Bildstreifen Forschung

Dominante und nicht-dominante Sprachen: Sprachliche und soziale Dynamiken in hierarchischen Beziehungen zwischen dominanten und nicht-dominanten Sprachen

In multilingual societies, different languages usually coexist in a relationship of dominance and non-dominance. Hierarchic relationships also mark the interaction between communities which use varieties of the same language in situations of pluricentricity.


Freie Universität Berlin, FB Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften

Institut für deutsche und niederländische Philologie



Projektbeteiligte (FU)

Prof. Dr. Matthias Hüning
Truus De Wilde, MA
Dr. Britta Schneider

(University of Eastern Finland)

Juniorprof. Leene Kolehmainen
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Helka Riionheimo
Dr. Päivi Kuusi
Dr. Hanna Lantto

Financial support:

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft


Aug 01, 2016 — Jul 31, 2017

Contact Person:

Dr. Philipp Krämer


This project is a coopration between the FU Berlin and the University of Eastern Finland.

Research focus of the cooperation:

The project looks at languages not (only) in terms of minority and majority languages, but in terms of relative entities ac­ cording to their social, political and cultural status. On a theoretical level, we seek to bridge the gap between the terms language and variety as the idea of clearly delimited entities in itself is an effect of language ideology. This way, the degree of similarity between the constructed linguistic objects at hand, may they be considered separate languages or varieties of the same language, can be treated as a continuous variable rather than an exclusive criterion that would limit the scope of the projects or case studies. The two dimensions of such hierarchies are:

Ideologies and attitudes: Speakers conceive the languages of their society in a particular way, which reflects the relationship between dominant and non-dominant languages or varieties and the social roles attached to them. While in some societies these hierarchies are deeply rooted in the language ideologies of the speakers, others display attitudes of resistance and emancipation. The project seeks to carve out the mechanisms behind such attitudes in situations where the languages and varieties at hand are associated with uneven distribution of influence, value or importance.

Practices: Many multilingual societies are carrying out activities of language planning and, in cases of minority languages that are in danger of extinction, measures of revitalisation. Such measures typically comprise translation strategies, language teaching and teacher education or funding for the increased use of non-dominant languages in domains of use that previously had been reserved for dominant languages (e.g. media, literature, education). Practices in relationships of dominance also involve particular linguistic structures which speakers willingly or unwillingly adapt to the situation of hierarchic relationships, for example in a specific use of code-switching or borrowing.

Some of the key questions to be discussed will be:

  • How do these two levels interact?
  • How are non-dominant languages officialised, standardised and (if necessary) revitalised?
  • Which role do the proportions of the spreech communities play for linguistic practices?