG) in East Belgium. As the official language of the region, German is the language of instruction as well as a subject taught in schools of the DG, while French is taught as the first foreign language from first grade on. Therefore, the younger generations of the DG are considered especially bilingual. The project investigates how contact between language and culture affects the written language skills in the students’ first language (L1) German and the second language (L2) French, as they grow up in such a multilingual environment.

Fundamental to the project is the study by Riehl (2001), who explored the influence of French on German by analyzing written texts from students in the DG. Based on this work, the present dissertation strives to find out how the situation has evolved since then and how German has a reverse impact on French as well. An analysis of argumentative texts by students of the DG will investigate how German and French affect each other during writing and what influence the contact culture has at this point. A further subject of interest is the extent to which language attitudes have a positive effect on textual competences in both languages.

Selected Literature

Bouillon, Heinz (2019): Deutsch in Ostbelgien. In: Beyer, Rahel/Plewnia, Albrecht (eds.), Handbuch des Deutschen in West- und Mitteleuropa. Sprachminderheiten und Mehrsprachigkeitskonstellationen. Tübingen: Narr, 47–70.

Brusselmans-Dehairs, Christiane (2017): Belgien. In: Döbert, Hans/Hörner, Wolfgang/von Kopp, Botho/Reuter, Lutz R. (eds.), Die Bildungssysteme Europas. 4th rev. and. ext. edition Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag, 81–98.

Riehl, Claudia M. (2001): Schreiben, Text und Mehrsprachigkeit. Zur Textproduktion in mehrsprachigen Gesellschaften am Beispiel der deutschsprachigen Minderheiten in Südtirol und Ostbelgien. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.

Riehl, Claudia M.; Yılmaz Woerfel, Seda; Barberio, Teresa & Tasiopoulou, Eleni (2018): Mehrschriftlichkeit: Zur Wechselwirkung von Sprachkompetenzen in Erst- und Zweitsprache und außersprachliche Faktoren. In: Mehlhorn, Grit/Brehmer, Bernhard (eds.), Potenziale von Herkunftssprachen. Sprachliche und außersprachliche Einflussfaktoren. Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 93–116.



Completed doctoral thesis

Teresa Barberio "Sprachkontaktphänomene bilingualer Schüler am Beispiel argumentativer und narrativer Texte in der L1 Italienisch und der L2 Deutsch" [“Language Contact Phenomena of Bilingual Students Using the Example of Argumentative and Narrative Texts in L1 Italian and L2 German“]

First advisor: Prof. Claudia Maria Riehl
Second advisor: Prof. Thomas Krefeld

Project Description:

Migration and the related phenomenon of multilingualism are of central importance to our modern society. This is reflected especially in Germany, where the percentage of (Italian) migrants has increased sharply in the last few years. In this context, national and international studies on the German educational system (IGLU and PISA, among others) have shown that particularly children with a migration background have difficulties reaching education standards. This is especially true in the area of textuality.

In this context, Cummins differentiates between BICS and CALP (cf. Cummins 2004). While BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) are important for everyday communication, the language-related capability (CALP, Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) facilitates the comprehension and composition of complex texts. This capability has proven to be a significant prerequisite for educational success, so that one remains monolingual in the written context if the capability is not acquired. German research speaks of “textual competence” in this context (cf. Portmann-Tselikas 2005, Schmölzer-Eibinger 2011).

With the aid of narrative and argumentative texts in L1 (Italian) and L2 (German) of bilingual students of the 9th and 10th grade, my dissertation project empirically analyzes which language contact phenomena can be found and how they influence the textual competence. The data was compiled within the framework of the research project “Mehrschriftlichkeit”[“Multitextualism”] at the Institute of German as a Foreign Language of LMU under the direction of Profesor Riehl.
For the evaluation of textual competence, a model was initially developed based on Berman/Nir-Sagiv (2007), to identify the global textual patterns. The macrostructure, the discourse mode (conceptual oral or written structures) (cf. Koch/Oesterreicher 1994) and the communicative attitude (cf. Riehl 2013) are taken into consideration here. The written data was supplemented with language-biographical interviews so that a discussion about which extralinguistic factors have an influence on written text could later be conducted.

Selected Literature:

Berman, Ruth A./Nir-Sagiv, Bracha (2007): Comparing narrative and expository text construction across adolescence: A development paradox. Discourse Processes, 38 (1). 57-94.

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Hg.) (2006): Bildungsforschung Band 14. Migrationshintergrund von Kindern und Jugendlichen: Wege zur Weiterentwicklung der amtlichen Statistik. Bonn.

Cummins, Jim (2004): Language, power and pedagogy. Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. (=Bilingual education and bilingualism 23).

Koch, Peter/Oesterreicher, Wulf (1994): "Schriftlichkeit und Sprache". In: Günther, Hartmut/Baurmann, Jürgen (Hgg.): Schrift und Schriftlichkeit. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch internationaler Forschung = Writing and its use: an interdisciplinary handbook of international research. Berlin: de Gruyter: 587–604.

Portmann-Tselikas, Paul (2005): Was ist Textkompetenz? (30.11.2016).

Riehl, Claudia Maria (2013): "Multilingual discourse competence in minority children. Exploring the factors of transfer and variation". European Journal of Applied Linguistics Band 1, Heft 2./2013: 254–292.

Schmölzer-Eibinger, Sabine (2011): Lernen in der Zweitsprache. Grundlagen und Verfahren der Förderung von Textkompetenz in mehrsprachigen Klassen. Univ., Habil.--Graz, 2007. Tübingen: Narr. (=Europäische Studien zur Textlinguistik 5).

Siegert, Manuel (2008): Schulische Bildung von Migranten in Deutschland. Hgg. vom Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF). Integrationsreport, Teil 1, Working Paper 13.

Wörfel, Till/Koch, Nikolas/Yilmaz Wörfel, Seda/Riehl, Claudia M. (2014): Mehrschriftlichkeit bei mehrsprachig aufwachsenden Kindern: Wechselwirkungen und außersprachliche Einflußfaktoren. In: LiLi-Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 43, 44-65.

Yilmaz Wörfel, Seda/Riehl, Claudia M. (2016): "Mehrschriftlichkeit: Wechselseitige Einflüsse von Textkompetenz, Sprachbewusstheit und außersprachlichen Faktoren". In: C. Schroeder/P. Rosenberg (Hrsg.) Mehrsprachigkeit als Ressource in der Schriftlichkeit. Reihe "DaZ-Forschung", Berlin: de Gruyter.



Katarina Wagner "Konflikt und Kooperation im Kindergarten. Multimodale pragmatische Strategien in Kind-Kind-Interaktion(en)" [“Conflict and Cooperation in Preschool. Multimodal Pragmatic Strategies in Child-Child Interaction(s)“]

Supervised by Claudia M. Riehl, Michael Becker-Mrotzek (Uni Köln) und Drorit Lengyel (Uni Hamburg)

Personal details: Since October 2009 Katarina Wagner has been working as research assistant at the Institute for German Language and Literature I of the University of Cologne and is pursuing her doctorate with Prof. Dr. Claudia Riehl. She has been a member of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School (class 3) since 2010. Within the framework of her studies of German Philology, Art History and European Linguistics, she has dealt especially with multilingualism, New Media, language acquisition and language politics. In addition to her activities at the university, she leads seminars and workshops on topics such as “Multilingualism”, “Multilingual Education” and “Language Acquisition and Support” for parents and educational professionals. Since December 2011, she has been a Fellow at The Research and Study Program on Education in Early Childhood (‘Frühkindliche Bildung’) of the Robert Bosch Foundation.

