Approaching 'standardness' from a perceptual perspective: Results from Austria
2022-04-14, 09:30–10:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1

To date, only few available studies have dealt with ‘standard in Austria’ from a pronounced empirical perceptual perspective (cf. e.g. Herrgen 2015; Kleene 2017; Moosmüller 1991; Soukup 2009). These studies indicate that Austrian language users hold quite heterogeneous conceptualizations of ‘standardness’, or, as Soukup and Moosmüller (2011:41) put it, “rather vague and ambivalent notions, if any at all, regarding a specifically Austrian standard language usage”.
Empirically grounded in perceptual variationist linguistics, the present contribution discusses this conceptual heterogeneity, specifically with regard to (1) particular (sociolinguistic) parameters ascribed to notions of ‘standard’, (2) in how far these parameters are related to each other, (3) to what extent model speakers (i.e. prototypical speakers of a certain variety) are perceived to exist for ‘standard in Austria’, and which criteria of ‘standard in Austria’ these refer and apply to, and (4) what implications these findings have with regard to other (standard) varieties within the German language and, thus, the linguistic discussion on pluricentricity in general.
My discussion is based on data collected in a series of comprehensive, Austria-wide listener judgment tests that involve approx. 1,000 informants and thus, together, constitute one of the largest-scale perceptual survey ventures on the German language in Austria so far. Conducted between 2017 and 2020, the survey series comprises three complementing sub-designs, varying diverse parameters (potentially) associated with this varietal complex and thus addressing different aspects of ‘standard in Austria’. These modifications include e.g. different ‘prototypical’ model speakers, influence of speech training and text types, different types of listener judgment tests and types of scales, as well as micro-variations such as e.g. the labeling of the extreme poles on the evaluative scales. These sub-components are now, for the first time, jointly analyzed and comprehensively presented, in order to establish the current state of research on the topic in focus, perceptions of ‘standard in Austria’.
The key questions addressed in this contribution are:
• How are (standard and near-standard) varieties of German perceived in general in Austria?
• What implications do (potentially competing) listener evaluations have regarding ‘standard in Austria’ in particular?
• How ’stable’ and how distinct do such conceptualizations turn out to be?
• Can certain perceptual patterns be attributed to distinct groups of informants?
Finally, within the context of the present panel, a major objective of this presentation is to compile and extract what we can learn from these survey results with regard to ideological aspects of standard varieties and notions of (the linguistic concept of) pluricentricity from a language users’ perspective, for Austria and in general.

Panel affiliation

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


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Kleene, Andrea. 2017. Attitudinal-perzeptive Variationslinguistik im bairischen Sprachraum. Horizontale und vertikale Grenzen aus derer Hörerperspektive. Dissertation, Universität Wien.
Koppensteiner, Wolfgang & Alexandra N. Lenz. 2020. Tracing a standard language in Austria using methodological microvariations of Verbal and Matched Guise Technique. In: Linguistik Online 102/2. 47–82.
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