Becoming local: the role of strong ties in long-term accommodation
2022-04-13, 09:00–09:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 3

This research project deals with the linguistic effects of Swiss intra-national migration involving speakers of the minority language Romansh. Due to Switzerland being a quadrilingual country characterised by “territorial multilingualism” (cf. Riehl 2014: 64), moving to another place might necessitate people to acquire an additional language. This, of course, is also true for speakers of Romansh. However, given that they grow up in close contact to speakers of Swiss German, they use to acquire a Grison variety of Swiss German already during adolescence in a non-instructed manner outside the family. When moving to German-speaking Switzerland, Romansh speakers are faced with intelligible (regional) varieties of Swiss German, which leads to dialect contact.

It is only with Eckhardt (2021) that the Swiss German variety spoken by Romansh people as L2 has gained some scholarly attention. Studies on regional variation in Swiss German have tended to exclude non-native speakers (cf. SDS; Glaser et al. 2012). Furthermore, also mobile speakers have been ignored largely. As a matter of fact, there is hardly any research looking into interpersonal accommodation (cf. Christen/Schmidlin 2019: 221). One exception, however, is Werlen et al. (2002), who have focused on speakers from the canton of Valais having migrated to Berne. However, despite finding evidence for long-term accommodation to occur, explanatory factors have remained largely obscure.

The present paper focuses on long-term accommodation involving mobile non-native speakers of Swiss German. More specifically, it investigates into the societal and linguistic factors determining accommodation processes present in the Swiss German L2-variety of Romansh speakers who have migrated from their rural home villages in Grisons to the city of Berne at the age of about 20. I will argue that the quality of ties with local people from Berne is crucial for predicting their level of accommodation.

In order to do so, 20 speakers having comparable lengths of residence but differing amounts of ties with Bernese people will be drawn from the project corpus including 60 speakers. This corpus contains informal conversations as well as data on the social network for each individual speaker. The social networks were collected following the approach taken by Großkopf, Barden and Auer (1996). This means that speakers were asked to report and comment on their social contacts by means of a graphic approach having them placing people they regularly interact with in an ego-centric spider web divided by different areas (e.g. friends). The variationist analysis is based on two variables, namely (k) (e.g. können ,can’) and (-ə) (e.g. rennen ,run’) for which the Grison variety of Swiss German has unique variants. Long-term accommodation then means that the speakers level-out these typical Grison features and approach the variants common for Bernese Swiss German and/or most other regional variants of Swiss German. Results suggest that the quantity of strong ties indeed plays an important role, however, other factors such as attitudinal ones need to be taken into consideration too.


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