‘I think it is fair to say that the CAS project has contributed to the success of the AcqVA Aurora Center grant application’, Professor and CAS project leader Marit Westergaard says about her recent academic achievement.

She and Professor Terje Lohndal currently lead the CAS project MultiGender: A Multilingual Approach to Grammatical Gender, which expands on their joint research group called AcqVA: Language Acquisition, Variation & Attrition.

The AcqVA group has successfully applied to become an Aurora Center, receiving NOK 30 million from UiT over the course of four years. Five of the fellows in the CAS project are among the principal investigators of the new Aurora Center for Language Acquisition, Variation & Attrition: The Dynamic Nature of Languages in the Mind.

Multilingualism: increasingly common

In our globalized world, it has become increasingly common to learn two or more languages throughout a lifetime. The Aurora Center will focus on a range of multilingual speaker groups, and thus contribute with useful insight relevant for meeting societal challenges related to migration, education, and health.

The AcqVA Aurora Center will investigate the numerous external and internal factors that contribute to the considerable variation found across multilingual minds and brains’, Westergaard says.  

Furthermore, they will also contribute with more nuances in the research, she says, and argues that much current research compares bi- and multilingual populations with monolingual control groups, ‘as if all bilinguals are the same’.

Westergaard and her colleagues will instead differentiate between bi- and multilingual populations in linguistic research:

In AcqVA Aurora, we will consider the dynamic nature of multilingual minds and brains and focus on language acquisition as well as attrition. We will consider external factors contributing to multilingual outcomes, crosslinguistic influence between the languages in a multilingal mind, as well as neurocognitive adaptations in multilingual brains’.

Language acquisition, variation and attrition/change is the overarching theme of both the CAS project and the AcqVA Aurora Center, and Westergaard describes the latter as in some sense ‘a continuation of the MultiGender project at CAS’.

 ‘While the CAS project focuses on one linguistic property, grammatical gender across a number of languages and language combinations, AcqVA Aurora takes a more general approach to multilingualism’, she says.

The Aurora Centres is a new scheme at UiT to strengthen the university’s most promising research groups and their competitiveness for further external funding.