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Dimensions of Linguistic Space: Variation – Multilingualism Conceptualisations Dimensionen des sprachlichen Raums: Variation – Mehrsprachigkeit – Konzeptualisierung


Edited By Lars Bülow, Ann Kathrin Fischer and Kristina Herbert

This volume focuses on the use and structure of the German language in Austria. In addition, the aim of the book is to compare the linguistic conditions in Austria with those in other German speaking countries. The 20 articles present current findings from the research fields of variation, contact and perception.

Der Band widmet sich schwerpunktmäßig der Verwendung und Struktur der deutschen Sprache in Österreich. Ziel des Sammelbandes ist es außerdem, die sprachlichen Verhältnisse in Österreich mit denjenigen in anderen deutschsprachigen Ländern zu vergleichen. In 20 Beiträgen werden daher aktuelle Forschungsergebnisse aus den Forschungsbereichen Variation, Kontakt und Perzeption vorgestellt.

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Multilingual Lower Austria. Historical Sociolinguistic Investigation on Wenker’s Questionnaires (Agnes Kim)

Agnes Kim

Multilingual Lower Austria. Historical Sociolinguistic Investigation on Wenker’s Questionnaires

Abstract: This paper investigates historical multilingualism and language contact scenarios in Lower Austria. For this purpose, a multi-source approach is adopted that combines information from Wenker’s questionnaires, which were distributed in Austria in the interwar period, with census data from 1880–1934. Besides a thorough and critical assessment of the two data sources, the paper gives an overview of other languages than German attested in the Wenker’s questionnaires. Two case studies, one focusing on a rural village in the north-eastern part of Lower Austria and the other on a larger municipality in the industrialised south of Vienna, illustrate which value is added by the combination of the two data sources.

1 Introduction1

Lower Austria (Niederösterreich, historically Österreich unter der Enns) was legislatively and discursively construed to be monolingually German throughout the Habsburg monarchy. In the whole area, including Vienna, which administratively belonged to Lower Austria until 1922, no other language than German was officially recognised as a second so-called Landessprache. Vienna’s highly multilingual population could of course not be denied; however, other parts of Lower Austria were also shaped by multilingualism and language contact at least until the interwar period. The local or regional language contact scenarios differed from each other similar to the economic and population structure in the large and diverse crown land.←187 | 188→

According to Muysken (2010: 267), a language contact scenario is “the organized fashion in which multilingual speakers, in certain social settings, deal with the various languages in their repertoire”, and the according knowledge enables predictions regarding the kind of contact phenomena that are most likely to occur. The scenario approach thus takes the multilingual individual as a starting point from which it draws inferences about the speech community and, consequently, about possible changes at the level of the language system. Due to the so-called bad data problem in historical sociolinguistics (cf. Labov 1994: 11, or critically, e.g. Nevalainen/Raumolin-Brunberg 2017: 26 f.) detailed information on individual multilingualism in historical settings is, however, rare. Therefore, information on the community these individuals are embedded in needs to suffice in order to reconstruct language contact scenarios.

The domain-specific approach is an adequate analytical instrument for the description of such habitual language choice patterns in multilingual societies and particularly useful when it comes to the description of historical contact scenarios as it allows to draw conclusions on who might have spoken which language to whom, when and where on the basis of the available data. This approach presupposes that societal multilingualism is diglossic (cf. Ferguson 1959), i.e. that language choice is not arbitrary but functionally organised. Therefore, it abstracts so-called domains of language use from the specific social settings, such as a specific school, office or family. These domains derive from and reflect the societal super structure and do thus not only enable to describe specific language use in multilingual societies, but also to generalise and predict it to a certain degree (cf. Rindler Schjerve 1996: 797).

In their research on multilingualism and language contact in the Habsburg monarchy, several historical sociolinguistic and some studies stemming from historiography have already successfully applied the domain-specific approach (cf. generally Rindler Schjerve (2003), Havránek (1996), Newerkla (1999, 2003), or Kim/Newerkla (2018) specifically for the school system, or Scheer (2014) for the military). Most of them either focus on a single multilingual crown land, such as Bohemia or Moravia, a specific city or a national institution, such as the military. So far, ‘monolingual’ crown lands, such as Lower Austria, have not been thoroughly examined. This paper intends to fill this gap and utilises different quantitative or quantifiable sources for the detection and description of local and regional language contact scenarios.

Primarily, we obtain our data from the questionnaires for the Linguistic Atlas of the German Empire – in this context referred to as Wenker’s questionnaries – that were distributed in Austria between 1926 and 1931. We compare the sociolinguistic←188 | 189→ information on the respective locality given on these questionnaires with the results of the Austrian censuses from 1880 to 1934. This multi-source approach may help to reduce the specific bias of each of the surveys and addresses the valid caveats of sociolinguistics against the unquestioned use of quantitative and indirectly collected data. As Deumert (2010: 18) points out “approaching language use in this [purely quantitative – A. K.] way obscures the variability and complexity of ‘linguistic practices’ in multilingual societies, and thus renders important aspects of language use in these societies invisible”. However, especially in historical sociolinguistics, census data and other quantitative sources are of great value – on the one hand, because other comprehensive sources simply often do not exist and, on the other hand, because they can be utilised for the identification of research desiderata and the formulation of research questions. Additionally, in some cases, Wenker’s questionnaires give illuminating and novel qualitative information on the contact scenario, as this paper demonstrates in the following sections. Consequently, we argue that the combination of census data with other comprehensive data types helps to solve the outlined dilemma at an early stage of the research process.

