“Panel Introduction: How to deal with ‘standard language’ in Austria (and elsewhere)”
2022-04-14, 09:00–09:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1


This contribution serves as introduction to the panel on “Standard language in Austria: Towards a new agenda (with language users taking the lead)”. The purpose of this introduction is to lay out and explicate the joint scholarly impetus for and theoretical underpinnings of the panel as such, and thus to position and contextualize the contributions and discussion to follow.
The immediate impetus is the ongoing escalation of scholarly controversy regarding the concepts, theories, and manifestations of standard language in the context of German, which is currently making landfall in sociolinguistics centering on German in Austria (see Auer in prep. for a review). After briefly describing the situation at hand, I argue that a change of perspective is in order, moving away from increasingly entrenched ideological squabbles over taxonomic classifications of standard versus non-standard speech production that purportedly pit usage-focused and structural-dialectological sociolinguistic research traditions against each other; and towards an integrated perspective that holds these positions to be entirely compatible, albeit on the basis of a theoretical grounding in social-constructionist, ethnomethodological, interactional sociolinguistic epistemology of communication.
Under such theory, communication is regarded as a dialogic process of mutual anticipation, interpretation, and negotiation between interactants (see e.g. outline in Soukup 2017). In an exchange, both speaker and listener are equally implicated as active participants who together make sense of what is going on. Where speakers design their utterances in expectation of listeners’ responses, trying to influence these responses (i.e. trying to relate certain communicative messages), listeners in turn are not merely passively influenced by speakers’ utterances but also actively shape these utterances through their responsive stance and online interpretation. It is this way that linguistic production and perception are intrinsically linked and mutually constitutive elements of communicative meaning-making, which is thus a joint achievement. In consequence, in order to truly shed light on actual linguistic behavior by lay ‘practitioners’, it is necessary to combine both speaker- and listener-centered perspectives, data, and analyses. And such combination and integration is precisely what the present panel sets out to deliver, in the context of German in Austria, which is currently a hotbed of sociolinguistic insights into the workings, dynamics, and role of standard language also in general.

Panel affiliation

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


Auer, Peter. (in prep.). Reflections on linguistic pluricentricity. Manuscript, University of Freiburg.
Soukup, Barbara. 2017. Historical sociolinguistic philology – a new hybrid discipline, its interests, and its scope. Open Linguistics 2017(3). 673–678.

Barbara Soukup is Assistant Professor for the Sociolinguistics of German in Austria at the University of Vienna’s Department of German Studies. She received her Mphil in English and French studies from the University of Vienna, and her MSc and PhD in linguistics from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with a specialization in sociolinguistics. A central theme in her research and teaching is the strategic, agentive use of linguistic variation (the various styles/ dialects/ languages available to speakers in their repertoires) for purposes of rhetorical goals and interactional meaning-making, such as the construction of interactional identities, messages, and relationships. In this, she draws on and integrates theory and methodology from across all sociolinguistic sub-disciplines, notably from variationist sociolinguistics, interactional sociolinguistics, social psychology of language (language attitude study), linguistic landscape study, cognitive sociolinguistics, folk linguistics, and perceptual dialectology. A major concern of hers is to theorize and analyze language bottom-up, from the perspective of its users, in pursuit of a truly ‘applied’ linguistics. In 2014, she was awarded an Austrian Science Fund Elise-Richter research fellowship for the project “ELLViA – English in the Linguistic Landscape of Vienna, Austria” (FWF#V394), investigating patterns of occurrence and interactional functions of English language use in written public discourse.