The Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) is a university-independent research institute of the federal state of Berlin that is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. It is sponsored by the Verein Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren Berlin (GWZ e.V.) . At the ZAS, the human faculty of language and its expression in individual languages is explored, with the aim to better understand this central human ability and its biological, cognitive and social factors. Knowledge gained on how language is structured, acquired and processed can be applied elsewhere, e.g. in the field of speech diagnostics or speech technology.
In the four research areas of ZAS, experts from all core subdisciplines of linguistics are active: Phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon, semantics and pragmatics as well as child language acquisition. The four research areas are accompanied by externally funded projects. A fifth research area on language documentation and archiving is planned. This concentration of active research in multiple linguistic sub-disciplines in a single institution is unique in Germany and facilitates a direct exchange of current research results and methods. The multitude of visiting scholars and scholarship holders, as well as national and international workshops and conferences hosted by ZAS provide an important boost to its scientific work. The core programme Embedding, linking and constituent boundaries in speech, grammar and discourse, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, is to be carried out at ZAS until 2019.
The scientific work at ZAS is based on on corpus linguistic methods and field research in the Eastern European, African and Pacific regions. A phonetics laboratory, a psycholinguistics laboratory and a motion-capture laboratory are available at ZAS for empirical testing and experimental modelling of predictions. A research library with approx. 58,200 volumes is available to staff from the institute and other linguistic institutions as well as to students studying linguistic in Berlin and Potsdam. ZAS supports university-level education by teaching courses and helping to coordinate linguistic research in Berlin and in joint EU projects.
An internationally staffed scientific advisory board supports the work at ZAS, reporting annually to the BMBF and the State of Berlin on current activities. As an institution of the GWZ, ZAS is under the supervision of the membership meeting and the board of trustees (Kuratorium).
The core programme Embedding, linking and constituent boundaries in spoken language, grammar and discourse is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) until 2019. The two fundamental operations for constructing complex linguistic expressions, coordination and subordination, are examined in the programme. The boundaries that result from these operations are of special interest. Empirical data is obtained through field research and phonetic and psycholinguistic experiments. The goal is to formally model the linguistic regularities. The BMBF core programme covers five programme areas (PB), that analyse constituent boundaries in spoken language, child acquisition of discourse cohesive tools, clause-embedding predicates, the linking of clauses as well as relationships between sentential semantics and discourse strategies.
The BMBF core programme is supplemented by third party-funded projects that have been or are being funded by the DFG, the Volkswagen Foundation, the European Commission, the European Science Foundation, the Investitionsbank Berlin and the Berlin Senate. Many of these projects can be classified under one of the following research topics:
Studies on language acquisition, especially the acquisition of German as a second language at pre-school and primary school age. The development of test procedures adapted to the different languages of multilingual children which can be used to measure their language level and identify language disorders constitutes an important activity in this area.
Studies on the interpretation and use of linguistic expressions using experimental methods, partly with the aim of technical applications.
Documentation of small and little-known languages in Africa, South America and Oceania, partly with newly developed methods.
The programme areas will be fully integrated into the research areas from 2020 onwards.
The Centre for General Linguistics becomes a member of the Leibniz-Association, henceforth to be called Leibniz-Centre for General Linguistics. The BMBF core programme is set to be carried out until the end of 2019.
ZAS receives project funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), replacing the previous project funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The funded research programme is entitled Embedding, linking and constituent boundaries in spoken language, grammar and discourse. The basic funding is provided by the State of Berlin, with a number of other projects providing supplemental funding, including the DFG, the Volkswagen Foundation, the European Commission, the European Science Foundation, the Investitionsbank Berlin and the Senate of Berlin.
In its “Recommendation on Developing and Promoting the Humanities in Germany” the science and humanities council deemed the research achievements of ZAS, ZfL (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung) and ZMO (Zentrum Moderner Orient) as excellent and recommends their continued activity and funding.
Professor Dr. Manfred Krifka becomes director of ZAS; he is professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
Following a recommendation of the science and humanities council and with funding from the Federal State of Berlin and from the German Science Foundation (DFG), the Centers for Advanced Study in the Humanities (GWZ) is founded in 1996. This is a larger organisation hosting not only ZAS but also the Centre for Literary and Cultural Research (Zfl) and the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies (ZMO). Until the end of the first twelve-year funding phase at the end of 2007, most funds were raised from the DFG in various proposal phases. The basic funding provided to ZAS by the state of Berlin covers one third of the current expenses.
ZAS grew out of the Central Institute for Linguistics (ZISW), which belonged to the Academy of Sciences (AdW) of the GDR. In 1992, after Germany's reunification, parts of this internationally renowned institute were incorporated in the "Förderungsgesellschaft Wissenschaftliche Neuvorhaben", run by the Max-Planck-Society, continuing its work under the name Specialist Research Centre for General Linguistics, Typology and Universals Research (FAS). The temporary director of the FAS and founding director of ZAS was Professor Dr. Ewald Lang (*1942 †2013) from Humboldt University in Berlin.