Austrian ‘shibboleths’ – Analyses on language use, attitudes and perception
2022-04-14, 10:30–11:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1

The present talk discusses so-called ‘Austriacisms‘ (Austrian ‘shibboleths‘), whose role for linguistic and social identity is highly debated in meta-language discourse (cf. Wodak et al. 2009). Austriacisms also play a pivotal role in the Austrian standard language debates (cf. Auer 2014). They mainly concern the lexical domain, and, more rarely, the grammatical and phonetic (Wiesinger 2015). A score of Austriacisms relating to food even enjoy official protection under the Austrian EU Accession treaty (e.g. Erdäpfel ‘potatoes’, Fisolen ‘green beans’). Despite their sociolinguistic and ideological importance, Austriacisms have not yet been the subject of any significant large-scale studies. Our contribution addresses this research gap, presenting results from large-scale surveys carried out all across Austria. Importantly, our analyses of survey data implement an integrated approach in which the investigations of linguistic behavior and cognitive associations are juxtaposed.
Our analyses draw on the following data sources:
(1) Large-scale surveying and analysis of language data provided by 150 informants of diverse backgrounds in rural areas across all of Austria. Within the survey, speakers were subjected to (oral) data elicitation by means of eight different tasks (settings). The aim was to evoke various levels of the individual spectra of linguistic variation, in view of analyzing intra- as well as inter-speaker variation (Lenz 2018). The elicited data are the basis for our analyses focusing on the use of lexical Austriacisms.
(2) Secondly, we present analyses drawing on comprehensive and nation-wide written questionnaire surveys (around 750 participants) focusing specifically on aspects of enregisterment (cf. Agha 2007) of (standard) Austrian German, and therefore on the linkages between linguistic items and social identities.
Our discussion addresses the following central questions:
• What role do Austriacisms play within the language behavior of Austrian speakers? Which lexical phenomena show what kind of variation, on the vertical-social as well as on the areal-horizontal dimension? What kind of attitudinal-perceptual relationship is exhibited by different (competing?) standard variants of the German language? Which social values are attributed to which variants and which processes of enregisterment (Agha 2007, Auer 2014) may underlie these attributions?
• What is the relationship between linguistic behaviour (language use on the ground) on the one hand, and language attitudes/perceptions on the other hand, particularly in view of implications for the debate on Austriacisms and their role for national and social identity?

Panel affiliation

Standard language in Austria: Towards a new agenda (with language users taking the lead)


Agha, Asif. 2007. Language and Social Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Auer, Peter. 2014. Enregistering pluricentric German. In Augusto Soares da Silva (ed.), Pluricentricity. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton. 19–48.
Lenz, Alexandra N. 2018. The Special Research Programme “German in Austria. Variation – Contact – Perception”. In Ammon, Ulrich & Marcella Costa (eds), Yearbook Sociolinguistica 32. 269–277.
Wiesinger, Peter. 2015. Das österreichische Deutsch in der globalisierten Umwelt. In Alexandra N. Lenz, Timo Ahlers & Manfred M. Glauninger (eds.), Dimensionen des Deutschen in Österreich. Frankfurt: Lang. 91–122.
Wodak, Ruth, Rudolf De Cillia, Martin Reisigl & Karin Liebhart. 2009. The discursive construction of national identities. 2nd ed. Edinburgh University Press.