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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 11: On the German Language of Civility/Vulgarity: Evidence from Bonn


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Chapter 11

On the German Language of Civility/Vulgarity: Evidence from Bonn*


This paper complements and extends research collected in 1999 (“On the German Language of Civility/ Vulgarity: Evidence from the San Francisco Bay Area”, IJGLSA 5:175-198). For the Bay Area German Linguistic Fieldwork Project (BAG) the Bonn data provide a contrastive data cohort in evidence of civil or vulgar German. Data were elicited in 2000 in Bonn with the identical four-part questionnaire used for the Bay Area German corpus. Informant reaction was sought: in Part I to a set of 10 rage scenarios; in Part II to a checklist of appropriate places and listeners for 5 selected vulgar/civil expressions; in Part III to one given rage scenario with the request to rank suggested expletives by degree of vulgarity/civility plus the option of ad-libbed expletives. Part IV sought the German equivalent for a set of 7 English expletives and their ranking on a scale of vulgarity. Evidence is adduced toward an answer to the question whether the Bonn or the Bay Area informants are better (i.e., more vulgar) at cursing.1,2

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