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Metalinguistic Perspectives on Germanic Languages

European Case Studies from Past to Present

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Edited By 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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9 Discussing Ruhrdeutsch: Attitudes Towards Spoken German in the Ruhr Region

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1 Introduction1

As the predominant colloquial spoken variety in the most densely populated region of a country with one of the largest populations in Europe, Ruhrdeutsch holds a unique position amongst the urban spoken varieties in Germany. However, it has not always been subject to the same amount of academic inquiry as many other linguistic varieties in Germany and it was not until the 1980s that the term Ruhrdeutsch gained traction, during which time the variety became increasingly an object of study (Becker 2003: 21). This is potentially because Ruhrdeutsch is an urban variety which has not generally enjoyed a large amount of social esteem, most likely on account of its popular historical and traditional association with workers in heavy industry. The research discussed in this chapter therefore aims to further the academic study of Ruhrdeutsch by gathering contemporary attitudes towards the spoken variety amongst the inhabitants of this large urban area called the Ruhrgebiet (henceforth referred to as the Ruhr region). Using a qualitative approach involving small discussion groups, the opinions and viewpoints expressed by residents of the Ruhr region were recorded as they discussed Ruhrdeutsch and related topics with one another. This chapter presents the analysis of these collected metalinguistic comments in light ← 185 | 186 → of their historical and current social context, as well as looking at the role of Ruhrdeutsch over time for local identity, especially during this period of gradual regeneration of the Ruhr industrial region following the decline of the local...

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