In the light of the above-mentioned caveats on quantitative and indirect approaches towards sociolinguistic phenomena, a detailed critical assessment of the data sources is required. Section 2 reviews and discusses the primary data source, i.e. Wenker’s questionnaires. Section 3 then critically assesses the Austrian censuses between 1880 and 1934. In section 4, we turn to the representation of other languages than German and multilingualism in the primary data source. A combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to the according information is demonstrated with two case studies, one focusing on a rural community at the river March, namely Waltersdorf an der March, the other on Leopoldsdorf in the industrialised south of Vienna.

2 Data source A: Wenker’s questionnaires

The Linguistic Atlas of the German Empire (Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reichs), or later, in the present article’s focus period, the German Linguistic Atlas (Deutscher Sprachatlas) is considered the “world-wide most comprehensive documentation of dialects of a national language” (Lameli 2008a: 256).2 In the German Empire, its←189 | 190→ data was collected indirectly in several phases between 1876 and 1887 by Georg Wenker from the University of Marburg. Additional surveys in German speaking areas outside of the former German Empire were conducted in the interwar period.

2.1 The Linguistic Atlas of the German Empire and other languages than German

Other languages than German and multilingualism are present in the material stemming from the atlas project in many ways: First of all, the questionnaires,3 which were distributed amongst all primary schools of the Empire, included one question which is of special relevance in this context:

Ist in Ihrem Schulorte eine nichtdeutsche Volkssprache als üblich? und welche? und wie stellt sich etwa das Zahlenverhältnis zwischen den von Haus aus Deutschsprechenden und den Nicht-Deutschsprechenden?4

Generally, Wenker seems to have been interested in capturing other languages than German and their dialectal variation, too. This interest is documented by his studies and maps on multilingualism in both the north-east (cf. Lameli 2008a: 265 f.) and north-west (cf. Lameli 2008b) of the German Empire, but also by the remark on the questionnaires used in the German Empire from 1876 to 1887, which requested the teachers to translate Wenker’s 40 sentences into other languages than German, if German was not spoken at the school locality.

With regard to multilingualism and other languages than German in Wenker’s materials, much research remains to be conducted. It may target several types and layers of information and, thus, follow different approaches:

First of all, a focus can be drawn on translations of the 40 sentences to (dialects of) other languages than German and the assessment of their usability for dialect geography of the respective language (cf. Fleischer et al., to appear).←190 | 191→

Accordingly, translations of the 40 sentences to dialects of German could be investigated with regard to possible traces of language contact on various linguistic levels.

Besides the object language represented in the 40 sentences, the sociolinguistic information and especially the answers on the question on other languages than German may be focused, similar to an unpublished study by Wenker himself (cf. Lameli 2008b).

This paper adopts the latter approach and analyses the questionnaires originating from the survey in Austria.

2.2 The history and questionnaires of Wenker’s survey in Austria

The historical background of the survey for the German Linguistic Atlas in Austria is considered one of the least transparent of all the later additional surveys. So far, it was described by Schallert (cf. 2013: 212–214) and Fleischer (cf. 2017: 93–106).

It is known that the Austrian data were collected in three different survey rounds. The first two rounds were both organised on behalf of the Department of the German Linguistic Atlas in Marburg by a linguistic department of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the so-called Wiener Wörterbuchkanzlei. To a large degree, it replicated Wenker’s survey strategy and obtained the support of the Federal Ministry of Education, which issued a first decree to urge the single schools’ cooperation twice, namely on July, 17th 1926 (cf. BMU 1408/1926) and later on March, 23rd 1929 (cf. BMU 9204/1929). It is hence possible to date the beginning of the first two survey rounds exactly.

In contrast to the original survey in the German Empire, where only a single questionnaire was sent to each school, and despite the objections from Marburg, where the persons in charge were concerned with the response rate (cf. Fleischer 2017: 98), each school was provided with two questionnaires, which the teachers were requested to fill in both identically. One copy was meant to be forwarded to the department in Marburg, the other one to remain in Vienna. Apparently, the Wörterbuchkanzlei did not adhere to this plan and, in some cases, sent both answers to Marburg (e.g. 18648 Kleinschweinbarth and 18649 Kleinschweinbarth).5 After the second survey round Marburg was still not satisfied with the response rate (cf. Fleischer 2017: 104 f.). Consequently, they initiated a third round and, in←191 | 192→ 1930, sent a representative to those parts of Austria which were not sufficiently covered yet (cf. Schallert 2013: 213 f.).

2.3 On the relation of survey rounds and questionnaire types

The whole picture is complicated by yet another fact, namely that three different printed questionnaire types (A, B, C) and several typewritten forms can be found amongst the Austrian data. Since most of the questionnaires have not been dated by the teachers, it is not yet possible to assign them to any of the three survey rounds, which could be useful when comparing the information on them with other dated sources. Schallert (cf. 2013: 213) suggests that two different questionnaire types were used in survey round one and two without indicating which questionnaire type stems from which survey round. However, due to its structure (cf. below) it seems convincing that questionnaire type A might have actually been used in both survey rounds organised by the Wiener Wörterbuchkanzlei. Consequently, questionnaire types B and C would have been used in survey round 3. We test this hypothesis by analysing and correlating the questionnaire types and possible dates on all questionnaires from the investigated area, i.e. Lower Austria and Vienna.

