Cross-linguistic areal patterns in non-standard grammar: Northern Germany and the Nordics
2022-04-14, 09:00–09:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 5

Language contact always implies variety contact, but not vice versa. As a consequence, the investigation of areal patterns in contact scenarios cannot be based on standard varieties alone, but has to take non-standard varieties into account as well. While, in theory, this might seem self-evident, actual practice is often different. In particular, dialectological studies seldom extend beyond individual languages, whereas areal typological studies usually rely on (easily accessible descriptions of) standard varieties. This has often been acknowledged and criticized as well (e.g. Auer 2004, Kortmann 2009, Seiler 2019).

This is particularly relevant for languages with a long history of intense contact, such as the Continental Scandinavian languages and North German varieties, due to their immediate geographical closeness in the German-Danish border region, the economic contacts via the North Sea and Baltic Sea trade routes since the Late Middle Ages, Germany’s cultural role model function for northern Europe for centuries, and the long political affiliation of German-speaking territories with Denmark. While it is textbook knowledge that these languages have a wide range of structural features in common, less is known about their distribution in non-standard varieties and the resulting areal patterns.

The project Grammatical Areality in the Nordic Countries and Northern Germany (GrammArNord) at Kiel University focuses on cross-linguistic areal patterns of morphological and syntactic features in non-standard varieties (including, but not restricted to, traditional dialects), as documented in dialect grammars and other linguistic resources. Following a variation-sensitive areal typological approach (Höder 2016), which conceptualizes areality in terms of contiguous regions in multilingual communicative space, the project aims to document, describe and map such areal features in a cross-linguistic digital language atlas.

The aim of our talk is twofold: Firstly, we discuss the theoretical and methodological foundations of the project as well as the digital tools that we are developing and using for analysing and mapping non-standard areality. Secondly, we present an analysis of possessive constructions that exemplifies the value of a variation-sensitive approach, concentrating on structural phenomena that are also relevant from a more general areal typological point of view. This can be illustrated by different ways of expressing possession, such as various types of linking possessive constructions (Nesse 1998, Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2001) and dative external possessors (Haspelmath 1999).


Auer, Peter. 2004. Non-standard evidence in syntactic typology. Methodological remarks on the use of dialect data vs spoken language data. In Bernd Kortmann (ed.), Dialectology meets typology. Dialect grammar from a cross-linguistic perspective (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 153), 69–92. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Haspelmath, Martin. 1999. External possession in a European areal perspective. In Doris L. Payne & Immanuel Barshi (eds.), External possession (Typological Studies in Language 39), 109–135. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Höder, Steffen. 2016. Niederdeutsch und Nordeuropa: Eine Annäherung an grammatische Arealität im Norden Europas. Niederdeutsches Jahrbuch 139, 103–129.

Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria. 2001. Adnominal possession. In Martin Haspelmath et al. (eds.), Language typology and language universals. An international handbook (Handbooks of linguistics and communication science 20), vol. 2, 960–970. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Kortmann, Bernd. 2009. Die Rolle von (Nicht-Standard-)Varietäten in der europäischen (Areal-)Typologie. In Uwe Hinrichs, Norbert Reiter & Siegfried Tornow (eds.), Eurolinguistik. Entwicklungen und Perspektiven. Akten der internationalen Tagung vom 30. 9.–2. 10. 2007 in Leipzig (Eurolinguistische Arbeiten 5), 165–187. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Nesse, Agnete. 1998. Mellom lån og hjemlig utvikling. Den såkalte garpegenitiven som språkkontaktresultat. In Ernst Håkon Jahr (ed.), Språkkontakt i Norden i middelalderen, særlig i Hansatiden. Forskningsprogrammet Norden og Europa (Nord 1998:4), 121–138. København: Nordisk Ministerråd.

Seiler, Guido. 2019. Non-Standard Average European. In Andreas Nievergelt & Ludwig Rübekeil (eds.), athe in palice, athe in anderu sumeuuelicheru stedi. Raum und Sprache. Festschrift für Elvira Glaser zum 65. Geburtstag, 541–554. Heidelberg: Winter.