‘Horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ varietal structures in Western Austria
2022-04-13, 09:30–10:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1


This paper addresses the challenging task of structuring varieties in a complex interplay of areal-horizontal and social-vertical variation in Austria. In the European context, Austria may be re-garded as an “ideal sociolinguistic research laboratory” (Lenz 2018: 269) comprising a land-scape of vivid base dialects on the one hand and a dynamic ‘verticality’ on the other hand, i.e. more or less continuous transitions between dialect and standard forms (cf. Lenz 2019: 338-352). However, as previous studies have mainly focused on linguistic variation in the eastern parts of the country (cf. Scheutz 1985, Scheuringer 1990), Austria’s West remains underrepre-sented in recent research (but see e.g. Bülow et al. 2019 and Fanta-Jende in print). For this area, it is assumed, that there is a transition zone between Bavarian and Alemannic dialects (cf. e.g. Wiesinger 1990), yet no fundamental research has been undertaken on the question whether this results in a total continuum or rather multiple transition zones with certain continuities and breaks. Similarly, on the social-vertical level, the discussion is still ongoing whether to assume a continuous transition between dialect and standard, i.e. a diaglossia as usually proposed for Ba-varian regions, or a diglossic vertical structure with clear-cut divisions between varieties as sug-gested for Alemannic Switzerland (cf. Ender & Kaiser 2014, Schönherr 2016 for further discus-sion).

To tackle these desiderata, we draw on comprehensive data collected within the framework of the Special Research Program (SFB) “German in Austria. Variation – Contact – Perception”. We are going to present two case studies, one on the areal-horizontal and one on the social-vertical dynamics in western Austria: Our first case study ascertains the situation in 20 locations in the federal states of Vorarlberg and Tyrol by the means of a dialect questionnaire. By investigating multiple phonetic-phonological variables realized by 60 speakers, the regional transitions be-tween Bavarian and Alemannic are determined. The second study allows for an in-depth ap-proach and investigates the inter- and intra-individual variation of 12 speakers in six situational settings with varying degrees of formality. Those variables which proved to be particularly fruit-ful for the areal-horizontal distinction will be used to explore the social-vertical structures along the dialect-standard-axis of three locations in the West of Austria. Both case studies draw not only on qualitative methods but also on explorative statistics (cluster analysis and factor analy-sis) to structure the complex variability in the data. By comparing the two studies and analyzing the implications of selecting one variable over another, a general methodological discussion against the theoretical background of Austria’s complex language situation is a key objective of this paper.

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Panel affiliation

Inter-varietal distinctiveness: How to distinguish and structure varieties

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... is currently a PhD student at the German Department of the University of Vienna, Austria, and part of the SFB project "German in Austria. Variation - Contact - Perception" (part PP03: Speech Repertoires and Varietal Spectra). Her research emphases lie on variationist linguistics and sociolinguistics of present-day German with a focus on phonetic-phonological variation within the dialect-standard-spectrum.

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