In the following, we first of all focus on the printed questionnaire types primarily used in and specifically designed for the Austrian survey (A, B).6 The third questionnaire type (C) is identical to the questionnaires that were used in the south German survey in 1887 and 1888.7 Type A (e.g. 18657 Laa a./d. Thaya) and B (e.g. 18741 Lanzendorf) mainly differ in two rather marginal details and one of high importance:

First of all, type A questionnaires carry the title Vordruckblatt ‘printed form’, a term that also recurs in the ministerial decrees (cf. BMU 1408/1926, BMU 9204/1929). Secondly, on questionnaire type A, a footnote to question six requests the teachers to not only transcribe the Standard German lexemes but to rather choose dialectal equivalents if they are more common, e.g. Pfinztag instead of Donnerstag ‘Thursday’ or Har instead of Flachs ‘flax’. According to Fleischer (2017: 100), this indicates that the Austrian survey emphasised the elicitation of “truly dialectal” forms. Moreover, type A also contains a Standard German version of the 40 sentences, which distinguishes it from most other questionnaire←192 | 193→ types that can be found in the data for the German Linguistic Atlas. It is crucial to keep in mind that in the first and second survey round each school was provided two identical questionnaires. Therefore, one of them could serve as the template for the translation of the 40 sentences, which made an additional instruction sheet unnecessary. None of these elements is present on questionnaire type B; subsequently, the Standard German versions of the 40 sentences must have been supplied on a separate sheet.

The archive of the German Linguistic Atlas in Marburg holds 1079 questionnaires and twelve duplicates from the investigated area. The duplicates will be left aside for this analysis, but their small number suggests that many more may be found in the archive of the former Wörterbuchkanzlei which seems to have kept most of them. As illustrated by Table 1, almost two thirds of these questionnaires represent type A, another third type B. Altogether, 70 and therefore only 6.5 % of these questionnaires have been dated by the teachers or schools, who filled them in. Type B questionnaires seem to have been dated more frequently (11 % of all) than type A questionnaires (4 % of all).

Table 1: Survey rounds and questionnaire types in Lower Austria


Most revealing is a closer look at the periods from which the single questionnaires stem. 19 type A questionnaires were supposedly filled in between Sept, 1st 1926 and Oct, 10th 1927, i.e. from the beginning of the school year right after the first ministerial decree of July, 17th 1926. The fact that there are no questionnaires from 1928 coincides with the information that survey round one ended in 1927 (cf. Schallert 2013: 213). Another ten dated questionnaires of type A were filled in between May, 2nd 1929 and October, 12th 1929. Again, this period matches the supposed survey period of round two very well, which was initiated by the decree of March, 23rd 1929. The 39 dated type B questionnaires exhibit dates between←193 | 194→ November, 21st 1930 and January, 6th 1931 and, thus, originate from a quite short time period. Additionally, up to three questionnaires carry the same date (e.g. December, 3rd 1930: 18702 Hagenberg, 18708 Ketzelsdorf, 18569 Oberschoderlee). These factors indicate a very condensed and determined approach, which suits the picture that Schallert (cf. 2013: 214) draws of survey round three. Only three dated type B questionnaires in the sample were filled after January 1931; two of them were filled in later in 19318, while a last one originates from as late as 1934.9

Generally, the correlation of questionnaire types and dates from all questionnaires from the investigated area clearly reflects the three supposed survey rounds and most importantly shows that in survey round one and two questionnaire type A was generally distributed, while in survey round three questionnaire type B was used. In other areas of Austria, especially in Burgenland, it seems to have been combined with questionnaire type C. Therefore, we estimate that most undated questionnaires of the type B in Lower Austria and Vienna were filled in around the turn of the year 1930/31.

Besides the three latest type B questionnaires discussed above, only another two do not fit into the general picture. The first one is a type A questionnaire (18596 Groß Stelzendorf10), that was dated to December, 17th 1930 and, thus, falls right into the time span for survey round three. The page with the 40 sentences does not only display a typewritten layer, but also two layers of handwritten corrections, one most probably by pencil, the other one with black ink. Whether they represent the same hand cannot be decided due to the lack of material. However, on the bottom of the same page, the teacher stamped, signed and dated to December, 17th 1930, probably with the same black ink that was used for the corrections, too. It is thus plausible, that the questionnaire was filled in earlier, during survey rounds one or two, and not forwarded to the Wörterbuchkanzlei for an unknown reason. The teacher from Großstelzendorf probably remembered it when he was again requested to fill in the questionnaire during survey round three and handed it in.

The last questionnaire that does not fit into the picture is a typewritten one, 18484 Frauenhofen, which is dated to October 1926, i.e. to the beginning of survey round one. Interestingly, only the page with the translation of the 40 sentences←194 | 195→ seems to be preserved. However, the numbering and ruling resemble those of another six typewritten questionnaires.11 So far, such questionnaires were only found in the district Horn, in which Frauenhofen is located. Structurally, they are identical with questionnaire type A. Therefore, these typewritten questionnaires might have been distributed by the local school administration, probably due to a lack of pre-prints.

3 Data source B: The Austrian censuses

As a point of comparison, this paper takes data from various historical censuses into account. Both the language questions as well as the surveys and results of censuses require critical assessment. Nevertheless, these data sources have the advantage of being comprehensive and in some cases even comparable to a certain degree, e.g. if identical questions were asked in subsequent censuses.

