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Current funding period

The aim of the research project is to describe and to analyse the language use of German-speaking minorities in Southern Africa. The undertaking draws upon an earlier project whose central goal was the documentation and analysis of Namibian German. This took place in the form of a systematic corpus of informal and formal speech. The corpus documents the language use in a community which is particularly dynamic due to its active multilingualism (German, English, Afrikaans), but which ­­− unlike many German language islands − actively cultivates German despite its status as a minority language and uses it across generations. Using the newly created resource, the detailed analysis of Namibian-German specifics will be continued, so that their heuristic potential can be exploited with regard to the interaction of the language system, change and contact. In a further step, Namibian German will be contrasted with the language use of German-speaking communities in South Africa (the so-called Springbok-German communities). This is done on the basis of data that has already been archived but has not yet been analysed. Furthermore, targeted follow-up surveys will be conducted in South Africa and Namibia. The comparison makes it possible, among other things, to focus on dialect contact and thus on a previously neglected cause of language change. This is possible because the compared communities are, on the one hand, similar in many aspects (Afrikaans and English are the main contact languages in both cases, emigration took place from the second half of the 19th century, etc.), but, on the other hand, the two settings differ significantly with regard to the historical settlement structure. Namely, settlements founded in South Africa were linguistically very homogeneous, since usually a larger group of settlers emigrated from one town and founded a new, comparatively isolated settlement. In contrast, the former South-West Africa can be regarded as a melting pot of various German dialects. Here, German speakers from all parts of the German-speaking area came into close contact with each other from the very beginning. The comparison of the communities promises to shed light on the linguistic effects of these different circumstances.

Description of the first funding period

"Namdeutsch: The dynamics of German in the multilingual context of Namibia" is a German-Namibian cooperation project that records and analyses the German language in present-day Namibia. It targets all forms of German language use within the German-Namibian community that are not identical to that in Germany. An important empirical output of the cooperation will be a systematic corpus of informal and formal Namibian German and corresponding language ideologies and attitudes in the German-speaking community in Namibia that will be generally accessible for scientific investigations and useful for a large range of research questions on language structure, language contact, language variation, and change. The corpus will provide a useful resource for research on language variation both from a grammatical and a sociolinguistic perspective, and offers material for studies of language contact and language change. With Nam-German, it will capture German language use in a speech community that is particularly dynamic due to its active multilingualism (German, English, Afrikaans) and still actively cultivates German and uses it across older and younger generations in formal and informal contexts - this despite Nam-German's status as a minority language and in contrast to what we find in a lot of German-language islands abroad. In addition to the sustainable documentation of Nam-German, the project has two central theoretical goals that complement each other: (1) analysis of the grammatical characteristics of Nam-German, and (2) analysis of the language ideological and attitudinal positions in its speech community. The interpretation of our results is supported by a perspective on German in further multilingual contexts with partly different sociolinguistics parameters, which include language islands in Central/Eastern Europe and overseas as well as "Kiezdeutsch", a multiethnolect that is developing within Germany.