Past Abstracts

Virtual Colloquium in Germanic Linguistics for Postgraduate Research Students and Early Career Researchers

12-13 January 2021, hosted by the University of Sheffield, UK

Abstracts (in chronological order)

Tuesday, 12 January

Julian Mader (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany): The role of inflexional economy in the loss of thou V-st

According to the traditional account, the loss of English thou and Dutch du is due to the socio pragmatic implications the 2nd singular pronouns developed over time (e.g. Wales 1996: 76). Aalberse & Stoop (2015), however, argue that the loss was partly driven by the avoidance of the 2nd singular verbal endings -st (English) and -s (Dutch) in favour of the more economical 2nd plural suffixes. They test the hypothesis for Dutch.

This paper investigates whether support for the Aalberse & Stoop hypothesis can be found for English, too. To do so, it examines a dialect contact scenario resulting from large-scale immigration to late medieval and early modern London, which might increase pressure for a more economical verbal paradigm. The focus here is on second dialect learners from Northern England, i.e. one major group of immigrants (Rappaport 1989: 77–80), for whom the inflexional ending -st would be a source of error due to a different L1-dialect paradigm. For these speakers, therefore, avoiding the combined set thou V-st could make sense. A corpus study is conducted to explore the use of address pronouns depending on writers’ origin and their ties to the capital. It is based on a subcorpus of CEEC and comprises selected personal letters (c. 800,000 words) from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Following Aalberse (2009), the pronouns in the attestations were manually classified as subjects of verbs or non-subjects, since the loss of thou is hypothesised to be stronger for subjects because they trigger verbal -st.

Although the results present a mixed picture – especially concerning the role of Northerners – they lend cautious support to the deflexion hypothesis: Subject thou is generally underrepre sented and the effect is more clearly pronounced for writers who have strong ties to London or live there.


Aalberse, Suzanne. 2009. Inflectional economy and politeness: Morphology-internal and morphology-external factors in the loss of second person marking in Dutch. Dissertation (LOT 208). Utrecht: LOT.

Aalberse, Suzanne & Wessel Stoop. 2015. The exceptional loss of the pronoun T. Journal of Pragmatics 88. 190–201.

CEEC = Corpus of Early English Correspondence. 1998. Compiled by Terttu Nevalainen, Helena Raumolin-Brunberg, Jukka Keränen, Minna Nevala, Arja Nurmi, and Minna Palander-Collin at the Department of Modern Languages, University of Helsinki.

Rappaport, Steve. 1989. Worlds within worlds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wales, Katie. 1996. Personal pronouns in Present-day English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Julie Van Ongeval (VUB, Belgium): The diachrony of Dutch relativizers and the d- to w- change

This presentation, based on a student research project, will focus on the diachrony of Dutch relativizers, and more specifically on three d- to w-changes (dat > wat, die > wie, daar > waar) in the history of Dutch relativization. Although both classical structuralist studies (van der Wal, 2002, 2003; van der Horst, 1988) and more recent work in construction morphology (Rutten, 2010) have already shed light on this linguistic phenomenon, the precise chronology as well as the role of different linguistic and sociolinguistic variables driving these three changes still remain unclear (van der Wal, 2003, pp. 362-363; van der Wal, 2002, pp. 34). In order to fill these two lacunae, this contribution will adopt a broad diachronic perspective, not only investigating the chronology of the change, but also exploring the influence of intra-linguistic (viz. the (in)definiteness of the antecedent) and extra-linguistic elements (viz. region and text genre).

Adopting a corpus linguistic approach, we will use the egodocuments and political pamphlets sections of the Historical Corpus of Dutch, compiled at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Leiden University. This diachronic multi-genre corpus of Early and Late Modern Dutch (ca. 1550-1850) contains texts from the Northern provinces of Holland and Zeeland, as well as from the Southern provinces of Brabant and Flanders. Based on our results, we will demonstrate how the d- to w-change can actually be characterized as a set of gradual lexical changes, largely following typical S-curve patterns and to a large extent determined by the (in)definiteness of the antecedent. Since the incoming w-relativizers already appear in the egodocuments and political pamphlets from the very onset of the change, this study also highlights the importance of examining linguistic processes from a ‘language history from below’ point of view (Elspaß, 2007, pp. 4).