This unfortunately does not hold true for the Austrian censuses from the interwar period. The 1934 census asked for the ‘linguistic affiliation’ (Germ. sprachliche Zugehörigkeit) of the respondents and defined it as the language which is spoken in the cultural area to which the respondent feels a sense of belonging (cf. Bundesamt für Statistik 1935a: 8).12 Due to the unstable political situation after the Austrian Civil War, the so-called Februaraufstand in 1934 and the suggestive language question, historians (cf. e.g. Exner et al. 2004) suggest to treat the results with great caution.

According to the categories described by de Vries (cf. 1985), the language question posed in the 1934 census cannot be classified as a “question on language” in a narrow sense but rather as a “question on ethnicity”. Its phrasing is clearly rooted in the ideology of the identity of the linguistic and cultural nation (Germ. Sprach- und Kulturnation). The idea that national affiliation is defined by and can be objectively captured by language shaped the demographical discourse from the late 19th century onwards. At the 1872 International Statistical Congress in St. Petersburg, that concept prevailed over other demographical concepts of ethnicity and nationality. Subsequently, each European census had to include a language question in order to capture the ethnic structure of a population (cf. Göderle 2016: 213–219).←195 | 196→

Originally, this language question was supposed to aim at the so-called Umgangssprache, i.e. the language most commonly used. The censuses conducted in Cisleithania during the late Habsburg monarchy in 1880, 1890, 1900 and 1910 used this terminology and defined it as the language the respondent normally uses in social interaction (cf. RGBl. 103/1880).13 However, its poor definition and the underlying ethnic and national conceptualisation lead to national conflicts over the censuses (cf. Brix 1982) and left various parties dissatisfied. Thus, during the interwar period the Austrian Bundesamt für Statistik experimented with the exact phrasing (cf. Ladstätter 2004: 146). The 1923 census even included two language questions in a rather narrow sense: Question 7a of the census asked for the linguistic affiliation of the respondent, which was defined as the language somebody speaks most commonly and in which he or she thinks14 and has therefore been interpreted as asking for the respondent’s ‘language of thought’. Question 7b aimed at the ability of the respondent to speak German (cf. BGBl. 400/1921).

Unfortunately, due to financial reasons the 1923 census was not analysed and published in detail. Therefore, there are no linguistically relevant data from that census available on the levels of single municipalities. For the censuses of the Habsburg monarchy, the published results on the municipality level cover the whole state territory. The according results of the 1934 census, on the other hand, were only published for selected, historically highly multilingual parts of Austria, i.e. southern Carinthia, the Burgenland and for 167 municipalities in the eastern parts of Lower Austria (cf. Ladstätter 1973).15

Since we use the census data as a point of comparison with sociolinguistic information on Wenker’s questionnaires, we strongly prefer data on the size of linguistic communities within a certain municipality and, thus, exclude the available results from the 1923 census. Of course, in comparing the data sources we take into account that Wenker’s questionnaires refer to school places and not to municipalities and that these administrative entities were not necessarily congruent (cf. Kim 2018: 286 f.).←196 | 197→

4 Other languages than German and multilingualism in Wenker’s survey in (Lower) Austria

In the following, this paper examines the representation of other languages than German and multilingualism in the answers to the sociolinguistic questions on Wenker’s questionnaires available online at the REDE research platform. The area of investigation is defined as Lower Austria in its borders after the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which obliged Austria to cede some north-eastern and north-westerns areas of Lower Austria to the First Czechoslovakian Republic in 1920. The city of Vienna is included in this investigation too, even though it was politically separated from Lower Austria and formed an independent state in 1922.

Altogether, this paper analyses 1079 questionnaires originating from 989 different Lower Austrian municipalities. 73 of these municipalities are represented by more than one questionnaire. There are two different reasons for this multiple representation: The two questionnaires may either stem from different survey rounds or there might have been more than one school in the municipality.

Out of the 1079 analysed questionnaires, only five16 are assigned to districts within the city of Vienna in its borders at the time of the survey. With regard to the supposedly high number of primary schools at the time, Viennese schools are underrepresented, which indicates that dialects from rural areas were focused in the survey for the German Linguistic Atlas. Considering the present borders of Vienna, which were set in 1946, the number of Viennese questionnaires rises to 17. The additional twelve questionnaires stem from municipalities which were incorporated into so-called Greater Vienna (Groß-Wien) by the Nazi regime in 1938 and remained parts of three different Viennese districts17 after the extension of the city was to the largest extent revoked in 1946. Interestingly, out of these twelve questionnaires three represent Liesing and another two Atzgersdorf, both of which today belong to the 23rd district.

