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Phonetic features of (multi-)ethnic urban vernaculars in German-speaking Switzerland

English title Phonetic features of (multi-)ethnic urban vernaculars in German-speaking Switzerland
Applicant Schmid Stephan
Number 200616
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Phonetisches Laboratorium Institut für Computerlinguistik Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.07.2021 - 30.06.2022
Approved amount 148'490.00
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Keywords (4)

Phonetics; Multiethnolects; Sociolinguistics; Swiss German

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Seit der Jahrtausendwende hat man in Deutschschweizer Städten festgestellt, dass sich die Aussprache des Schweizerdeutschen bei gewissen Jugendlichen zum Teil deutlich von den traditionellen Dialekten unterscheidet. Das Forschungsprojekt beschreibt lautliche Merkmale dieser Sprechweisen anhand von experimentellen Methoden und untersucht deren soziale Interpretation.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Der Begriff ‘Multiethnolekt’ bezieht sich auf Sprechweisen, die während den letzten Jahrzehnten in mehreren europäischen Städten entstanden sind. Multiethnolekte zeichnen sich durch Transformationen traditioneller Sprachformen aus und dienen dem Ausdruck einer neuen Gruppenidentität. Im Sprachgebrauch fallen neben typischen Gesprächspartikeln und grammatikalischen Vereinfachungen vor allem phonetische Besonderheiten auf. Dazu gehören unter anderem eine deutlich stimmhafte Aussprache der Konsonanten [b d g] sowie eine ‘starke’ Realisierung von [s] am Wortanfang. Zudem werden Multiethnolekte oft mit einer Art ‘Staccato’-Rhythmus gesprochen.

Im Forschungsprojekt wurde eine Datenbank angelegt, die aus Sprachaufnahmen von Jugendlichen besteht und gegenwärtig erweitert wird. Die Aufnahmen bestehen aus verschiedenen Sprechstilen (Leseprache u.a.). Neben der akustischen Auswertung bestimmter phonetischer Merkmale sollen Perzeptionsexperimente Aufschluss geben über die soziale Bedeutung multiethnolektaler Sprechweisen. 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts

Das Projekt betreibt soziolinguistische Grundlagenforschung zu neuen Entwicklungen der Sprachsituation in der deutschsprachigen Schweiz. Die Dokumentation der sprachlichen Variation liefert auch Hinweise auf soziale Stereotype und deren Interpretation in einer multikulturellen Gesellschaft.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.06.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
190005 Typologie der Vokal- und Konsonantenquantität in süddeutschen Varietäten: akustische, auditive und artikulatorische Analysen Erwachsener und kindlicher Sprecher 01.10.2020 Project funding (Div. I-III)
165798 Phonetic features of (multi-)ethnic urban vernaculars in German-speaking Switzerland 01.09.2017 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The present project applies for the extension of the SNSF 4-year project entitled Phonetic features of (multi-)ethnic urban vernaculars in German-speaking Switzerland (no 165798; Sept. 2017-June 2021; PI Prof. Stephan Schmid, Phonetics Laboratory, University of Zurich), which hereafter will be referred to as ‘MEZ’ (Multi-Ethnolectal Zurich German). In this project, we analyze phonetic characteristics of multiethnolectal Zurich German, both on the segmental level (voicing of lenis plosives and duration of word-initial fricatives and approximants) and on the suprasegmental level (speech rhythm and speech rate); moreover, the presence/absence of external sandhi assimilation processes typical for Swiss German is investigated as well (‘Swiss German’ is used here as an umbrella term for the Alemannic dialects spoken in German-speaking Switzerland).For this endeavor, speech production data was collected from a total of about 50 adolescents in the city of Zurich as well as from additional ten adult speakers. Recordings were made of various speech activities ranging from controlled read speech to spontaneous conversation. We also conducted a perception experiment where the speakers were rated by other adolescents on a Likert-scale from 1 to 7 as to how multiethnolectal they sound. We then ran statistical analyses to examine to what extent the ratings were related to the production data. So far, our acoustic and statistical analyses support the initial hypotheses formulated for the MEZ project. As regards lenis plosives, a comparison of 20 multicultural adolescents and 10 monocultural young adults yielded a significant difference in the degree of voicing. Also, adolescent speakers who are perceived as speaking rather multiethnolectal Zurich German were shown to produce longer word-initial fricatives than adolescent speakers who are perceived as speaking rather traditional Zurich German. Furthermore, speakers of rather multiethnolectal Zurich German display more variability in vocalic interval durations than adolescents who are perceived as speaking rather traditional Zurich German. Lastly, the former make less use of external sandhi assimilation processes than the latter. During the preparation and analysis of the MEZ data, we noticed several additional phenomena which, to the best of our knowledge, have not yet been investigated for multiethnolectal Swiss German, in particular the aspiration of alveolar/bilabial fortis plosives (e.g., ["thig@r] instead of ["tig@r]), glottal stop insertion before vowels (e.g., [?æuto] instead of [æuto]), and the lack of other sandhi phenomena, i.e., linking /r/ and intrusive /n/ (e.g., ‘der alt Maa’ instead of ‘de alt Maa’). We therefore plan to extend our investigation to these features as well, collecting new data from additional speakers following the same methodology adopted so far. Again, we will record the same control group of adult speakers in order to verify to what extent these features are typical of multiethnolectal speech or pertain to youth language in general.Acoustic and statistical analyses will be carried out to examine whether the additionally determined phonetic features correlate with the perception of the speakers. It is assumed that adolescents who are perceived as speaking rather multiethnolectal Zurich German use more aspiration and glottalization and less linking /r/ and intrusive /n/ as compared to speakers of rather traditional Zurich German.
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