“Language across generations: Contact-induced change in morpho-syntax in German-Polish bilingual speech (LangGener)” – a research project funded by the National Science Centre (Poland) and the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

Polish team:

  • head: prof. dr hab. Anna Zielińska (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences);
  • members: dr Irena Prawdzic (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences), dr Barbara Alicja Jańczak (Adam Mickiewicz University), dr Anna Jorroch (University of Warsaw), dr hab. Felicja Księżyk (University of Opole).

German team:

  • head: prof. Björn Hansen (University of Regensburg);
  • members: mgr Aneta Bučkova (University of Regensburg), mgr Carolin Centner (University of Regensburg), mgr Iga Kościołek (University of Regensburg), prof. Marek Nekula (University of Regensburg), dr Michał Woźniak (Institute of the Polish Language PAS, University of Regensburg); consultants: prof. Sandra Birzer (University of Bamberg), prof. Bernhard Brehmer (University of Greifswald), mgr Roman Fisun (University of Regensburg).

The aim of the project is to provide an integrative account of Polish-German bilingualism in Poland and Germany, including its linguistic as well as sociolinguistic aspects. The main objective is to answer the question whether morphosyntactic changes induced by German-Polish language contact in bilingual speech differ across generations. The research will focus on the interplay between language biographies and speech of two generations of bilingual communities. On the one hand, the research concentrates on bilingual speakers, on the other hand – on the processes of replication of morphosyntactic patterns in both languages: Polish and German. The result of the research will be a linguistic corpus of Polish-German bilingual speech (available online), scholarly publications and two doctoral dissertations prepared at the University of Regensburg.

The research will focus on bilinguals of two generations whose biographies have been influenced by different historical conditions: (1) the oldest generation, living in Poland on the territories belonging to Germany before 1945; (2) the middle generation, born in Poland on the same territories and currently living in Germany.

The project applies the grounded theory approach (collected empirical data is used to construct further hypotheses and conclusions) and the narrative biographical interview method in order to gather data concerning language acquisition and use from the perspective of the speakers. The interviews are conducted in Polish and German by mixed Polish-German pairs of researchers.

In order to enable prospective corpus users to conduct effective search queries, the interviews are transcribed and the cases of morphosyntactic replication – annotated. The language biographies of the interviewees are analysed in terms of the order and conditions of language acquisition, functional distribution of languages, and the attitudes of the speakers. The final stage of work on the project will involve correlating the findings concerning the use of morphosyntactic replication with language biographies, as well explaining the relationship between them.

Considering that the speakers of German dialects in Polish borderland areas are elderly people, the project will also have an important role in terms of documenting endangered language varieties. The results of the project will be significant for the development of language policy towards national minorities in both countries.

For the sake of comparison, the project will also include a smaller-scale study of selected aspects German-Czech bilingualism.

The project is jointly implemented by Slavic and German studies scholars from both countries. It is worth noting that the studies on Polish-German bilingualism undertaken so far have been conducted from the national positions and from the perspective of either Slavic or German studies only. A significant added value of the project is that it also involves educational opportunities for young scholars form Poland and Germany.

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