4.1 Overview: languages and regions

Out of the 1079 questionnaires from Lower Austria and Vienna, 73 (6.8 %) state that another language than German was spoken at the respective municipality by←197 | 198→ the time the survey was conducted. The other 1006 questionnaires indicate that only German was spoken, either by leaving question three unanswered, by crossing it out or by answering it with phrases such as a simple “no” or more complex answers like the following two:

In der Stadt Gmünd wird nur deutsch gesprochen. (18204 Gmünd),18

nur die deutsche Volkssprache üblich, der bayrische Dialekt (19355 Mautern a. d. D.).19

Figure 1: Wenker’s questionnaires with reference to other languages than German in Lower Austria


From those 73 questionnaires, which answer question 3 positively, most – namely 46 (63 %) – specify the other language than German to be Czech. As Figure 1←198 | 199→ illustrates, it is mentioned in questionnaires all over the investigation area: In the north-western so-called Waldviertel (‘forest quarter’) as well as in the north-eastern Weinviertel (‘wine quarter’) and the Marchfeld in the east of Vienna, the industrialised area in the south of Vienna and some places in the southern Mostviertel (‘most quarter’). Most of these questionnaires (36, i.e. 78 %) use the German orthography, i.e. tschechisch ‘Czech language’ or Tschechen ‘Czech people’, but on eight, the teachers write the same German words with a Czech grapheme instead, i.e. čechisch or Čechen. Another two answers display the lexeme böhm(isch) ‘bohemian’, which in this context most probably also refers to Czech and not to a dialect or person from the crown land Bohemia. For instance, 18685 Herrnbaumgarten specifies the information on the proportion of Germans and Czechs with the comment that many locals and, thus, probably native Germans speak Bohemian, too. In brackets, Bohemian is explained to refer to Czech.20 Questionnaire 19642 Brigittenau (20th Viennese district) states that both Czech and Polish are spoken by 20 % of the population.

Slovak or Slovaks are the second largest group referred to in Wenker’s questionnaires from Lower Austria. The twelve references (16 %) mainly scatter across the Marchfeld as well as along the river March in the north-east (cf. section 4.4). In the same region, four questionnaires mention Czech(s) as well as Slovak(s). Out of these, two clearly distinguish between either the two languages or their speakers21 while the other two treat them as a single or two, but indistinguishable languages by merging the glottonyms: “čechisch=slowakisch” (19613 Schönkirchen-Reyersdorf), or short “tsch.=slow.” (19634 Untersiebenbrunn). Tschechoslowakisch ‘Czechoslovak’, as the state language of the first Czechoslovak republic was officially called, does not occur in the data. Altogether, 63 out of the 73 questionnaires explicitly refer to West Slavic languages.

Four questionnaires from the Marchfeld and the northern Weinviertel mention Slavic in general without specifying single languages, most probably because a distinction seemed either not necessary or not possible.22 The most intriguing example for the impossibility to distinguish between Slavic languages is questionnaire 18665 Staatz, which reports a mixed Slavic dialect at the grange.23

Croatian and Hungarian are both mentioned on three questionnaires, all of which originate from the industrialised regions in the South of Vienna or from municipalities right at the southern border to the Burgenland, where Burgenland-←199 | 200→Croatian and Hungarian are autochthonously spoken until today.24 From the information given on the questionnaires, it cannot be decided whether the teachers refer to Burgenland-Croatian or Croatian. Three questionnaires mention other languages than German but do not specify which ones are used.25

4.2 Quantitative and qualitative approaches to the information

As the according question on Wenker’s questionnaires explicitly asks for the proportion of the German speakers and the speakers of other languages than German in the school locality, a quantitative approach, similar to the one adopted in Kim (2018) for data from Southern Moravia, is tempting. However, it does not prove suitable for the Lower Austrian data because they seem incomprehensive and somehow arbitrary in comparison to those from Southern Moravia, were the schoolteachers expressed both high demographical knowledge and awareness in their answers to the according question. In Lower Austria, on the other hand, explicit demographical knowledge seems to have been rather low as indicated, e.g. by the remark on questionnaire 42618 Trumau, in which the teacher estimates 5 % of the population to speak Czech and comments on his answer that the exact number of Czechs could neither be given by the local nor the district office.26 His estimation, however, is quite appropriate in comparison to the results of the 1934 census, in which 70 out of 1771 inhabitants and thus 4 % of Trumau’s residential population claimed to be Czech. Therefore, we may judge the according teacher’s demographical awareness to have been considerably high.

The comprehensiveness of the quantitative information given on the questionnaires can be judged against the census data: According to the results of the 1934 census, only in five out of the 167 Lower Austrian municipalities, for which the results on the linguistic affiliation of the population were published, all residents claimed to be German. Of course, these municipalities were consciously chosen to have the respective data published by the Bundesamt für Statistik due to their well-known multilingual setup. However, a much larger number of questionnaires from all over Lower Austria should have answered question three positively, if it had asked for all other languages spoken at the school locality – and not for an←200 | 201→other Volkssprache. Even though the teachers were not supplied with a definition of the term, we figure that they understood it to refer to the languages of local or regional minorities. This interpretation is supported by the high report-ratio in Southern Moravia, were both German and Czech were recognised as autochthonous, and by remarks such as on questionnaire 19559 Möllersdorf: First of all, the teacher answers the question, whether another language is spoken, negatively. Then, he specifies:

Es gibt zwar Leute (in früheren Jahren zugewanderte), die tschechisch sprechen, von einer Volkssprache kann aber keine Rede sein.27

The qualitative information given on the questionnaires especially proves to be of high value for the evaluation and description of the historical contact scenarios in Lower Austria and serves as a starting point for the analysis of language contact scenarios and patterns of multilingualism characteristic for communities in different parts of Lower Austria. In this sense, this paper provides case studies on two school localities, namely for those for which the according questionnaires indicate a non-German majority, namely 18751 Waltersdorf an der March (cf. number 1 in Fig. 1) and 19669 Leopoldsdorf (cf. number 2 in Fig. 1). Thus, it covers a rather small, rural community as well as a larger, industrialised one located nearby Vienna. The vast majority of the data, both the information from Wenker’s questionnaires as well as the census data will be made publicly accessible in aggregated form in the Information system on (historical) multilingualism in Austria (MiÖ), which is currently designed within the SFB “German in Austria: Variation – Contact – Perception”.28

