Variation and Change in the Morpho-Syntax of the Regional Languages of German
2022-04-14, 10:30–11:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 5

The project (REDE) has among its primary goals the first systematic documentation and analysis of the structure and dynamics of the modern regional languages of German (Schmidt & Herrgen 2011). Our research unit takes aim to investigate the regionally conditioned morpho-syntax of the variation space between the two poles dialect and standard language of speakers with differing socio-demographic profiles in the Federal Republic of Germany.

To this end, we have launched an indirect online survey to systematically collect data on morpho-syntactic variants of German while accounting for both geographic and register variation (Kasper & Pheiff 2019). In doing so, our goals and procedures necessarily differ from previous projects that have exclusively dealt with one or the other. While dialect-syntactic projects have documented the oldest dialect variants of the oldest generation, we are interested in the morpho-syntactic variants of speakers with heterogeneous sociodemographic profiles. Further, contrary to a project such as the Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache (AdA), whose authors document “what one ‘usually hears at a given location – irrespective of whether it is rather dialectal or standard’ – […] thus encompassing base dialectal or Standard German variants, as long as they conform to the use typical of the given location” (Elspaß & Möller 2015: 520, our translation), we control for register and focus on grammatical phenomena instead of lexical ones.

Beyond our survey method, we will discuss how the variants of variables are distributed in space, in different registers, and over time. Among others, we will deal with the formation of relative clauses as well as with the loss of the preterite forms. In line with previous research which attests to an increase in the token frequency of relative was ‘what’ with neuter nouns in relative clauses diachronically (Murelli 2012: 151) as well as an expansion into “standard-near” registers, we can similarly avoid these tendencies in our data. Our data on the distribution of the preterite show – in line with Fischer (2018, 2020) – that there is a north-south divide with regard to the occurrence of preterite forms of verbs and that the frequency of the preterite increases in standard-near registers. Interestingly, however, we can observe that the token frequency of preterite forms are declining over time in every variety. Today, the youngest speakers – regardless of their most comfortable (= vertraut) variety, use preterite and perfect forms at similar rates.


Elspaß, Stefan & Robert Möller (2015): Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache (ADA). In: Kehrein, Roland, Alfred Lameli & Stefan Rabanus (eds.), Regionale Variation des Deutschen. Projekte und Perspektiven. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 519–539.

Fischer, Hanna (2018): Präteritumschwund im Deutschen. Dokumentation und Erklärung eines Verdrängungsprozesses. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter (Studia Linguistica Germanica. 132).

Fischer, Hanna (2020): Gesprochene Sprache im Fokus: Gebrauchslinguistische Studien zu grammatischen Kategorien des Deutschen. Universität Marburg: Habilitationsschrift.

Kasper, Simon & Jeffrey Pheiff (2019): Morphosyntax der Regionalsprachen. In: Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik. Deutsche Sprache in Gegenwart und Geschichte 47(1), 249–253.

Murelli, Adriano (2012): Das Geheimnis, das oder was du mir verraten hast? Das oder was als Relativpronomen. In: Konopka, Marek & Roman Schneider (eds.), Grammatische Stolpersteine digital. Festschrift für Bruno Strecker zum 65. Geburtstag. Mannheim: Institut für Deutsche Sprache, 145–152.

REDE = Schmidt, Jürgen Erich, Joachim Herrgen & Roland Kehrein (2008–) (eds.): (REDE). Forschungsplattform zu den modernen Regionalsprachen des Deutschen. Marburg: Forschungszentrum Deutscher Sprachatlas.

Schmidt, Jürgen Erich & Joachim Herrgen (2011): Sprachdynamik. Eine Einführung in die moderne Regionalsprachenforschung. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag.