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Language contact and mixed-mode communication: On ingroup construction through multilingualism among the German-Namibian diaspora

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In this paper, I analyze the role of multilingual slang within mixed-mode groups through the example of the German-Namibian diaspora. Unlike digital single-mode groups, which only exist in computer-mediated communication (CMC), mixed-mode groups are involved in both CMC and face-to-face communication (FTF). This article focuses on the latter type of groups and addresses the question as to how contact-induced vernacular items are resemiotized from FTF to public and from spoken to written mode within these groups. It is hypothesized that the usage of multilingual slang in FTF mode and its corresponding group cohesion contribute to the frequency of slang within CMC. Furthermore, this study compares a mixed-mode group with a digital single-mode group to investigate the effects that the missing social contact within the latter group has on the tendency of its members to use multilingual slang in CMC. The German-Namibian diaspora and their language practices are particularly well suited to address this topic as they draw on multiple linguistic resources in their FTF and CMC networks with Afrikaans, German, and English being the main sources. The resulting, multilingual practices are highly ingroup specific. The study includes a mixed-method approach combining traditional FTF participant observation and modern correlation analysis of CMC data. The aim of this study is not only to shed light on the role of multilingual speech within mixed-mode groups, but also to contribute to the understanding of the complex dynamics that occur within diasporic settings. While recognizing the need for multiparadigmaticity in sociological and linguistic theory, this study stresses the importance of holistic approaches to analyze and understand language in social contexts.
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This study examines 369 correspondence letters written between 1944 and 1971 to the Ostfriesen-Zeitung (OZ), a newspaper published in Iowa for a group of Low German-speaking East Frisian immigrants to the USA. Although readers typically lived in small, rural Midwestern towns which were geographically dispersed, they were highly interconnected and honored their shared roots. While the correspondence letters are predominantly written in High German (HG) and typically report news of more serious events (e.g., anniversaries, visits, or obituaries), Low German (LG), which is usually a spoken language, was extended into the written domain by some authors. Although the amount of LG usage is limited, its pragmatic purposes are highly predictable. LG is used to refer to cultural concepts, in reported speech, personal opinions and anecdotes, as well as in humorous reference to other people. Through the OZ and the correspondence letters published in it, an East FrisianAmerican identity and a sense of community and belonging was promoted, which helped to maintain both HG and LG well into the 20th century.
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This chapter presents a quantitative corpus study of informal speech from male and female adolescent and adult Namibians with L1 German. A key feature of Namibian German is various forms of language mixing, mostly with material from English and Afrikaans. Previous sociolinguistic research, as well as statements by community members, suggest that male speakers might use more other-language material in their speech. I identified other-language material in a corpus of peer group conversations by Namibian German adolescents and adults and investigated the amount of transferred lexical items (other-language material excluding multi-word code-switches) that speakers of different age and gender used. Furthermore, I analyzed the proportion of the donor languages English and Afrikaans. Concerning the frequency of transferred lexical items, the results show an age difference between younger and older speakers, but fewer clear differences between speakers of different gender. English is the prime donor language in all groups, but subtle differences in the proportion of Afrikaans may point to interesting sociolinguistic dynamics.
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This paper presents a quantitative corpus study of informal speech from male and female adolescent and adult Namibians with the L1 German. A key feature of Namibian German are various forms of language mixing, mostly with material from English and Afrikaans. Previous sociolinguistic research as well as statements by community members suggest that male speakers might use more other-language material in their speech. I identified other-language material in a corpus of peer group conversations by Namibian German adolescents and adults and investigated the amount of transferred lexical items (other-language material excluding multi-word code-switches) that speakers of different age and gender used. Further I analyzed the proportion of the donor languages English and Afrikaans. Concerning the frequency of transferred lexical items the results show an age difference between younger and older speakers, but less clear differences between speakers of different gender. English is the prime donor language in all groups, but subtle differences in the proportion of Afrikaans may point to interesting sociolinguistic dynamics.
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This article strives to extend the focus on urban multilingual practices by applying them to rural multilingualism through an analysis of data from computer-mediated communication (CMC). The article argues that urban and rural areas are not necessarily isolated phenomena. In many cases, they are interconnected through Networks of Exchange (NoE). How does the notion of urbanhood unfold in these networks? Do individuals of urban background deploy different forms of multilingual practices than individuals of rural background? To what extent does the place of origin affect the individual’s linguistic choices in CMC? The article addresses these questions through the example of the German-Namibian diaspora and their multilingual practices. Therefore, it draws on speech act theory to unveil the role and function of multilingual patterns in both urban and rural CMC. In doing so, it captures the unique linguistic repertoire of German Namibians which includes (Namibian) German, Afrikaans, English and to a lesser extent indigenous Namibian languages. A preview of this article is available here: shorturl.at/vAUZ0
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This study examines 369 correspondence letters written between 1944 and 1971 to the Ostfriesen-Zeitung (OZ), a newspaper published in Iowa for a group of Low German-speaking East Frisian immigrants to the USA. Although readers typically lived in small, rural Midwestern towns which were geographically dispersed, they were highly interconnected and honored their shared roots. While the correspondence letters are predominantly written in High German (HG) and typically report news of more serious events (e.g., anniversaries, visits, or obituaries), Low German (LG), which is usually a spoken language, was extended into the written domain by some authors. Although the amount of LG usage is limited, its pragmatic purposes are highly predictable. LG is used to refer to cultural concepts, in reported speech, personal opinions and anecdotes, as well as in humorous reference to other people. Through the OZ and the correspondence letters published in it, an East FrisianAmerican identity and a sense of community and belonging was promoted, which helped to maintain both HG and LG well into the 20th century.
Chapter
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This chapter presents a quantitative corpus study of informal speech from male and female adolescent and adult Namibians with L1 German. A key feature of Namibian German is various forms of language mixing, mostly with material from English and Afrikaans. Previous sociolinguistic research, as well as statements by community members, suggest that male speakers might use more other-language material in their speech. I identified other-language material in a corpus of peer group conversations by Namibian German adolescents and adults and investigated the amount of transferred lexical items (other-language material excluding multi-word code-switches) that speakers of different age and gender used. Furthermore, I analyzed the proportion of the donor languages English and Afrikaans. Concerning the frequency of transferred lexical items, the results show an age difference between younger and older speakers, but fewer clear differences between speakers of different gender. English is the prime donor language in all groups, but subtle differences in the proportion of Afrikaans may point to interesting sociolinguistic dynamics.
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Die Diasystematische Konstruktionsgrammatik (Höder 2012; 2014abc; i. Vorb.) geht in Anlehnung an moderne kontaktlinguistische Ansätze davon aus, dass das Sprachwissen Mehrsprachiger ein sprachübergreifendes Repertoire (Matras 2009, 308–309) konstituiert. Dieses Repertoire wird im Rahmen einer gebrauchsbasierten konstruktionsgrammatischen Beschreibung als mehrsprachiges Konstruktionsnetzwerk modelliert, in dem – spezifisch für die jeweilige Sprechergruppe – sprachspezifische und -unspezifische Konstruktionen (‚Idio-‘ und ‚Diakonstruktionen‘) miteinander vernetzt sind. Auch in der Produktion interagieren folglich beide Konstruktionstypen miteinander. Zunächst vor allem mit Blick auf kontaktbedingten Sprachwandel entwickelt, eröffnet dieser Ansatz neue Perspektiven für die Analyse mehrsprachiger Äußerungen, die traditionell als Transferenzen beschrieben, hier aber als Ausdruck interlingualer Produktivität verstanden werden, d. h. der spontanen Bildung nichtkanonischer Äußerungen auf diakonstruktioneller Basis.
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German and Danish share a long, complex, and multifaceted history of language contact (Fredsted 2009, Winge 2009, Höder forthc.). Besides other contact scenarios, societal as well as widespread individual multilingualism (in parts also including North Frisian) has characterized the linguistic situation in the territory of the former Duchy of Schleswig (comprising the northern part of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany as well as the southernmost part of Jutland in Denmark) from the early Middle Ages until the present day. Among other things, this has led to a series of language shifts within what is now the Danish-German border region. In South Schleswig (south of today’s border), speakers usually shifted from dialectal Danish to dialectal Low German varieties until the mid-20th century, a process often accompanied or followed by an additional acquisition of regional High German varieties or even a complete shift to High German. Subsequently, members of the Danish national minority added an emerging regional variety of Danish to their repertoire, labelled South Schleswig Danish (Pedersen 2003, Kühl 2015). In North Schleswig (north of today’s border), Danish dialects coexist with Standard Danish and a variety of regional High German. In structural terms, this contact scenario has resulted in a range of innovative constructions that are shared by a number of the varieties spoken in the border region, while diverging markedly from other varieties of Danish and German, respectively (Höder 2016). Examples include a. a de-obligative future construction (‘shall future’): Ich soll morgen nach Hamburg fahren (regional High German) 1sg shall tomorrow to Hamburg drive ‘I’m going to drive to Hamburg tomorrow’ b. a de-additive infinitive construction (‘and infinitive’): Dat is nich licht un verstahn allens (Low German dialect) 3sg.n is not easy and understand everything ‘It isn’t easy to understand everything’ c. possessive linking pronouns: dæn ˈɡɑməɫ ˈmɑn̡ sid ˈhu.s (Danish dialect) def.sg.u old man his-sg.n house ‘the old man’s house’ d. an animacy-gender-sex distinction in the personal pronoun paradigm: Mann → he Fru → se Hund → en (Low German dialect) man(u) 3sg.anim.m woman(u) 3sg.anim.f dog(u) 3sg.inanim.u The talk presents a constructional analysis of these arealisms within the paradigm of Diasystematic Construction Grammar (DCxG; Höder 2018). DCxG is a usage-based construction grammar approach to language contact situations that offers a fresh, socio-cognitively realistic view of contact-related phenomena in multilingual communication and language change. The key idea of DCxG is, in line with current assumptions in contact linguistics (e.g. Matras 2009), that languages as such do not have an any priori status. Rather, constructions – representing both individual speakers’ linguistic knowledge and the conventionalized grammar shared by a multilingual community – can carry the type of pragmatic meaning that would restrict them to particular communicative settings, as multilingual communities tend to associate different languages with different contexts. However, many constructions (‘diaconstructions’) are not restricted to a particular set of communicative contexts, but occur in a multitude of settings in a given community. DCxG predicts that, all other things being equal, the amount of diaconstructions in the constructicon of a multilingual community will increase (‘pro-diasystematic change’): constructions that are restricted to a particular communicative context undergo a process of pragmatic bleaching resulting in their productive use in several or all of the community’s languages. The talk argues that the emergence of arealisms in the Danish-German border region can be explained as pro-diasystematic change.