Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft

In the Quantitative Linguistics group we are interested in the structure of meaning within words and language. Additionally, we are interested in the relation between structure in meaning and human behaviour. Overall, we see language as an artifact of human communication and its main purpose in discriminating between different meanings in the process of communication.



Swabian disseration: The "isch" signals schwabian identity

Karen Beaman examined the dialect from a sociolnguistic perspective

Socialinguist Karen beaman explains in an interview with "Schwäbisch Tagblatt", how swabian has changed over the decades and talks about what future the Swabian dialect may have as a spoken language overall. This is a first, because variationist socialinguistics has not dealt specifically with Swabian before.

Beaman examined twenty linguistic features to determine the "dialect density" of 120 Swabian speakers. The results? Among other things, some features have weakened, particularly among younger people. Education and urbanization have a strong influence on language change, as does immigration: today, dialect speakers take more account of non-Swabians than in the past in order to be understood. "Although Swabian is moving closer to the standard language, it remains strong," Beaman says. In particular, the "isch" (for "is") is holding very steady. "The "sch" is a beloved feature of Swabian and Alemannic identity." "A strong Swabian identity can disrupt the normal flow of language change," Beaman said.

On the other hand, Swabians show their connection with family and friends by speaking Swabian. More and more Swabians are now very good at "code-switching": they adapt their dialect intensity to the other person and to the social setting. An interesting pecularity: while in many other western languages, men tend to speak more dialect, while women speak much less, this gender difference does not exist in German. "In language use, Germany is an egalitarian society," says Beaman.

Read the entire interview in the section "Schwäbisch in der Dissertation: Das "isch" ist ein "Wir" in Schwäbisches Tagblatt (fee required). A full copy of Beaman's dissertation can be found on her website.