Project description:
In her dissertation, Katarina Wagner addresses the communication of children with each other in the daily preschool routine. The project is based on video recordings of natural interactions in a group of 27 children. Video recordings are ideally suited for making possible a holistic picture of communication and observing different multimodal levels such as gestures, facial expression and intonation. The approach is expressly not deficiency-oriented, but pays special attention to the skills and strategies of the children, especially those who are learning German as second language



Seda Yılmaz-Wörfel "Linguistic development of multi-linguals with migration background: Usage of finite and non-finite structures in German and Turkish"

Supervised by Christoph Schroeder & Yazgül Şimşek (Universität Potsdam); Carol Pfaff (FU Berlin)


Turkish as a typical OV language, makes use of clause-chaining constructions in which one or more nonfinite clauses are followed by a finite clause (Slobin, 1995: 349). Such a form is called converb, gerund or deverbal adverb. These are often the structures that occur with the inflectional suffixes: –(y)Ip, -(y) ArAk, -(y)A, -(y)IncA, -ken.

(1) Koş-arak ev-e git-ti.
      run-CVB house-DAT go-PST(3SG)
      ‘He went home by running’

(2) Telefon çal-ınca, ürk-tü.
      Phone ring-CVB scare-PST(3SG)
     ‘S/he was frightened, when the phone rang’

German, on the other hand, differs typologically and builds structures equivalent to converbs with the participles (I and II), where the subject is not explicitly showed, as in the following example of participles in German:

(3) Von der Universität komm-end, geh-t er in den Garten.
     From the university com-PTCP go-PR(3SG) he in(to) the.ACC garden
     ‘Coming from university he enters (into) the garden’

(4) Von dem Gespenst, erschreck-t rannte sie aus der Geisterbahn.
     From the.DAT ghost scare-PST(3SG) run.PST(3SG) she out the ghost train
    ‘Scared by the ghost she ran out of the ghost train’

The equivalent of converbs in German can also be expressed via coordinate clauses with conjunctions such as und, aber, auch, oder etc. (ex. 5). Subordinate conjunctions such as indem, als etc. (ex. 6)

(5) Er komm-t von der Universität und geht in den Garten.
     He come-PR(3SG) from the university and go-PR(3SG) in the garden ‘
     He comes from university and enters (into) the garden’

(6) Er geh-t nach Hause, indem er renn-t.
     He go-PR(SG) at home by he run-PR(3SG)
    ‘He goes home by running’

My dissertation presents a qualitative analysis of early bilingual Turkish-German student’s oral and written text productions in narrative and expository contexts. The corpus consists of data from a longitudinal study (LLDM - Free University of Berlin/ MULTILIT - University of Potsdam & Free University of Berlin) of bilinguals in the 10th and 12th grade (secondary school) in Berlin, Germany. The main focus is on the function of converbs in the framework of functional pragmatics and their role in propositional and illocutionary acts. As well as, the function of the equivalent structures in German and the variety of Turkish in Germany will be compared. The aim is to show the role of cross-linguistic influences (transfer, innovation, semantic change, syntactic variation), as well as how this can be related to sociolinguistic variables (dominant school language, Turkish instructions, family language, first exposure to German language in the language contact situation). My research is oriented on the following questions:

  1. In the usage of finite and nonfinite structures what kind of word order changes occur?
  2. Do the use of multiple converbs of various types to build more complex event representations cause any changes between monolinguals and bilinguals?
  3. Can we identify any of the factors determining change in the L1, if any, based on length of residence, language use, education or attitudes?

It is expected that usage of converbs and the degree of complexity differ between bilinguals and monolinguals. The comparison with the Turkish monolinguals will give a reference point, in order to distinguish between those features that are caused by language contact and those that are caused by acquisition process.
There have been much discussion and critic about the bilinguals’ usage of finite and nonfinite structures in German and Turkish, but there have not been enough experiments that investigate this properly. This study will fill a significant research gap and can serve as a future reference for further studies.