fdb – Forschungsdatenbank der Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)


Dr. Peter Rosenberg: Language islands in the flood: Language change and language contact in German speaking communities in Russia and Brazil

Lecturer Dr. Peter Rosenberg
Conference The Impact of Socio-Political Tranformations on Language and Identity
Place Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
Year 2016


Today, German language islands in Russia and Brazil are on the way to language shift. On this way the varieties of these communities display certain features of decomposition and simplification in terms of morphology. Regular and irregular morphology, however, are developing differently: While reduction to a two-term (or even common case) system is the main characteristic of regular noun inflection, in personal pronouns two or three-term distinctions are maintained, mostly containing dative. How could these differences be explained? What is the impact of language contact? Which influencing factors (such as generation, ethnic distinctiveness, politics of the country, structure of the German variety) can be detected?

New data have been presented from a research project about language change in case morphology of German language islands with speakers living in close contact to the majority populations in Brazil and Russia. 120 speakers of three age groups speaking Low German and High German dialects in contact have been recorded in three settings (translation into intended dialect; interview narration; home conversation self-recorded by the speakers). Part of the study is a real-time panel study, i.e. tape-recordings of 16 speakers a second time after 15 years.

The core idea of the contribution is the assumption that we can learn as well from language obsolescence as from language emergence (standardization, koineization, dialect merger) which has been the subject of linguistic research in the past. Through its comparative perspective it seems possible to account for internally or externally induced linguistic change.

Language decay is apparently not just disorder, not amorphous, but somehow struc­tured. Certain lexical classes are more subject to reduction than others, and some residual features retain morphological “core” functions (in terms of case semantics).


Division ("Fakultät") Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Lehrstuhl Professur für Sprachgebrauch und Sprachvergleich