Elspaß, S. (2007). A twofold view ‘from below’: new perspectives on language histories and language historiographies. In Germanic language histories ‘from below’ (1700–2000) (Studia Linguistica Germanica 86), 3-13. Berlijn-New York: de Gruyter.

Rutten, G. (2010). Vroegmoderne relativa: naar een diachrone constructiegrammatica. Nederlandse taalkunde, 15, 1-32.

Van der Horst, J.M. (1988). Over relatief dat en wat. De nieuwe taalgids, 81 (3), 194-205.

Van der Wal, M. (2002). Relativisation in the History of Dutch: Major Shift or Lexical Change? In P. Poussa (red.), Dialect Contact and History on the North Sea Littoral, 27-36. München: Lincom.

Van der Wal, M. (2003). Relativiteit in de grammaticale traditie. Tussen norm en descriptie? In E. Ruijsendaal, G. Rutten & F. Vonk (reds.), Bon jours Neef, ghoeden dagh Cozyn! Opstellen voor Geert Dibbets, 361-375. Münster: Nodus Publikationen.

Louis Cotgrove (University of Nottingham, UK): 'Weil dann meine schwester will eine ps4 haben‘': Parataxis and non-standard syntax following subordinating conjunctions

This paper presents the results of an investigation into the use of non-standard syntax in clauses starting with subordinating conjunctions in German online youth language. The investigation uses a corpus that I built (‘Der Nottinghamer deutsche YouTube Jugendsprache Korpus’ or NottDeuYTSch), comprising 33.8 million tokens taken from comments underneath videos uploaded by German-language youth-orientated YouTube channels from 2008-2018.

Paratactic syntax structure following subordinating conjunctions, i.e. subordinating clauses with the verb in the second position rather than at the end, has been a mainstay of German syntax research over the last 40 years, particularly with the conjunction, weil (Gaumann 1983; Wegener 1993; Gohl and Günthner 1999; Antomo and Steinbach 2010; Reis 2013; Freywald 2016). Using the NottDeuYTSch corpus, this study provides new examples of clauses with paratactic structures that follow subordinating conjunctions that have not been previously identified in existing literature, such as with wenn and dass (as in the title). The paper also demonstrates that the overall frequency of this phenomenon has increased by 50% over the period of the corpus, although not for each conjunction, and explores the possible reasons behind these changes.

The NottDeuYTSch corpus contains a higher variety and frequency of parataxis in online youth language compared to other online corpora, such as the DWDS Webkorpus or the Dortmunder Chatkorpus, or previous qualitative studies, which provides corroborative evidence for the grammatical diversification of conjunctions. Previous research by Gohl and Günthner (1999) suggested that several subordinating conjunctions have undergone grammaticalization to first additionally function as paratactic (coordinating) conjunctions and then as discourse markers. However, using the NottDeuYTSch corpus, we can see that subordinating conjunctions, such as als ob, can undergo grammaticalization directly to function as discourse markers, without first being used as paratactic conjunctions, and the paper suggests a new possible model to be used when discussing grammaticalization.


Antomo, Mailin, and Markus Steinbach. 2010. ‘Desintegration Und Interpretation: Weil-V2-Sätze an Der Schnittstelle Zwischen Syntax, Semantik Und Pragmatik’, Zeitschrift Für Sprachwissenschaft, 29.1: 1–37 <>

Freywald, Ulrike. 2016. ‘V2-Nebensätze” – Ein Eigener Satztyp?’, in Satztypen Und Konstruktionen, ed. by Rita Finkbeiner and Jörg Meibauer (Berlin: De Gruyter), pp. 326–72.

Gaumann, Ulrike. 1983. ‘“Weil Die Machen Jetzt Bald Zu”: Angabe-Und Junktivsatz in Der Deutschen Gegenwartssprache’ (Universität Mainz)

Gohl, Christine, and Susanne Günthner. 1999. ‘Grammatikalisierung von Weil Als Diskursmarker in Der Gesprochenen Sprache’, Zeitschrift Für Sprachwissenschaft, 18.1: 39–75 <>

Reis, Marga. 2013. ‘„Weil-V2“-Sätze Und (k)Ein Ende? Anmerkungen Zur Analyse von Antomo & Steinbach (2010)’, Zeitschrift Für Sprachwissenschaft, 32.2: 221–62 <>

Wegener, Heide. 1993. ‘“Weil - Das Hat Schon Seinen Grund”: Zur Verbstellung in Kausalsätzen Mit “weil” Im Gegenwärtigen Deutsch’, Deutsche Sprache: 289–305.

