Academy of Finland  
Funding decision
Organisation University of Helsinki
Project title Accommodating Linguistic Diversity in Conversation: Modal Expressions and Multilingualism in South Africa
Applicant / Contact person Ringhofer, Thera Marie Crane
Decision No. 324699
Decision date 26.04.2019
Funding period 01.09.2019 - 30.11.2024
Funding 438 875
Project description
All communication involves the negotiation of meaning: speakers work together to achieve communicative and social goals, without direct access to each other’s thoughts. Multilingualism is the norm for much of the world, but relatively little research has focused on collaborative communicative practices in multilingual settings. In highly multilingual South Africa, closely related languages in heavy contact show significant differences, although linguistic theories might predict their convergence to a few shared varieties. This project investigates, using story-telling and interactional experiments, how these differences are perceived, maintained, and accommodated in a multilingual society. The focus is on the domain of modality (the expression of possibility and necessity, like ‘can’, ‘should’, or ‘must’ in English), a domain in which differences could potentially cause substantial misunderstandings, and where significant cross-linguistic distinctions are found in South Africa.