4.3 Waltersdorf an der March and its neighbouring villages

Waltersdorf an der March (Cz. Přílepy, from now on: Waltersdorf) belongs to the villages along the river March in the northern Weinviertel, which were shaped by a strong autochthonous Slovak minority up until the first half of the 20th century.29←201 | 202→ A century earlier, Šembera (cf. 1845: 164 f.) counted 424 people in the village and stated that it was exclusively inhabited by Slovaks. Probably, the Slovak speakers in this region originate from the assimilation of an originally Croatian speaking population which settled in the respective villages in the 16th century. Supposedly, this assimilation was accompanied by a strong immigration of Slovaks in the late 18th and early 19th century (cf. Schultes 1954: 9 f.; Breu 1970: 25 f.; Schneider 1995: 7–9).

The questionnaire 18751 Waltersdorf an der March represents type B and was thus probably filled in in 1930. With regard to the proportion of speakers of German and other languages, it states that three quarters of the population speak Slovak at home.30 In comparison to the contemporary census data (cf. Table 2), the difference is striking: In 1934, only 15 inhabitants of Waltersdorf, i.e. 3 % of the population, affiliated themselves with Slovak. However, the picture given by the questionnaire corresponds very well to the results of the 1880 census, when 304 out of 426 inhabitants (71 %) declared to speak Slovak (cf. Fig. 2). The following censuses (1890, 1900, and 1910) roughly match the results of the 1934 census and display a German majority of approx. 90 %.

Figure 2: Demographic development in Waltersdorf (1880–1934) according to both data sources31


←202 | 203→

Table 2: Census data for Waltersdorf an der March (1880–1934)32


The questionnaire itself does not allow for an explanation of the incoherence between the information on the questionnaire and the contemporary census data. However, the teacher, who was not born in Waltersdorf himself but in a village approx. 18 km to the south, explicitly mentions that Slovak is used in the family domain. Therefore, we may assume that the village community consensually declared themselves to speak German from the late 1880s onwards, which correlated with a declaration for the German nation. However, they still stuck to Slovak as family language up until the interwar period.

The other questionnaires from villages along the river March in the northern Weinviertel with a Slavic population (cf. Table 3) display similar patterns with regard to the information on the ratio of German and non-German speakers: Both questionnaires, 18723 Rabensburg and 1974 Hohenau, indicate that one third of the population speaks Slovak or even a “Slovak dialect” (18723 Rabensburg), which again does not correspond to the results of the 1934 census but rather to results from the end of the 19th century, when, e.g. in 1880 56.29 % of the population in Rabensburg and 21.16 % in Hohenau declared to commonly speak “Bohemian-Moravian-Slovak”. Moreover, the results from the Wenker’s questionnaires are supported by qualitative data from oral history interviews (cf. Schneider 1995: 91–106). These show that in both villages a West-Slavic dialect was commonly used in the whole community up until the second half of the 20th←203 | 204→ century, and by those who spoke German as a family language, too. Therefore, the contact scenario along the river March can best be described as “prolonged stable bilingualism”, a scenario which may lead to grammatical surface convergence (cf. Muysken 2010: 272 f.). A deeper linguistic analysis of the involved varieties of German and Slovak should thus focus on such phenomena.

Table 3: Wenker’s questionnaires and 1934 census data for the other villages along the river March



4.4 Leopoldsdorf and the industrialised area south of Vienna

The second school locality, which according to the respective questionnaire is inhabited by a non-German majority, is Leopoldsdorf in the south of Vienna. On questionnaire 19669 Leopoldsdorf, the teacher, who was born in the same place, indicates that 80 % of the inhabitants are Czech. In order to describe the linguistic situation in the village in greater detail, she adds:←204 | 205→

Die Ortsbewohner, Niederösterreicher, sprechen den heimischen Dialekt des Wiener Bodens. Die Mehrzahl der hiesigen Bevölkerung sind Ziegelarbeiter, eingewanderte Tschechen und Burgenländer, auch Ungarn, haben einen der Schriftsprache ähnliche Mundart angenommen. (19669 Leopoldsdorf)38

In Leopoldsdorf, indeed, there existed a brick factory which belonged to the company that owned the brick factories in the nearby 10th district of Vienna (Wienerberger Ziegelfabriks- und Bau-AG) since 1869 (cf. Merk 1966: 62). Similar to other factories in the south of Vienna, it attracted large numbers of labourers from all over the Habsburg monarchy but especially Bohemia and Moravia at the end of the 19th and in the early 20th century. Therefore, between 1880 and 1934 the population of Leopoldsdorf tripled from 584 to 1774 inhabitants with the highest growth rates in the last decades of the 19th century (1880–1890: +49 %, 1880–1900: +39 %, cf. Table 4).

Interestingly, the questionnaire 19669 Leopoldsdorf does not only mention the Czech labourers, but also migrants from the Burgenland, probably speakers of German as well as of Hungarian. These three groups are indirectly captured by the census data from 1880 to 1910 as well, if the fact is taken into consideration that the Burgenland belonged to the Hungarian part of the monarchy and that these migrants were thus considered to be foreigners. Therefore, the language question in the censuses was neither directed towards nor analysed for them. However, the data suggest that labour migration from Transleithania to Leopoldsdorf became an increasing factor in the 1880s, whereas it is recorded that large numbers of Czech speaking labourers had already worked and lived there before. Throughout the monarchy, between 26.88 % (1880) and 35.48 % (1890) of inhabitants of Leopoldsdorf declared to commonly speak Czech.

