Standard–dialect variation in untutored adult second language acquisition – cognitive and sociolinguistic aspects

Multilingualism in individuals
Project management:
01.2010 to 12.2012

Postdoctoral thesis: Dr. Andrea Ender, Swiss National Science Foundation no. PA00P1_129070

Adult language acquisition (of German) has generated a great deal of scientific interest over the past decades. However, variation in input and output as a consequence of specific sociolinguistic contexts has mostly been neglected so far. The present project focuses on untutored language acquisition in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and on the question of how standard and dialect interact in the emergence of second language systems.

The corpus of this study consists of transcribed speech from interviews, prompted language in a translation task and data from a metalinguistic judgment task elicited from adult immigrants to the Swiss Midland area. Their acquisition takes place largely through everyday exposure to dialectal and, to a more restricted extent, standard varieties of German. The language production of the participants is analyzed with a focus on the use of dialectal and standard-language elements as well as specific constructions that differ between standard and dialect; the results are supported by the prompted data from the short language tasks. Furthermore, the second language users’ attitudes towards the varieties and the experiences with standard and dialect are investigated.

The combination of a cognitive and sociolinguistic approach in the analysis of the data should reveal, how second language learners and users perceive variation in the input and produce variation in the output. The project thereby aims to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of adult second language acquisition and use, especially with reference to the involvement of standard-dialect or sociolinguistic variation.