Modern Language Research

Modern Language research was identified as a strategic priority area by the AHRC in its 2011–2015 delivery plan. This commitment is reiterated in the AHRC Strategy 2013–2018 (PDF, 3.6MB), which emphasises our continued commitment to enhanced working partnerships with related organisations and bodies. It is in this collaborative context that the current and future programmes of funding opportunities are being formulated.

We define Modern Languages as any language currently in use in the world today, including sign languages. As a discipline, it is the AHRC's vision to reposition Modern Languages away from the perception that it is solely concerned with the acquisition and training of language skills, towards more mature forms of research that are methodologically innovative, ambitious and interdisciplinary. There is much concern within the sector that the uptake of Modern Languages is in decline, which is in direct opposition to the increasing levels of multilingualism and cultural diversity that is apparent throughout society, both nationally and globally. It is in this context that much of our support of modern languages sits.

Our objectives

  • Championing the development of the Modern Languages research area, identifying opportunities for its advancement and encouraging innovative research at the cutting-edge of the disciplinary field
  • Facilitating an inter- and cross-disciplinary, cross-linguistic and cross-cultural approach to Modern Languages research
  • Supporting and championing Modern Languages as a complex, but coherent and unified disciplinary field, across all domains and with the capacity to make important contributions to society beyond academia
  • Better understanding and communicating the role Modern Languages research can play in tackling global, societal and cultural challenges, and to understand those challenges in historical, comparative and transnational frames
  • Fostering and developing national and international engagement and collaboration in Modern Languages research in order to ensure that the UK is recognised as a leading player in the global research community
  • Ensuring that the status of Modern Languages as a strategic, important and vulnerable subject is recognised and supported through any initiatives and opportunities that become available
  • Working with the Modern Languages research community to overcome institutional barriers and policies which inhibit research collaboration
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Professor Janice Carruthers - Leadership Fellow in Modern Languages

To ensure our aims and vision for Modern Languages are realised, Professor Janice Carruthers was appointed in 2017 as the AHRC Leadership Fellow for Modern Languages.
Her role:

  • addresses the major challenges that currently face Modern Languages
  • ensures that Modern Languages grow as a vital as part of the AHRC’s overall research portfolio.

Priority research areas and themes for Modern Languages

Our commitment to Modern Languages is reflected in a number of recent large investments and research themes:

The Open World Research Initiative (OWRI)

OWRI was conceived to have a transformational impact on Modern Languages research in the UK and inspire the future generation of researchers. Through OWRI, AHRC is funding ambitious, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary research programmes that demonstrate the strategic importance of language-led research and enhanced language expertise across the arts and humanities, and beyond. For more information visit: www.ahrc.ac.uk/research/fundedthemesandprogrammes/themes/owri.

As part of The Open World Research Initiative (OWRI), the AHRC has invested £16 million in four major research programmes that will help demonstrate the value of modern languages in an increasingly globalised research environment:

These projects will help showcase the crucial role that languages play, not just within arts and humanities but also on a wider scale in relation to key contemporary issues.

Language-Based Area Studies (LBAS)

LBAS centres were originally supported from 2006–11 through funding from the AHRC, ESRC, HEFCE and SFC. Subsequent activity for the centres has been funded by the AHRC and British Academy until 2016. The five centres were established with the aim of creating a world-class cadre of researchers with the necessary language skills to undertake contextually informed research in the Arabic speaking world; China; Japan; and Eastern Europe, including areas of the former Soviet Union. For more information visit: www.ahrc.ac.uk/research/fundedthemesandprogrammes/languagebasedareastudies.

Translating Cultures

Led by Theme Leadership Fellow Professor Charles Forsdick, Translating Cultures is one of the AHRC's four research themes. Through Translating Cultures the AHRC has funded a variety of work, including three Large Grants, with a total portfolio that numbers around 90 separate awards. Broadly conceived, Translating Cultures embeds modern languages research within wider conceptions of 'translation' that encompass the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives. For more information visit: www.ahrc.ac.uk/research/fundedthemesandprogrammes/themes/translatingcultures.

Current funding opportunities

The AHRC welcomes Modern Languages related submissions to its four, open-ended responsive mode funding schemes: Research Grants, Leadership Fellows, Follow-on Funding, and Research Networking.

We also run and participate in numerous time-limited strategic calls that provide opportunities for Modern Languages researchers.

Details of these can be found on the current funding opportunities page.

Past projects and case studies

Contact
AHRC Modern Languages subject team: LLIE@ahrc.ac.uk