Sarah Muller (University of Sheffield, UK): German in the Luxembourgish Education System: Exploring Primary School Students’ Critical Perspectives

With student populations around the world becoming increasingly diversified, language education policies and teaching pedagogies need to be scrutinised as they play a key role in students’ access to meaningful learning experiences. In Luxembourgish primary education, German is used as the medium of instruction and for teaching basic literacy skills within a multilingual curriculum that also features French and Luxembourgish as language subjects. This rigid language regime does not accommodate for the various linguistic and educational needs of a highly diverse student population, of which a large number of students have a Romance-language background and have to go through a German-medium education system. Indeed, it is a well-documented fact that the Luxembourgish education system and the requirements of its language regime contribute to the reproduction of social stratification in Luxembourg.

This paper provides a qualitative insight into the experiences and perspectives of primary school students in Luxembourg who navigate this education system, with a focus on German as a school language. It draws on a theoretical framework that combines the notion of the lived experience of language (Busch 2017) with discursive approaches to language policy (Barakos and Unger 2016) to conceptualise language policy as experience (Shohamy 2009). A thematic analysis of 22 one-on-one semi-structured interviews revealed that negative views on German, both as the medium of instruction and as a language subject, prevailed among many participants. Some students highlighted the mismatch between the importance attributed to German in the education system and its perceived lack thereof in wider society, and many detailed a wide range of negative lived experiences with and because of German in the classroom. As such, the findings presented in this paper contribute to broader research on young people’s experiences of language (education) policy in multilingual settings.


Barakos, E. and Unger, J. (2016) ‘Introduction: Why Are Discursive Approaches to Language Policy Necessary?’ in Discursive Approaches to Language Policy. ed. by Barakos, E. and Unger, J. London: Palgrave, 1–9.

Busch, B. (2017) ‘Expanding the Notion of the Linguistic Repertoire: On the Concept of Spracherleben —The Lived Experience of Language’. Applied Linguistics 38 (3), 340–358.

Shohamy, E. (2009) ‘Language Policy as Experiences’. Language Problems and Language Planning 33 (2), 1855–189.

Wednesday, 13 January

Joshua Booth (University of Oxford, UK): Metre in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival: a reanalysis

Middle High German (MHG), like both earlier Germanic and modern German (despite their substantial metrical differences), is considered to rely on trochaic foot structures. Scholars have consequently assumed a preference for trochaic metre in poetry of the MHG Classical Period. However, given the trend elsewhere in Europe to emulate French lyrics and compose verse in iambic metre, even in other trochaic languages, it seems inadequate simply to assume a trochaic metre for all MHG poetry without good evidence. A closer examination of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival - an adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval ou le Conte du Graal - suggests that the traditional analysis is not only insufficient but counter to the linguistic evidence. Based on a close analysis of a 150-line sample, it is argued here that Parzival was in fact composed in iambic tetrameter. A taxonomy of line structures found in the poem was identified and analysed according to Halle & Keyser’s (1966) principles for iambic metre. The overwhelming dominance of the wswswsws pattern (in addition to other permissable deviations) over a typical trochaic structure is particularly convincing. An iambic analysis is further corroborated by the consistently iambic structure of line-final feet, identified according to the weight of the final, penultimate and antepenultimate syllables of each line. The present analysis has the advantage of explaining the peculiarities of scansion in Parzival much more parsimoniously than the traditional literary view, which relies on the overgeneralisation of a complex system involving a large amount of additional machinery and questionable reliance on scansion which deviates from natural language. A simple iambic reading is perfectly adequate, with any apparent irregularities or deviations from an ideal iambic metre resulting from the occasional impossibility of reconciling iambic and trochaic structures; of attempting to write iambic verse in a trochaic language.

