Irena Regener (Berlin)
Linguistic attitudes in Berlin in the 90s: Aspects of securing
German-German identity from a socio-linguistic perspective
The processes of finding
or respectively securing identity in Germany in the 90s differ between
East and West. Since a shared language is one of the essential identity-conferring
values of social groups, a Berlin linguistic community will be studied
to determine the function of linguistic attitudes and language patterns
in these processes: (1) Starting from empirically demonstrable differences
between the language patterns of East and West Berliners the question
will be posed of (2) how these differences in linguistic attitudes continue
not only toward Berlin dialect in general, but also to the linguistic
usage in the respectively 'other' half of the city and (3) what developments
there were in the period after the unification of Germany - how linguistic
behavior and attitudes toward language contribute to rapprochement or
divisiveness between East and West.
The basis for answering these questions is provided by the results of
a longitudinal study (standardized questionnaire survey; evaluation using
quantitative and qualitative statistical methods), which sketches a picture
of a linguistically still-divided city. Current changes in language behavior
and attitudes to language, but also and particularly changes which are
not occurring, can be shown to be partially East or West-specific, and
in such a way that they pass on the 'inherited specific features' of the
East or respectively West Berlin linguistic community, on the one side,
and correspondingly further develop the changed societal conditions, on
the other side. Thus a clear and also clearly evaluating consciousness
of differences in regard to the use and evaluation of urban variety continues
to exist which is distinctively projected onto the speaker in the respectively
other half of the city. The West Berlin linguistic community appears thereby
to be more steadfast in its attitudes, values and judgments than the East
Berliners and therefore more resistant to change or also more conservative,
but there is a movement to a more positive interest in the Eastern counterpart.
The East Berlin linguistic community became insecure and irritated immediately
after unification. In the meantime, however, it is increasingly regaining
part of its self-confidence and thereby also its linguistic autonomy,
because it has perceived or discovered and also urgently needs its own
language - increasingly again - as one of the central identity-conferring
These findings and developments in East and West Berlin reflect the specific
normality of the mutual acquaintanceship and rapprochement process from
very diverse starting positions and expectations.
On the author:
Irena Regener, Dr. phil., Germanist. Special areas of interest: sociolinguistics,
history of linguistic German studies. Publications, inter alia: "Krieg,
Nationalismus, Rassismus und die Medien" (with Wilhelm Kempf, Münster:
Lit, 1998); Selbstidentifikation via Varietätengebrauch. Sprachverhalten
und Spracheinstellungen in der berliner Sprachgemeinschaft der 90er Jahre.
Linguistik online 7, 3/00.
Address: Lehderstraße 61, D-13086 Berlin (www.regener-online.de).