Life span change – insights from a panel study in East Middle German
2022-04-14, 14:30–15:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1

We will show first results of a project that analyses recordings of animal keepers at Leipzig Zoo from a docusoap, which has been broadcast weekly since 2003. 13 keepers have been recorded repeatedly each year over these 13 years. Several dozen others have been recorded over part of this time.

By analysing individuals spanning several years, it is possible to take a more nuanced look at changes in the spectrum of linguistic variation, which apparent-time studies cannot show. Moreover, such long-term studies can validate the basic assumption of apparent-time studies, the linguistic stability of the individual. While several panel studies have been published for the Anglo-American area in recent years (e.g. Bowie 2015, Evens Wagner/Buchstaller 2017 or the overview by Sankoff 2013), respective studies are hardly to be found for German (exceptions: Bausch 2000, Siebenhaar 2002). This project fills this gap.

The linguistic situation in the Leipzig area is characterised by a strong decline in dialect use and knowledge and at the same time a considerable distance from standard German (Siebenhaar 2019). The narrow range of linguistic variation leads to the fact that the speech situation tends to have less influence on the specific language use than elsewhere (Kehrein 2012). Nevertheless, the spectrum of variation is to be judged as complex.

In addition to the indication of short-term accommodation (microsynchronisation in the terminology of Schmidt/Herrgen 2011), it is also to be expected that long-term accommodation, or mesosynchronisation, performed by several speakers can be found, which may indicate a changed awareness of norms (macrosynchronisation). This would be the basis for the language acquisition of the next generation and could thus explain individual language change phenomena.

First studies of three speakers show a backing of centralised back-tongue vowels, whereby the development is not linear but shows an oscillating pattern. Other phenomena such as the realisation of /a:/, which is raised for East Central German, where a regression is often postulated, we find more stability and also the coronalisation of /ç/ tends to be stable, whereby individual exceptions can again be explained individually.

For ICLaVE, further speakers and other phenomena will be investigated and presented.


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Bowie, David. 2015. Phonological variation in real time. Patterns of adult linguistic stability and change. In Gerstenberg, Annette & Anja Voeste (eds.), Language Development. The Lifespan Perspective. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins: 39–58.

Evans Wagner, Suzanne & Isabelle Buchstaller (eds.). 2017. Panel Studies in Language Variation and Change. London: Routledge.

Kehrein, Roland. 2012. Regionalsprachliche Spektren im Raum. Zur linguistischen Struktur der Vertikale. Stuttgart: Steiner.

Sankoff, Gillian. 2013. Longitudinal studies. In Bayley, Robert (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford university Press: 263–279.

Siebenhaar, Beat. 2002. Sprachwandel von Sprachgemeinschaften und Individuen. In Häcki Buhofer, Annelies (ed.), Spracherwerb und Lebensalter. Tübingen und Basel: Francke: 313–325.

Siebenhaar, Beat. 2019. Ostmitteldeutsch: Thüringisch und Obersächsisch. In Herrgen, Joachim & Jürgen Erich Schmidt (eds.), Deutsch: Sprache und Raum - Ein Internationales Handbuch der Sprachvariation. Berlin: De Gruyter: 407–435.

I am a PhD student at Leipzig University. My research interests are mainly concerned with sociolinguistics and language variation, with a particular interest in phonetics and phonology.