Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Language and Society in German-Speaking Countries
Academic Year
Semester 2
Normally GE20420
External Examiners
  • Dr Geraldine Horan (Lecturer - University College London)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 10 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 10 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Presentation: (seminar presentation)  20%
Semester Assessment Continuous Assessment: 4,000 word essay  80%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   written examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

By the end of this course students will be familiar with some major themes in contemporary German sociolinguistics. They will be familiar with theoretical and methodological aspects of the discipline and will have learnt to assess critically research carried out in the German-speaking countries in terms of methodology and theoretical underpinning. They will have learnt to carry out independent empirical research, to analyse data, to construct an argument, and to express themselves in a suitable register. The oral presentation fosters team-skills and oral expression.

Brief description

The module examines the interrelations between language and society in the German-speaking countries, providing a thorough grounding in the sociolinguistics of these countries and highlighting the contrast between contemporary and traditional approaches to the study of variation in German. Through a study of a selection of major topics in contemporary German sociolinguistics, students will be introduced to and encouraged to assess critically research carried out in the German-speaking countries. They will also, where necessary, be required to familiarise themselves with the work of sociolinguists from outside the German-speaking tradition where these have contributed to the development of sociolinguistic theory in the German-speaking countries.


The following topics will be covered:

1. Earlier approaches to variation: the aims and concerns of the dialectological school compared with the aims and concerns of modern sociolinguistics; a critical comparison of dialectological and sociolinguistic methodology. Background reading: Barbour & Stevenson (1990), 18-21, 55-74; Chambers, J.K. & Trudgill, P. (1980), Dialectology, Chapter 2.

2. Characteristics of the development of a standard language: how 'natural' is the development? Selection, acceptance, elaboration of function, codification. Development of the German standard language. Background reading: Barbour & Stevenson (1990), 45-53; Keller (1978), 485-509; LGL, Chapter 35; Sauer & Glueck, in Stevenson (1995), Chapter 4.

3. Pluricentricity: how many national varieties of German are/were there? Linguistic and political criteria for pluricentric status of a language; evaluation of these criteria. Arguments for the pluricentric status of German (cf. Clyne (1995), Chapter 1) and against (cf. Fox (1990), 288-93).

4. Linguistic characteristics and social status of the German standard language as used in Austria, the FRG, the former GDR and Switzerland; diglossia in Switzerland. Background reading: LGL, Chapters 58, 59; Clyne (1995), Chapters 1, 2, 3; Russ (1994), Chapters 3, 4, 5; Fasold, R., (1984), The Sociolinguistics of Society, Chapter 2.

Note: Students should keep up with the background reading, topic by topic.


This module is at CQFW Level 6