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Metalinguistic Perspectives on Germanic Languages

European Case Studies from Past to Present


Gijsbert Rutten and Kristine Horner

In what ways has language been central to constructing, challenging and reconfiguring social and political boundaries? This volume traverses space and time to explore the construction of such boundaries. Focusing on the ways that language functions as an inclusive and divisive marker of identity, the volume includes case studies on Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium  and Luxembourg. It also explores the northern and southern borderlands of present-day Germany as well as the city of Cologne and the surrounding Ruhr area. The chapters critically engage with focused accounts of past and present language situations, practices and policies. Taken as a whole, the volume stresses the importance of studying metalinguistic perspectives as a means of enabling detailed analyses and challenging generalizations.
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8 Dialect and Identity: The Folk Linguistic Construction of Local Dialect Areas in the ‘Alemannic Border Triangle’


1 Introduction

Similar to the situation in many countries, the twentieth century has brought some radical changes to the relationship between dialects and the standard variety/varieties in German speaking communities. Due to increased mobility and media influence, the standard language (especially in its spoken form) is present like never before. As a result, almost all speakers have at least a passive knowledge of the standard language, and many are able to use it in their everyday lives. Although its usage conditions and prestige vary largely between different regions and also between the different German-speaking countries,1 there is a common idea about the standard as the ‘correct’ language, while dialects are regarded as more or less deficient in many regions. Especially in northern Germany this has led to an almost complete extinction of the dialects, but their use has also decreased in southern regions where dialects have traditionally had greater significance.

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