Brenda Assendelft (University of Leiden, Netherlands): The Frenchification of Dutch: French loan suffixes in the Dutch language, 1500-1900

French and Dutch have a long history of language contact, particularly in the period between 1500 and 1900. This language contact resulted in French influence on the Dutch language at various levels: lexicon, morphology (Van der Sijs 2002; 2005), and possibly syntax as well (e.g. Van der Horst 2008). However, so far the actual influence of French on the Dutch language has hardly been studied empirically. For example, it is not known how the use of the elements borrowed from French developed over time, and whether these elements were used to the same extent in all social domains. Taking a historical sociolinguistic approach, this presentation aims to address the question what the actual influence of French on Dutch was. A corpus-based case study will be presented, focussing on suffixes such as –teit (e.g. kwaliteit ‘quality’), -aal (e.g. liberaal ‘liberal’) and -eren (e.g. debatteren ‘to debate’). The presence of these elements in Dutch morphology can be attributed to influence from French (Van der Sijs 2005). We will introduce the newly designed Language of Leiden Corpus (LOL Corpus), that has specifically been built for this research and which consists of Dutch texts originating from the Dutch city of Leiden, from seven different social domains and spanning the period from 1500 to 1900. The corpus analysis of the use of French loan suffixes will both discuss the diachronic development of these elements as well as the differences in use between the social domains.


Horst, J.M. van der. 2008. Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse syntaxis. Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven.

van der Sijs, N. 2002. Chronologisch woordenboek. 2nd ed. Amsterdam & Antwerp: Veen. van der Sijs, N. 2005. Groot Leenwoordenboek. 2nd ed. Utrecht & Antwerp: Van Dale.

Yasmin Crombez (VUB, Belgium): Exploring multilingualism in an emigrant setting

The relationship between migration and language is central to the studies of language contact. The importance of migration as “the key factor in contact-induced language change" (Piller 2016: 1) stands not only at the heart of contact linguistics, but also forms the foundation of heritage language linguistics, where the object of study is “a language spoken at home or otherwise readily available to young children, and crucially this language is not a dominant language of the larger (national) society” (Rothman 2009: 159). While most Germanic languages have already been studied as emigrant languages in a North American context (see e.g. van Marle and Smits 1996; Wilkerson and Salmons 2008; Boas 2009; Johannessen 2015) linguistic research on Belgian Dutch as a heritage language remains uncovered ground to a very large extent. Nevertheless, Belgian Dutch in North America forms an interesting case study given its complex sociolinguistic relationship with French.

To contribute to filling this empirical gap, we will present a case study investigating the language use of a Flemish missionary who moved to Canada in 1886. Specifically, we will investigate language contact in his diary, which spans 25 years, charting the overall occurrence of both English and French borrowings, while also looking at the impact of variables such as year, loan type, level of linguistic integration in Dutch, part of speech, and semantic domain. Preliminary analyses show that most English material only gets introduced after a decade of living in Canada, consists primarily of luxury loans, and is borrowed from nearly all word classes, whereas French borrowings almost exclusively consist of nouns, evenly include luxury and necessary transfers, and occur mainly in the first seven years. As this exploratory study is part of a PhD project focusing on English – Belgian Dutch language contact in an emigrant setting, we will discuss and interpret these results against the broader background of Belgian Dutch as a heritage language in North America.


Boas, Hans C. 2009. The life and death of Texas German. Publication of the American Dialect Society(93), 1–336.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2015. Attrition in an American Norwegian heritage language speaker. In Johannessen Janne Bondi & Salmons Joseph (eds.), Germanic heritage languages in North America, 46–71. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Marle, Jaap van & Caroline Smits. 1996. American Dutch: General trends in its development.

In Sture Ureland & Iain Clarkson (eds.), Language contact across the North Atlantic, 427–442. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Piller, Ingrid. 2016. “Language and Migration.” In Ingrid Piller (ed.), Language and Migration (Vol. 1: Languages in Contact), 1– 20. London: Routledge.

Rothman, Jason. 2009. Understanding the nature and outcomes of early bilingualism: Romance languages as heritage languages. International Journal of Bilingualism 13(2), 155–163.

Wilkerson, Miranda E. & Joseph Salmons. 2008. “GOOD Old Immigrants of Yesteryear,” Who Didn’t Learn English: Germans in Wisconsin. American Speech 83(3), 259–283.

Marlena Jakobs (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany): Pan-Nationalist Language Ideologies in Post-Revolutionary Belgium – Language Activism in the Journal De Broederhand (1845-1847)

When researchers deal with the relationship between linguistics and nationalism in the 19th century, they often focus on language discourses that benefitted state-building efforts. However, nationalism also includes concepts that transcend state boundaries. Advocates of these so-called pan-nationalist ideas tried to impose a concept of the nation that was based on ethnic and imperialist categories. Therefore, it seems important to analyse the role of non-governmental agents in nationalist metalinguistic reflexions in order to pluralize the understanding of language ideologies in the 19th century.

The proposed paper deals with the role of journals for the development of pan nationalist language discourses in Belgium around 1850. It investigates how pan nationalist activists advocated a cultural rapprochement between Flanders and Germany and how they used strategies of differentiating, unifying and hierarchizing language varieties to achieve this goal. As a case study, the presentation focuses on the journal De Broederhand (1845–1847), which represented a mouthpiece of pan nationalist ideas in Belgium and Germany.

The paper begins by briefly exploring the diversity of language attitudes towards Germanic varieties that are presented in the magazine. Subsequently, it discusses how different articles linked shared customs like activities of singing associations and shared historical narratives to a pan-nationalist language concept. Finally, it uses the journal to examine the role of pan-nationalist ideas in the Belgian spelling debates in the mid-nineteenth century. All in all, the proposed case study contributes to a more encompassing understanding of language ideologies in the 19th century. Besides that, it also deepens our understanding of nationalism in its transnational dimensions.

Eugenio Verra (Università degli Studi di Milano "La Statale", Italy): Die Sprache über die AFD: Ein internationaler Vergleich von Online-Zeitungen

Die Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) ist eine junge Partei Deutschlands, die 2017 erstmals ins Parlament eintrat. Ihre Sprache hat oft Skandale erregt (vgl. Leif 2017), demnach haben sich viele Sprachwissenschaftler damit aus verschiedenen Perspektiven beschäftig: Einige haben sich auf öffentliche Reden (vgl. Gür-Şeker 2019) fokussiert, andere auf linguistische Strategien im Grundsatzprogramm (vgl. Kämper 2017) oder in Landtagswahlkämpfen (vgl. Arenskrieger 2019); andere haben auch kontrastive (internationale) vergleiche aufgestellt (vgl. Gannuscio 2019). Niemand hat sich bisher allerdings damit auseinandergesetzt, wie man über diese Partei gesprochen wird: Genau dassoll zur leitenden Forschungsfrage meines Beitrags werden, der sich nicht als erschöpfende Darstellung versteht, sondern vielmehr als einführender (auch methodischer) Blick in das Problem. Das Korpus besteht aus Zeitungsartikeln, die unmittelbar nach den Bundestagswahlen veröffentlicht wurden (zwischen dem 25. und dem 30. September 2017), und die aus einigen der wichtigsten online zugänglichen deutschen Zeitungen stammten, sprich der Süddeutsche Zeitung, der Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung und Die Welt (vgl. Roessler 2014: 63ff.). Um diese Arbeit aber nicht nur auf Deutschland zu beschränken, wurden auch wichtige österreichische Zeitungen mit eingeschlossen, wie die Neue Kronenzeitung, die Kleine Zeitung und Kurier (vgl. Newman et al. 2016). Insgesamt werden zwölf Artikel (6 aus Deutschland und 6 aus Österreich) in Betracht gezogen. Von dem theoretischen Ansatz der vergleichenden Diskurslinguistik ausgehend werden zunächst die „diskursrelevanten“ Wörter berücksichtigt (vgl. Böcke et al. 2000: 20); danach wird man auf Sprachthematisierungen, Metaphorik und Argumentation eingehen (vgl. u. a. Niehr 2004, Czachur/Dreesen 2019, Wengeler 2019). Quantitativ wird die Untersuchung durch die Anwendung der Konkordanzsoftware AntConc gestützt. Wenn auch auf einem aus Platzgründen geringen Korpus basierend könnte die vorliegende Ermittlung wichtige Hinweise nicht mehr auf die Sprache der AfD, sondern über die AfD liefern, und damit könnte auch das Problem der „inszenierten Opfer-Rolle“ (Leif 2017: 27) der Partei neu behandelt werden. Darüber hinaus sollte die Internationalität des Korpus auch Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschiede zwischen den deutschen und österreichischen Publikationsmedien identifizieren.


Arenskrieger, Theresa (2019): ,Zuwanderung muss dort aufhören, wo die Identität des eigenen Volkes gefährdet wird’. Implizite Sprachstrategien im AfD-Landtagswahlkampf 2016. In: Schiewe, Jürgen / Niehr, Thomas / Moraldo, Sandro M. (Hgg.): Sprach(kritik)kompetenz als Mittel demokratischer Willensbildung. Bremen, S. 63-78.

