Project "Kanji"


The project "Anthropological Universals – Cultural Differences.  Comparative research on differences in processing German alphabetic words and Japanese Kanji" is funded by BMBF within the program "Interactions between natural science and humanities."
The interdisciplinary project, a cooperation between German Linguistics (Prof. Dr. Christian Stetter), Neurolinguistics (Prof. Dr. Walter Huber) and Psychology (Prof. Dr. Martina Ziefle) as well as partners at the universities of Tokyo and Chiba in Japan, aims at determining the impact of universal cognitive mechanisms and cultural influences on the usage of a writing system as a symbol system. Therefore, a comparative analysis of the German writing system as an alphabetical orthography and the Japanese writing system as a combination of logography and syllabary is conducted. A description based on Nelson Goodman’s symbol theory provides the comparability of both systems beyond the Eurocentric view that writing is a secondary sign system. 
We use reaction time experiments to scrutinize the theoretically grounded hypotheses and to draw first conclusions about the processing in the different writing systems. In addition to that, the use of functional image resonance imaging (fMRI) allows to examine the respective activated neural networks. Finally, the results will be transferred into a connectionist model that allows to develop a computer based simulation of the processing in the specific symbol system. 
The project combines linguistic-philosophical with psychological and neuropsychological approaches, thus constituting an interdisciplinary research association that enriches both humanities and science. 

Project information:


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Funding period:

July 2008 – June 2011

Project members

Elisabeth Birk
Sonja Häffner 
Dr. Kathrin Hippmann 
Kiyoshi Fujii
Thomas Zejewski
Yuanfeng Zhang


Prof. Dr. C. Stetter (Project coordination) 
Institut für Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft

Prof. Dr. W. Huber 
Universitätsklinikum Aachen, Lehr- und Forschungsgebiet Neurolinguistik

Prof. Dr. M. Ziefle 
Communication Science