Lay summary
Despite the fact that writing text messages (SMS) has become a central communicative practice in everyday written communication, we do not know much about the linguistic properties of this communication form, let alone about the different distribution, function and varying forms of the four national languages of Switzerland. Two aspects, i.e. the grammatical make-up of Swiss text messages, and the use of different languages, especially Romansh and Italophone dialects, and of language (code) mixing, will be investigated thoroughly during the three years of duration of the project.

Three sub-projects will intensely work on these aspects, with different research focuses, thus supplementing each other in an ideal way: Subproject A “The ‘big languages’ of Switzerland: Morphological and syntactic variation in SMS communication” (Zurich and Neuchâtel), will be the very first one in SMS research dedicated to a systematic description and analysis of some particular phenomena of grammatical variation in German, Swiss German and French. Within subproject B “The ‘small languages’ of Switzerland and language contact phenomena in SMS communication” (Zurich and Bern), minority languages (in Switzerland), i.e. Italian, Swiss Italo-Romance dialects and Romansh will be analysed for the very first time as to their occurrence and (possibly changing) structural linguistic features in text messages. Sub-project C “‘Many languages in Switzerland’: Plurilingualism and code-switching in SMS communication” (Neuchâtel and Leipzig, Germany) will investigate the German and French SMS data as to forms and functions of code-switching phenomena, which is a well-studied phenomenon in multilingual contexts, but never systematically analysed in text messages.

We expect to reveal that, first, fundamental grammatical properties of language(s) remain completely unaffected also in text messages (a finding most relevant to linguistic theory), second, that minority varieties and especially dialects are particularly vivid in text messages and partially reshaped by their use in this communication form, and, third, that a high amount of code-mixing is characteristic of Switzerland as a multilingual country. Our research will be based on the newly established SMS reference corpus for Switzerland, comprising around 25’000 original text messages from all over the country, which will be set up as an open resource for academic purposes (cf. www.sms4science.ch).