Böcke, Karin / Jung, Matthias / Niehr, Thomas / Wengeler, Martin (2000): Vergleichende Diskurslinguistik. Überlegungen zur Analyse internationaler und intralingualer Textkorpora. In: Böcke, Karin / Niehr, Thomas (Hrsg.): Einwanderungsdiskurse. Vergleichende diskurslinguistische Studien. Wiesbaden, S. 11-36.

Czachur, Waldemar / Dreesen, Philipp (2019): Vergleichende und Kontrastive Diskurslinguistik: Prämissen – Prinzipien – Probleme. In: Rocco, Goranka / Schafroth, Elmar (Hrsg.): Vergleichende Diskurslinguistik. Methoden und Forschungspraxis. Berlin, S. 59-91.

Gannuscio, Vincenzo (2019): ,Wir sind das (echte) Volk.’ Sprachliche Ausgrenzungsstrategien der rechtspopulistischen Propaganda der AfD und der Lega Nord. In: Schiewe, Jürgen / Niehr, Thomas / Moraldo, Sandro M. (Hgg.): Sprach(kritik)kompetenz als Mittel demokratischer Willensbildung. Bremen, S. 43-61.

Gür-Şeker, Derya (2019): Exklusionsstrategien in rechtspopulistischen Reden. Eine sprachkritische Annäherung mit Fokus auf Nomination, Prädikation und Metapherngebrauch im Diskurs über Migranten. In: Schiewe, Jürgen / Niehr, Thomas / Moraldo, Sandro M. (Hgg.): Sprach(kritik)kompetenz als Mittel demokratischer Willensbildung. Bremen, S. 79-97.

Leif, Thomas (2017): Tabubruch, Provokation, Opferstatus: Wie die AfD jenseits ihrer ,bürgerlichen‘ Fassade Politik betreibt, offenbart ihr Strategiepapier für das Wahljahr 2017. In: Ansgar Klein, Hans-Josef Legrand, Thomas Leif, Jan Rohwerder (Hgg.): Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen. Berlin/Boston, Vol.30(2), S. 26-33.

Kämper, Heidrun D. (2017): Das Grundsatzprogramm der AfD und seine historischen Parallelen. Eine Perspektive der Politolinguistik. In: Sprachreport 33 (2017), H. 2, S. 1-21.

Niehr, Thomas (2004), Der Streit um Migration in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, der Schweiz und Österreich. Eine vergleichende diskursgeschichtliche Untersuchung. Heidelberg.

Newman, Nic / Fletcher, Richard / Levy, David A. L. / Nielsen, Kleis Rasmus (2016): Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2016. Oxford University (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism) [online verfügbar unter: s3-eu-west (letzter Zugriff: 05.12.2020)].

Roessler, Sophia (2014): Basiswissen für Dolmetscher – Deutschland und Italien. Berlin.

Wengeler, Martin (2019), Europäische Öffentlichkeiten. Überlegungen zur Methodik einer vergleichenden Diskurslinguistik mit Beispielen aus dem Flüchtlingsdiskurs. In: Rocco, Goranka / Schafroth, Elmar (Hrsg.): Vergleichende Diskurslinguistik. Methoden und Forschungspraxis. Berlin, S. 113-150.

Anthony Connor (University of Sheffield, UK): My Ladin or Yours? – Navigating Linguistic Authenticity in the Dolomites Ladin Community

Globalisation is redefining the dynamic relationship between language, borders and identity. Established majority power structures and officially sanctioned policies on language are being challenged. Framed within the contexts of competing language ideologies, shifting linguistic power dynamics and multi-layered minorities, the study draws upon constructionist approaches to language and identity examining how those who identify as Ladin view the relationship between language and identity as well as the role of language in the construction and promotion of Ladin identity in the five Dolomites Ladin valleys of Northern Italy. Living under diverse regional administrations, the Ladin ethno-linguistic group is a minority in Trentino and Belluno and a minority within a minority in the majority German-speaking South Tyrol. This situation requires members of the Ladin ethno-linguistic group to navigate a multilingual reality on the periphery of the dominant neighbouring South Tyrolean German and Italian linguistic groups. With sharp focus on the Ladin ethno-linguistic group, this paper examines the notion of linguistic authenticity in a region where shifting definitions of majority and minority as well as centre and periphery have profound implications for Ladin. The paper presents initial findings based on a thematic analysis of 30 semi-structured interviews that explore how people who identify as Ladin navigate linguistic identity and negotiate access to and membership of community, ethnic or linguistic groups and the resources they control. Analysis reveals that notions of linguistic purity constitute a key criteria in which authenticity is identified and evaluated. The findings reveal salient insights into the Ladin lived experience of language in both the minority and the multilingual setting contributing to our understanding of the emergent importance of the cultural and economic value of small languages in the globalising context.

