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Academic Language Competencies (BiSpra): Affordances, Language Processing, and Diagnostics

Research Scientist

Birgit Heppt

Student Assistant

Sandra Tirre

Project in Cooperation With

Prof. Dr. Sabine Weinert, Universität Bamberg
Prof. Dr. Angelika Redder, Universität Hamburg


Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Funding Period

August 2009 – July 2012

Project Description

Mastery of academic language presents a major prerequisite for educational success. The concept of academic language refers to the language used in academic settings, such as schools. Compared to everyday language, academic language tends to involve more sophisticated vocabulary, more complex grammar, and less contextualization. It is assumed that this type of language is particularly challenging for children from socially disadvantaged families and for children with an immigration background. Whether this is in fact the case, however, is largely unclear. Moreover, which specific features of academic language present particular challenges for these children has yet to be explored.
The project is carried out in collaboration with Prof. Sabine Weinert (University of Bamberg). The first phase of the investigation aims at determining the specific challenges associated with academic language for children from socially disadvantaged families and children who have learned German as a second language. Using experimental and quasi-experimental designs, a number of characteristics of academic language will be varied systematically to test their effects on listening comprehension in different student groups. In the second phase of the project, the results of these experiments and quasi-experiments as well as findings from linguistic studies performed under the auspices of Prof. Angelika Redder (University of Hamburg) will be used to develop a standardized instrument for the assessment of academic language skills of children from 5 to 12 years of age.