History of VMU Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism Research Centre

The origins of the VMU Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism Research Center are related to children’s language research. in 1994 during the participation in the international project “The Acquisition of Pre- and Protomorphology” led by Professor W. U. Dressler of the University of Vienna, dedicated to the research of children’s language acquisition, data on Lithuanian children’s language was started to be collected. I. Dabašinskienė (formerly Savickienė), P. Wojcik and M. Smoczynska collected and digitized the speech recordings of two children and, using the computer program CHILDES (English Child Language Data Exchange System http://childes.psy.cmu.edu/, MacWhinney 2000) created a transcribed and grammatically annotated database of these children’s speech. The mentioned database can be considered the first text of the spoken Lithuanian language, based on which the researches made possible the formation of the Lithuanian school of psycholinguistics, and also opened up the space for the research of the spoken language. The database of Lithuanian children’s language started by I. Dabašinskienė and her colleagues is being expanded to this day. Currently, the children’s speech text collected at Vytautas the Great University consists of 7 children’s speech records transcribed in text form and morphologically annotated, collected by the long-term observation method and including children’s speech data from the beginning of the formation of the grammatical system until its establishment, on average from 1.7 years. up to 3.5 years.

Research on child language has evolved into broader studies of spoken language, including spontaneous spoken language and prepared public speaking. In order to collect data on the natural spoken language of adults, in 2006 VDU started to create the Textbook of the Spoken Lithuanian Language (http://saktynistekstynas.vdu.lt/), which currently consists of about 300,000 morphologically annotated word forms. During the implementation of various projects financed by LMT, spoken language data was collected in various regions of Lithuania. The CHILDES program is used for transcription and grammatical annotation of spoken language data, which uses a lexicon presented in a special form to annotate texts. The lexicon used for the annotation of spoken language was prepared by I. Dabašinskienė, A. Utka, L. Kamandulytė-Merfeldienė (read more Kamandulytė-Merfeldienė, 2017, Textynas of the spoken Lithuanian language – a source of natural usage research, Applied Linguistics 9), it is constantly updated with additional new words and their forms.

In 2008 researchers of the Centre for Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism, together with their colleagues, joined the cluster “Multiculturalism and language change research in the context of globalization”. Cluster researchers analyzed the features of language use, changes in the language system related to globalization, features of language development in a multicultural or multilingual society, studied issues related to language policy. During the implementation of various projects, not only the previously described textbooks were expanded, but also language development diagnostic tools, experimental language acquisition research tests, a standardized language development evaluation methodology and a dedicated tool were developed.

The researchers of the Center for Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism have coordinated and implemented more than 20 international and national research projects aimed at researching adult spoken language, children’s language, multilingualism, linguistic landscape, and language identity. Among them, it is worth highlighting the project “Friendly Resources for Playful Speech Therapy – Frepy“, which was awarded the Quality Statue of the Education Exchange Support Fund, as well as the European Language Mark of the European Commission. It should be mentioned that the tool developed during the last project is still one of the most used speech therapy tools in the practical activities of speech therapists.

8 scientific theses were defended on the topics of the Center for Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism, and more than 200 scientific publications were prepared. The scientists of this center regularly provide expert consultations to state and other interested institutions (Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, National Education Agency, Lithuanian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists, Association of Special Pedagogues of the Republic of Lithuania, etc.).