Ryan Carroll (Bard College, Berlin, Germany): Examining Identity in the Linguistic Landscape of South Tyrol, Italy

In this paper, I examine identity practices in the linguistic landscape of the German speaking community in South Tyrol, Italy. Group and cultural identities in this province are strongly connected to the three official languages of German, Italian, and Ladin (Franceschini, 2011; Glück et al., 2019). Despite the proximity of these language groups, there is little mixing between them. This paper focuses on publicly-displayed signs in order to offer a better understanding of how identities and Discourses are constructed in the linguistic landscape of South Tyrol. Gee (2014) defines a Discourse as the combination of linguistic and other practices that are used “to enact a particular sort of socially recognizable identity” (p. 143). Blommaert (2005) argues that although identity must be examined in semiotic practices, it also extends beyond these same practices, echoing Zimmerman’s (1998) notion of “transportable identities” found in spoken language. I show through selected examples from the linguistic landscape of South Tyrol how an official Discourse is displayed and reinforced on not only government-produced signs, but also on private signs. Fundamental to this Discourse is the viewpoint that the German language and language group are considered equal to the Italian language and language group, a viewpoint that has helped protect the German language, but has also contributed to more rigid boundaries between the two groups. The official Discourse of replicating all information one-to-one in German and Italian is a required practice on government-produced signs, while private producers have the option to deviate from this Discourse. I argue that while these private signs often reinforce this official Discourse, through the use of audience design (Bell, 1984, 2001) they also construct a multilingual audience with a language repertoire beyond the individual languages of German and Italian, which more closely reflects the language abilities of most South Tyroleans (ASTAT, 2014).


ASTAT. (2014). Südtiroler Sprachbarometer. Sprachgebrauch und Sprachidentität in Südtirol. Bolzano/Bozen: Landesinstitut für Statistik. Retrieved from

Bell, A. (1984). Language style as audience design. Language in Society 13(2), 145-204.

Bell, A. (2001). Back in style: reworking audience design. In P. Eckert & J. R. Rickford (Eds.), Style and Sociolinguistic Variation (pp. 139-169). Cambridge University Press.

Blommaert, J. (2005). Discourse. Cambridge University Press.

Franceschini, R. (2011). The potentiality of multilingualism: Four scenarios for a multilingual country. In W. Wiater and G. Videsott (Eds.), New Theoretical Perspectives in Multilingualism Research (pp. 135-153). Peter Lang.

Gee, J. P. (2014). Tools of inquiry and discourses. In A. Jaworski and N. Coupland (Eds.), The Discourse Reader (pp. 142-153). Routledge.

Glück, A., Leonardi, M.M.V., & Riehl, C.M. (2019). Südtirol. In A. Plewnia and R. Beyer (Eds.), Handbuch des Deutschen in West- und Mitteleuropa. Sprachminderheiten und Mehrsprachigkeitskonstellationen (pp. 245-280). Narr.

Zimmerman, D. (1998). Identity, context and interaction. In C. Antaki and S. Widdecombe (Eds.), Identities in Talk (pp. 87-106). Sage.

Keynote presentation by Grit Liebscher (University of Waterloo, Canada): Instructions-giving in the (pre-)COVID German linguistic landscape

Drawing on two collections of photographs of publicly visible signs in the city of Mannheim in Germany – one from fall 2019 and one from summer 2020 – this talk investigates the linguistic formats of instructions in the pre-COVID and the COVID linguistic landscape. A particular focus is on the use of Du/Sie that turns out to be a distinguishing marker between these collections, in addition to other changes that are observable through a qualitative analysis. Overall, this analysis provides insights into the ways in which public signage contributes to the sociolinguistic construction of our world.