Are humans born with basic grammatical skills, something like a natural, universally-valid blueprint that enables them to learn language irrespective of the environment in which a child grows up or the native language it learns, be it Chinese, German or Kiswahili? Received opinion in linguistic research believed that a universal grammar of this kind did indeed exist – until Cognitive Linguistics came along and shook the very foundations of this decades-old edifice of ideas. Ewa Dąbrowska is one of the most prominent proponents of this approach. Based on empirical studies of children and adults in specific language and cultural contexts, she analyses the various ways they learn language and what role social and individual influences play in the process. That such diversity could be condensed into a few universal rules is an argument Dąbrowska finds unconvincing. Instead of applying a single overarching theory, she looks at language from the angle of its use and effects. Her research results are also of relevance to social and educational policy. She has demonstrated, for instance, that it is as good as impossible to compensate for language deficits in early childhood, which later impact adults’ potential language skills.
At FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Ewa Dąbrowska will assume a new chair in language and cognition, reinforce the field of cognitive and use-based linguistics and help establish a Linguistics Lab, integrating linguistic expertise from other fields as well.
Nominating University: University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU)
Prof. Dr. Ewa Dąbrowska
was born in Poland in 1963 and is a professor in the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham, UK. Dąbrowska studied at the University of Gdańsk, Poland, where she took her doctorate in 1995. Her academic career has taken her to the University of Glasgow, Scotland as well as the Universities of Sussex, Sheffield and Northumbria, all in the UK. In 2008, Dąbrowska was made an honorary member of the Polish Cognitive Linguistics Association (PCLA). Since 2014, she has been the president of the United Kingdom Cognitive Linguistics Association. In October 2018 she took up her position as a Humboldt Professor at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg.