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Sociolinguistic Transition in Former Eastern Bloc Countries

Two Decades after the Regime Change


Edited By Marián Sloboda, Petteri Laihonen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

This volume offers empirical perspectives on the current sociolinguistic situations in former Eastern Bloc countries. Its seventeen chapters analyse phenomena such as language choice, hierarchies and ideologies in multilingualism, language policies, minority languages in new legal, educational, business and migratory contexts, as well as the position of English in the region. The authors use various methodological approaches – including surveys, discourse analyses, descriptions and analyses of linguistic landscapes, and ethnography – in order to deal with sociolinguistic issues in eight countries and seven regions, from Brandenburg, Germany, in the West to Sakhalin, Russia, in the East.

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Verena Mezger - Sociolinguistic transition in a former GDR region: Multilingual Brandenburg and its challenges


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Verena Mezger

Sociolinguistic transition in a former GDR region: Multilingual Brandenburg and its challenges

1 Introduction

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, not only political and social changes affected the former GDR federal states, but also the linguistic situation, i.e. the significance of languages spoken and learned in each state, changed massively. This paper will examine the specific situation of the German Federal State of Brandenburg, which is located in the East of Germany. It shares a border with Poland1 and surrounds Berlin, the capital of Germany,2 which is also a federal state on its own. This work will investigate the situation in Brandenburg by taking a closer look at the main groups of immigrants (their countries of origin, numbers, different statuses and historical reasons for migration), language policies, especially in schools (forms of foreign language teaching and first language instruction), and historical developments that have lead to the current situation. The main focus will be on Polish migrants in Brandenburg, but I will also take into account the Sorbian autochthonous minority.

Insight into this linguistic situation will be given by presenting selected segments of qualitative interviews with parents of multilingual families from different language backgrounds. The interviews were conducted in a number of areas within Brandenburg in 2013 and 2014. All of these families include Polish in the education of their children. Parents have to make a – conscious or unconscious – decision...

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