Linguistic Varieties and Variation
Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference
March 1-2, 2014
at the University of California, Berkeley

Werner F. Leopold’s 1959 publication “The Decline of German Dialects” foresaw a grim future for German dialect diversity, positing that “the trend is toward a single colloquial standard over the whole territory.” (Leopold, Werner F. 1959. The Decline of German Dialects. Word 15.) Such claims of widespread dialect leveling in the face of linguistic globalization and standardization are not limited to German, and have persisted in modern literature. Despite this, there is a widening field of literature exploring new varieties of West Germanic, from dialects that mediate between standard and non-standard varieties such as the Dutch tussentaal regiolect, to post-vernacular Yiddish and such emerging “multiethnolects” as the German Kiezdeutsch.

55 years after Leopold’s prediction, the aim of this conference is to survey the past, present, and future status of nonstandard varieties. This conference aims thus most broadly to explore the linguistic structure of German, Dutch, Yiddish, English, and other Germanic dialects, but also to investigate the status of Germanic dialects outside of their traditional political and geographic lines and in the face of the new language policy of multilingual Europe. Our inquiry thus includes, but is not limited to the following questions: Where is the boundary between standard and non-standard? In what ways do non-standard varieties deviate from standard language? What are the effects of standardization on regional dialects, sociolects, and ethnolects? How have changing (and disappearing) linguistic and political boundaries affected non-standard varieties? What characterizes the processes of dialect leveling and dialect emergence? How is variation represented in literature and multimedia?

Please feel free to view or print our conference poster and program.

With generous support from the Student Opportunity Fund, Graduate Assembly, Department of German, Program in Dutch Studies, Department of Linguistics, Department of English, and the Department of History.

Conference Program

Saturday, March 1 (in 370 Dwinelle)

9:30-10:30 a.m. Registration/Breakfast

  • Welcome Remarks: Lindsay Preseau & Christine Vais

10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Variation and Identity (Moderator: Jenna Ingalls, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Sonia Gollance (University of Pennsylvania): “Encoding Jewish German from Below in Rafael Seligmann’s Der Musterjude”
  • Dr. Rebekka Studler (University of Basel): “Varieties and identity in a diglossic and pluricentric society: Attitudes towards Swiss German and High German in Switzerland”
  • Magdalena Borowik (University of Warsaw): “‘Wie alles gemacht worre ist’ – Palatinate German, its role and influences. The ‘BIBEL uf Pälzisch’ and the regional identity”

12:00-1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30-3:00 p.m. Historical Variation (Moderator: Justin Farwell, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Alex Estes (University of California, Berkeley): “Old High German i-Umlaut Revisited”
  • Anna Schmidt (University of Potsdam): “Topic Position as an Indicator of Integration”
  • Carolyn Hawkshaw (University of California, Berkeley): “Variation in the Inflection of the Weak Masculine Nouns in Early New High German”

3:00-3:30 p.m. Break

3:30-4:30 p.m. Varieties in Contact (Moderator: Jon Cho-Polizzi, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Matthias Fingerhuth (University of Texas, Austin), “Semantic transference in Texas German: dialectal or idiolectal feature?”
  • Dr. Alja Lipavic Oštir (University of Maribor): “Marburgerdeutsch: Eine (fast) ausgestorbene Varietät des Deutschen im Kontaktbereich mit einer slawischen Sprache”

4:30-5:00 p.m. Break

5:00-6:00 p.m. Keynote Lecture. “Deitsch, Däätsch, Düütsch, Dietsch: Transplanted Varieties of German on the Great Plains” by Professor William Keel (University of Kansas; introduction by Christine Vais.)

6:00 p.m. Dinner

Sunday, March 2 (in 370 Dwinelle)

9:30-10:30 a.m. Breakfast

10:30-12:00 p.m. Standards and Standardization (Moderator: Melissa Winters, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Stephen Giuliani (University of Innsbruck): “The ‘Ideology of the Standard’ and the Changing Perception of 19th Century English Dialects”
  • Elisabeth Senft (University of Innsbruck): “English double perfect infinitive constructions: ‘a fascination – like a cobra’s for a bird’?”

12:00-1:30 p.m. Lunch Break

1:30-2:30 p.m. Youth Varieties (Moderator: Gilad Sharvit, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

  • Georg Oberdorfer and Anna Weiß (University of Graz): “Dialect and Variation in Youth Language(s) in Austria”
  • Benny De Decker (University of Antwerp): “The dynamics of young Flemish Dutch: traces of substandardization processes in teenagers’ chat language?”

2:30-3:00 p.m. Coffee Break

3:00-4:00 p.m. Variation and Directionality (Moderator: Alex Estes, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Thilo Weber (University of Freiburg): “Stability and Convergence in Low German Syntax”
  • Dr. Thomas Shannon (University of California, Berkeley): “Drift and Word Order Freedom in West Germanic”

4:00 p.m. Concluding Remarks and Wine Reception