Picture Naming in Swiss Bivarietal Speakers
2022-04-12, 12:00–12:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 5


In German speaking Switzerland the language situation is characterized by the use of Swiss and High German (SG and HG) each of them with a clear and distinct context of use. This has often been referred to as diglossia (Haas 2004; Ferguson 1959). SG is always the first choice for Swiss speakers in informal situations, regardless of their social status and education (Christen, Ender & Kehrein 2020). On the contrary, HG is used in formal circumstances of schools or parliamentary speeches (Rash 2002). Therefore, SG is considered the first language because it is spoken in the families. HG, on the other hand, is often spoken regularly with the children from the time they enter kindergarten (EDK 2013; Christen, Glaser & Friedli 2011). The diglossia leaves it open whether the situation is monolingual or bilingual from a psycholinguistic perspective. Various studies assume at least bilingual-like conditions in speaking (Till et al. 2017; Vorwerg, Suntharam & Morand 2019). Studies on speech processing or comprehension of dialects and standard varieties are still a rarity at present. Picture naming for dialect and High German in Switzerland have not yet been investigated.

The image naming paradigm has among others been used to study naming reactions of bilinguals. It is known that monolinguals name images faster and with less errors than bilinguals (Sullivan, Poarch & Bialystok 2018; Gollan et al. 2005). However, it has not yet been investigated which variety is more dominant in Swiss bivarietal speakers who are highly proficient in both language varieties. Picture naming tasks can give information about lexical retrieval of words especially in people with aphasia (Herbert et al. 2008).

This prestudy examines the naming of images in SG and HG among healthy Swiss bivarietal speakers in order to clarify the following research questions: (1) Is there a significant difference in naming latencies between SG and HG and (2) Is there a difference in error rates for SG compared to HG.

For this purpose, 123 healthy adults with first language Swiss German named 136 pictures each, half of them on SG and the other on HG. The words in both varieties consisted of two syllables, were bimorphic and controlled for word frequency, word class, animacy and transitivity, respectively. The images were presented on a tablet and the naming responses were recorded. Afterwards, all utterances were transcribed. Naming latencies were collected from correctly named items. An item was considered correct if the word and variety were correct. Naming latencies were measured manually using Praat. The data analysis has not yet been completed, but will be available at the time of the conference. The results of this study should help to understand the nature of bivarietal language processing in picture naming and improve language rehabilitation for people with aphasia in dialect speaking areas. The data will be compared in a further study with Swiss people with aphasia to obtain a better understanding of speech processing in healthy and speech impaired bivarietal speakers.


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Herbert, Ruth, Julie Hickin, David Howard, Felicity Osborne & Wendy Best. 2008. Do picture-naming tests provide a valid assessment of lexical retrieval in conversation in aphasia? Aphasiology 22 (2). 184–203.
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Vorwerg, Constanze, Sumanghalyah Suntharam & Marie-Anne Morand. 2019. Language control and lexical access in diglossic speech production: Evidence from variety switching in speakers of Swiss German. Journal of Memory and Language 107. 40–53.

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