In the results of the 1934 census, on the other hand, Leopoldsdorf seems to be a predominantly German municipality, even though it shows the second largest Czech population share amongst the 167 municipalities for which the data is available (13.53 %). Presumably, this development can be explained by an interaction of four factors: (1) The fact that the language question was analysed for the German-speaking population share born in Burgenland as well, (2) the assimilation of the non-German population, (3) eventual remigration of Czech speakers to Czechoslovakia39 and (4) the biased survey in general (cf. section 3). However, neither the results of the census nor the questionnaire display a non-German←205 | 206→ majority. Drawing exclusively on these data sources, the divergence cannot be explained.

Figure 3: Demographic development in Leopoldsdorf (1880–1934) according to both data sources


Table 4: Census data for Leopoldsdorf (1880–1934)


However, the remark on questionnaire 19669 Leopoldsdorf cited above sheds light upon another sociolinguistically relevant dimension: The teacher explicitly mentions two distinct varieties of German within the same municipality and assigns each of them to a certain group of speakers: The local, autochthonous population, on the one hand, speaks the “native dialect”, the labour migrants, on the other, a variety closer to the standard register of German. This remark serves as evidence that language and variety contact were at least by some teachers perceived to lead to levelling processes and, thus, language change.←206 | 207→

Most importantly, the remark also indicates that the speakers of languages other than German have already linguistically assimilated or are in the process of doing so, in the course of which a distinct variety of German has developed. In the scenario approach proposed by Muysken (2010: 273), this situation corresponds to what he calls “L2 learning, shift, and substrate formation”.

5 Conclusion

These investigations have shown that the sociolinguistic information given on Wenker’s questionnaires from Lower Austria may lack comprehensiveness and reliability. However, we have proved that a multi-source approach that combines and compares Wenker’s questionnaires with quantitative sources is fruitful in two ways: First of all, for the identification of research desiderata and, secondly, for the global description of regional and/or domain-specific manifestations of multilingualism.

Following this approach and despite having been construed to be monolingual German throughout the Habsburg monarchy, the investigated area, i.e. Lower Austria including Vienna, can be characterised as being multilingual to a wide extent up until the interwar period. The contact scenarios regionally differ as illustrated by Waltersdorf an der March, a rural village in the north-east where stable bilingualism shaped the region for centuries, and Leopoldsdorf from the industrialised area south of Vienna, which experienced significant labour migration and the linguistic assimilation of these migrants throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. Wenker’s questionnaires help to identify such patterns and – in some cases – add novel and valuable information for their characterisation.

By making the data sources publicly accessible within the Information system on (historical) multilingualism in Austria (MiÖ) of the SFB “German in Austria: Variation – Contact – Perception” we hope to initiate and facilitate further research activities on historical multilingualism in (Lower) Austria.


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BGBl. 400/1921 = Verordnung des Bundesministeriums für Inneres und Unterricht vom 7. Juli 1921, betreffend die Vornahme der Volkszählung nach←207 | 208→ dem Stande vom 30. November 1921. In: Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich, 400/1921, 1425–1465.

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Online Resources

URL: [20.02.2018].

URL: [13.02.2018].

URL: [20.02.2018].←211 | 212→ ←212 | 213→

1 This paper and the underlying research were supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). It presents research results of the project parts “German in the context of the other languages in the Habsburg State (19th century) and 2nd Austrian Republic” (F 6005-G23) and “German and the Slavic languages in Austria: Aspects of language contact” (F 6006-G23) of the Special research programme (SFB) F60-G23 “German in Austria (DiÖ): Variation – Contact – Perception”, cf. [20.02.2018]. The author thanks Maria Schinko for her help with the transcription and digitisation of Wenker’s questionnaires, Lena Katzinger for the corrections and valuable remarks, and Stefan Michael Newerkla and Wolfgang Koppensteiner for their comments.

2 The development and method of the survey have been thoroughly described by Koop/Putschke/Wiegand (cf. 1982) and Fleischer (cf. 2017). The materials belonging to the Linguistic Atlas of the German Empire, i.e. the questionnaires and hand-drawn maps, can be accessed online on the REDE research platform ( [20. 02. 2018]).

3 These questionnaires included a set of 40 standard German sentences that were to be translated into the local dialect by the school children and recorded by the teachers. Additionally and depending on the survey phase and used questionnaire type (cf. Fleischer 2017 and below for the Austrian survey), several sociolinguistically relevant questions concerning the informants and the languages spoken at the school place, were asked.

4 “Is any non-German Volkssprache common in your school location? And which? And what is the ratio between those who innately speak German and those who do not?” – All translations by the author. We consider the term Volkssprache to be untranslatable due to its political-ideological dimension and thus leave the German original throughout the text. It designates a national language, but at the same time indicates that the respective cultural nation and its language need to be officially recognised to a certain degree.

5 In this context, we treat one of these questionnaires as the original and the other as the duplicate. Probably, many more duplicates remain unregistered in the archive of the former Wörterbuchkanzlei up to date. Considering this fact, this paper does not cover all questionnaires available from Austria.

