H8: Current Polish-German Bilingualism in Germany
Principal investigator: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Bernhard Brehmer, Institute of slavistics
Research assistants: Agnieszka Czachór
Student assistants: Magdalena Kulesz, Dominika Sęczyk, Martin Winski
Research topicThis project aims to provide a descriptive survey of contact induced change in bilingual speakers with L1 Polish currently living in Germany. The survey focuses on speakers who acquired their L1 without instruction - in natural acquisitional settings within the family. We wish to explore the presumed attrition of verbal skills in Polish by empirically examining selected morphological and syntactic phenomena. To achieve this aim we plan to collect performance data from subject interviews, picture story verbalisations and compare this data to speaker judgements concerning presented linguistic structures (competence test).
Research questionThe evaluation of the empirical survey will provide a basis for answering several important questions of general theoretical relevance:
(1) Can we observe a stable, rule-based variety resulting from Polish-German contact in Polish speaking individuals living in Germany or does this language merely represent a transitional stage on the way towards a complete language shift to German?
(2) Do attrition hierarchies exist for the examined morphological and syntactic phenomena?
(3) Which phenomena can be explained by universal tendencies of contact-induced language change (i.e. can be found in other parts of the Polish Diaspora)? What are the specific developments found within the examined contact constellation?
State of the artData concerning the state of language expertise of the Polish minority in Germany is still very scarce.A sufficient foundation for this project is thus not yet available. The few studies which focus on the development of the Polish language in Germany offer more or less accidental observations mainly by emphasizing the lexis (Mazur 1993, Nagórko 1997, Warchoł-Schlottmann 1996). Others deal only with certain groups, particularly the inhabitants of Polish descent living in the Ruhr-Region. The majority of this population, however, seems to be linguistically assimilated (cf. Michalewska 1991). Considering that studies of Polish varieties which are spoken abroad (the so-called dialekty polonijne) have a long tradition in Polish linguistics (cf. Bibliography and articles in Dubisz, 1997), it is all the more astonishing that larger studies have yet to be conducted concerning the structural characteristics of Polish spoken in Germany. This project aims to bridge this gap.
ObjectivesThe starting hypothesis of the project states that Polish spoken in Germany underlies a significant attrition compared to the system of Standard Polish. These effects can be observed in the attrition of structural features. Further investigations will have to be conducted in order to find out if new structures are currently emerging under the influence of German in addition to these attrition effects. The evaluation of this particular part of the project will contribute to our knowledge of the status of the Polish variety spoken in Germany. Are we currently witnessing the evolution of a specific stable contact variety which adheres to morphological or syntactic rules and thus exceeds particular idiolects, or is this language an intermediate stage on the way towards a complete language shift to German? We also hope to investigate how the speakers see their own language (as a mixed idiom).
Method and Corpus
Due to the fact that an adequate corpus of the variety of Polish spoken in Germany has yet to be established, data must first be gathered to be analysed in our survey. In order to obtain significant results in spite of a limited time-frame we will mainly use elicited data. To this end we will conduct cross-sectional research on Polish language use. The main objective of this project will be a qualitative analysis of the material, whereas the quantitative aspects will only apply when comparing the presence or absence of the tested for structural features between the recorded idiolects.
The newly surveyed data will be divided into three categories: (1) each of the subjects will provide a short sample of spontaneous speech. This type of data will be gathered by means of short interviews about the subject's (language) biography and through story-telling tasks addressing various topics (holidays, favourite book or film, etc.); (2) Systematically elicited speech data; A picture story will be presented to the subjects, who will then be asked to describe it in their own words. This design was chosen in order to provide data for direct comparison of the speech performance of the individual subjects; (3) Grammaticality judgements: Finally, each subject will be confronted with sentences to be judged for acceptability. In addition to correct test sentences, the sample will contain data which will include German influences on relevant linguistic levels (morphology, syntax).
The combination of these three methods will guarantee the quick and precise obtainment of relevant data. Furthermore, this procedure can help us gain insight into actual speech production (data type 1 and 2) and at the same time broaden our knowledge of the underlying grammatical rules (data type 3). In this way we will be able to answer the question of whether the expected reduction of the system applies to performance only or if it affects the subject's competence as well. We expect the subjects to perform better in terms of grammaticality judgements, if their competence is not affected by German influence.
In order to investigate a possible hierarchy of domains affected by structural attrition we will need a small corpus containing speech data from a control group. Subjects of the control group will also be residents of Germany but who completed school in Poland and whose language acquisition has thus been accompanied by instructed input.
We will simultaneously establish a small corpus with speech data from another control group of subjects who are monolingual in Polish. This will provide us with insight into possible deviations in selected morphological and syntactic categories. It will also help to clarify which deviations are due to German influence and which underlie internal processes of linguistic development.
StructuresThe survey will consider the following phenomena:
- Changes in the case system: reduction of cases which are absent in German (e.g. the instrumental case in Polish) and replacement of synthetic case morphology by analytic combinations of preposition + case respectively;
- Changes in the expression of verbal aspect;
- Attrition of or redistribution in the gender system;
- Change in verb government following German rules;
- Frequent usage of a personal pronoun in subject position in Polish, which is a pro-drop language;
- Development of article-like functions using the numeral jeden 'one' and the demonstrative pronoun ten 'this';
- Influences in word order (e.g. imitation of the so-called German "Satzklammer" consisting of modal auxiliary + infinitive combinations).
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