conflict & communication online, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2002
ISSN 1618-0747




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 values.
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.


  full text in German  
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.

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