6 In greater detail, they are described by Fleischer (cf. 2017: 100–102).

7 In this paper, this type will not be described in detail, because there are only two questionnaires of it to be found in the investigated area (i.e. 19159 Blindenmarkt and 54870 Langenlois). For a detailed description see Fleischer (cf. 2017: 27–32).

8 19620 Prottes (July, 11th 1931) and 19330 Großwiesendorf (October, 24th 1931).

9 19331 Großweikersdorf (March, 8th 1934).

10 This questionnaire does not only refer to Groß Stelzendorf, but to three school places from the judicial district Hollabrunn which according to the school teachers are located within a distance of one to two kilometres and do not display any dialectal differences. Therefore, one questionnaire representing all three of these villages was filled in with blue typewritten letters by a teacher’s workgroup lead by Adolf Graf from Großstelzendorf.

11 Namely 18434 Japons, 18443 Kottaun, 18491 Sigmundsherberg, 18549 Straning, 18437 Trabenreith, and 18387 Wolfsbach.

12 Original: “Die sprachliche Zugehörigkeit wird durch die Sprache bestimmt, deren Kulturkreis der Befragte sich zugehörig fühlt.”

13 Original: “Für jede Person ist die Sprache, deren sich dieselbe im gewöhnlichen Umgange bedient […], anzugeben.” According to Ladstätter (cf. 2004:145), the definition did not change for the subsequent censuses.

14 Original: “Die sprachliche Zugehörigkeit wird durch diejenige Sprache bestimmt, die jemand am geläufigsten spricht und in der er gewöhnlich denkt.”

15 Ladstätter (cf. 1973) gives a general overview of the historical censuses in Austria, the demographical criteria covered and the questions asked by them as well as the publications of the results.

16 19643 1st district (Inner city), 19645 10th district (Favoriten), 19475 17th district (Hernals), 19642 20th district (Brigittenau), 19644 3rd district (Landstraße).

17 21st district (Floridsdorf): 19628 Stammersdorf; 22nd district (Donaustadt): 19625 Süßenbrunn and 19627 Breitenlee; 23rd district (Liesing): 19442 Mauer, 19507 Liesing (b. Wien), 19506 Liesing, 19505 Liesing, 19509 Atzgersdorf, 19508 Atzgersdorf b. Wien, 19510 Inzersdorf b. Wien, 19516 Rodaun, 19511 Siebenhirten b. Wien.

18 “In the city of Gmünd, only German is spoken”.

19 “only the German Volkssprache common, Bavarian dialect”.

20 Original: “‘böhmisch’ (tschechisch)”.

21 19680 Pframa, 19646 Raasdorf.

22 19654 Fuchsenbigl, 19611 Matzen, 19635 Schönfeld, 18665 Staatz.

23 Original: “einen slawischen Mischdialekt im Meierhof”.

24 42625 Hof am Leithaberge (Croatian), 19707 Münchendorf (Hungarian), 42622 Ebreichsdorf (Hungarian and Croatian), 19731 Prellenkirchen (Hungarian, Croatian and Slovak).

25 42512 Blumau, 18746 Eichhorn, 18553 Goggendorf.

26 This remark is added to his estimation: “* die Zahl d. Tschechen konnte weder bei d. Gemeinde noch b. d. Bezirkshauptmannschaft eruiert werden”.

27 “There are people (who immigrated earlier), who speak Czech, but it cannot be counted as a Volkssprache”.

28 Cf. [13. 02. 2018].

29 The other villages are (from north to south): Bernhardsthal (Cz. Pernitál), Rabensburg (Cz. Ranšpurk), Hohenau (Cz. Cahnov), Ringelsdorf (Cz. Lingašdorf), Drösing (Cz. Střezenice), Sierndorf an der March (Cz. Zindorf, cf. Šembera 1845: 163). For the Czech toponyms see Newerkla (2006). Slovak toponyms exist too, however, according to Newerkla (personal communication), they are not stable and often dialectal. Therefore they are not mentioned in this context.

30 Original: “3/4 der Bevölkerung daheim slowakisch”.

31 BMS is the abbreviation in this paper for “bohemian-moravian-slovak” (germ. böhmisch-mährisch-slowakisch), the glottonym used for Czech and Slovak in the Cisleithanian censuses (1880, 1890, 1900, 1910). In Table 4, the results of the 1934 census, which distinguished between Czech and Slovak, are added. In brackets, first the number of inhabitants affiliated to Czech, then the number of inhabitants affiliated to Slovak is given.

32 The censuses conducted in the Habsburg monarchy counted everybody who was present at a place at the day of record. The language question, however, was only asked and analysed for citizens of the Austrian part of the monarchy (Cisleithania). The 1934 census, on the other hand, gives the according information concerning all permanent residents of a certain place.

33 Information on Wenker’s questionnaires converted into percentages.

34 Percentage of inhabitants affiliated to Czech and Slovak.

35 Inhabitants affiliated to Czech + inhabitants affiliated to Slovak (total number of inhabitants).

36 Original: “Deutschsprechende = ⅔, Nicht=Deutschsprechende =⅓”.

37 Original: “2:1”.

38 “The locals from Lower Austria speak the native Viennese dialect. The majority of the population are brick-makers, Czechs and people from Burgenland, also Hungarians, who speak a dialect similar to the written language”.

39 Cf. for remigration from Vienna: Brousek (1980: 34).