Linguistics and literary studies, like most of the other liberal arts, have undergone considerable changes since the 1960s – changes which have affected the methods used and which have also led to a new determination of the objects of study. One of the consequences of these changes is the increasing autonomy of linguistics and literary studies, which have developed into largely separate and very precisely differentiated fields. The main cause of these changes was a marked theoretization which in linguistics led to a primary interest in synchronic questions. In literary studies since, at the very latest, the 70s, a lively debate on the possibilities and variations of a “literary science” has been in progress. Such attempts to bring about a theoretization of the discipline have generated a number of fields such as the aesthetics of reception, the sociology of literature, literary semiotics and deconstruction, which now exist parallel to the traditionally dominant literary history.

The theoretization of linguistics and literary studies has been accompanied by shifts in the actual objects of study. Not only the standard written form of languages and the traditional canon of texts are the objects of study, but increasingly the focus is on a wide variety both of speech and literary forms of expression. Recently in the area of literary studies a discussion of the nature and function of the media has once more brought about a considerable revision of the subjects to be treated; increasingly, the relationships between literature, film, the new media etc. have become of central concern.

In the light of this differentiation between linguistics and literary studies, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation gives priority to the support of projects which investigate basic questions of language and literature. Above all, the foundation is interested in projects which focus on the examination of language and text. It also supports projects which are devoted to historical investigations as well as those which are devoted to the theoretical foundations of these disciplines. Of special interest are projects which establish links to other fields of study, and in particular to such disciplines as philosophy or theology which also investigate language and texts.