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BAG – Bay Area German Linguistic Fieldwork Project


Irmengard Rauch

The sixteen chapters comprising this book on the Bay Area German Linguistic Fieldwork Project offer over twenty-five years of research into the changing language of native speakers and first-generation American-German speakers residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 1984 the principal project investigator, Irmengard Rauch, together with students of Germanic linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has elicited and analyzed an array of linguistic phenomena that include politically correct (PC) German, the German language of vulgarity and civility, and the grammar of e-mailing and texting German as well as that of snail-mail German. Comparison data were also gathered from Berlin in the case of the PC German and from Bonn in the case of the vulgarity/civility project. In recording the sounds of spoken German in the Bay Area, the BAG fieldworkers interviewed not only German-speaking adults but also first-generation German-speaking children (yielding a «Kinderlect») to compare with the spoken English of both of these groups. Still other studies focus on the interplay among gesture, emotion, and language; canine-human communication; the architecture of the lie; and the architecture of the apology. Chapter one details the modus operandi of the BAG research project.
This book is useful for the study of the sociolinguistics of German, English-German bilingualism, general linguistics, and the methods of linguistic fieldwork.
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Chapter 1: Contrastive Linguistics, Linguistic Fieldwork, and the Bay Area German Project


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Chapter 1

Contrastive Linguistics, Linguistic Fieldwork, and the Bay Area German Project

Saussure’s equation of being with relatedness is a phenomenological reality deeply fundamental to linguistic analysis. Accordingly a linguistic entity exists because of another entity. Of necessity, then, all linguistic realia are comparative whether within one given language or across two or more languages. Thus it can be claimed that Contrastive Linguistics (CL) is comparative and, indeed, that Comparative Linguistics (CompL) is contrastive. The search for methodological identity (cf. below) is not peculiar to Contrastive Linguistics in today’s melding of approaches. It is not a simple matter of to contrast, i.e., to focus on differences, and to compare, i.e., to focus on similarities.

Comparative Linguistics, that venerable study of historical languages avidly cultivated in the evolutionist nineteenth century owes its name to Friedrich von Schlegel’s first use in modern times of the expression comparative (grammar) in his 1808 Concerning the Language and the Wisdom of the Indians, followed by Franz Bopp’s 1816 Concerning the Conjugational System of the Sanskrit Language in Comparison with that of the Greek, Persian, and the Germanic Languages. Not to be denied is evidence of early modern contrastive analysis by none other than the Schlegel brother, August Wilhelm, in his 1818 typological study “Observations on the Provençal Language and Literature”, in which he proposed agglutinating, analytic, and synthetic language types. This snapshot of the early nineteenth century co-existence of comparative and contrastive analyses bears witness...

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