The original impulse for the Interdisciplinary Centre 'European Languages: Structures, Development, Comparison' (IZ-ZEUS) came from several subject areas in two faculties in the year 2004. Representatives from English, Romance, Germanic and Netherlands Philology, Philosophie, North American Studies, Indogermanic Philology, Turk Studies, Islamic Studies and the Language Centre. The interdisciplinary centre is supported by the faculties of Philosophy and Humanities as well as by History and Cultural Studies.
The purpose of the Interdisciplinary Centre 'European Languages' is to coordinate and expand resources for research and teaching in linguistics at the Free University. Specific goals are to develop and expand interdisciplinary linguistics research, acquire external funding, encourage and financially support young scholars and, last but not least, to expand public awareness of the Center's activities.
The interdisciplinary Master's Programme at IZ-ZEUS, Sprachwissenschaft ('Linguistics'), gives students the opportunity to refine their skills in foreign languages on an advanced level, and to deepen and specialize their theoretic understanding of structural, historical and usage-oriented aspects of European languages – as well as in relation to non-European languages. Students can focus on Germanic or Romance Linguistics, if they so wish.
In accord with the goals of the Centre, instruction is carried out by the several participating institutes and departments, including Romance Languages, Anglo-American Studies, Dutch and Germanic Philology.
Current linguistically oriented research activities at the Free University can be grouped into five areas:
The considerable variety of theoretic paradigms followed by researchers at the Free University offers a congenial framework for interdisciplinary discussion and cooperation.
As mentioned, in ZEUS the objects of study are European languages; the thematic focus is on the aspects 'Structures – Development – Comparison' and on a number of weighty controversies in current theoretical linguistics that touch on these aspects. The orientation towards European languages reflects the tradition of philological research at the Free University, with its specific strengths and possibilities, but comparative studies with non-European languages also play an important role. IZ-ZEUS thus presents a profile that is distinctly different from that of other universities and institutes in the Berlin area, and on a larger scale it is a valuable complement to other existing centres for European linguistics.
In addition to expanded presentations at Berlin's 'Long Night for Scholarship and Science' IZ-ZEUS has made itself known locally by participation in scholarship fairs, colloquia, university lectures, and by issuing a common catalogue of course offerings. The efforts of IZ-ZEUS to encourage and organize interdisciplinary linguistics studies culminated in the Master's Programme 'Languages of Europe: Structures and Usage', which opened in the winter semester of 2007-2008.