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Unit information: Language Variation and Change in German in 2020/21

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Unit name Language Variation and Change in German
Unit code GERM30074
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Havinga
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit focuses on language variation and change in German. After an introduction to sociolinguistic theories on this topic, ways of studying language variation and change will be explored, focusing on corpus linguistics. Students will learn how to compile their own data, how to work with existing German corpora, and how to use text analytic software (AntConc and SketchEngine) to investigate the data for diachronic, regional, and/or social variation.

Starting from examples of language change from canonical textbook literature, students will learn to carry out their own linguistic analyses, encouraging them to challenge common language ideologies. No specialised computing knowledge is required for students of this unit.


o To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to final year level.

o To further skills of linguistic analysis and research and build on the students’ existing knowledge of varieties of German.

o To engage students in quantitative methods and corpus linguistic tools for text analytical research.

o To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills developed at Level I.

o To equip students with knowledge and skills that will transfer to other working environments, including postgraduate study.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, successful students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate sophisticated knowledge of German varieties and language change;
  2. Develop and deploy advanced topic-specific skills: quantitative methods and text analytic tools for linguistic analysis;
  3. Articulate an advanced understanding of processes involved in language change;
  4. Illustrate advanced skill in the selection, synthesis, evaluation and analysis of relevant topic-based material, appropriate to level H/5;
  5. Formulate independent judgements in a range of written forms in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity;
  6. Develop presentation and collaborative skills.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

1) A collaborative 2,500-word project proposal and literature review, written in pairs for a joint mark (40%). Testing ILOs 1-5.

2) An individual project poster presenting the restults of the project (60%). Testing ILOs 1-6.

Reading and References

Anthony, Laurence. 2013. ‘A critical look at software tools in corpus linguistics’. In: Linguistic Research 30 (2), 141–161.

Chambers, J. K. 2009. Sociolinguistic theory. Linguistic variation and its social significance. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Dittmar, Norbert & Jana Bressem. 2005. ‘Syntax, Semantik und Pragmatik des kausalen Konnektors weil im Berliner ‚Wendekorpus‘ der neunziger Jahre.‘ In: Johannes Schwittalla & Werner Wegstein (eds), Korpuslinguistik deutsch: synchron, diachron, kontrastiv. Würzburger Kolloquium 2003. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 99–124.

Elter, Irmgard. 2005. ‘Genitiv versus Dativ. Die Rektion der Präpositionen wegen, während, trotz, statt und dank in der aktuellen Zeitungssprache.‘ In: Johannes Schwittalla & Werner Wegstein (eds), Korpuslinguistik deutsch: synchron, diachron, kontrastiv. Würzburger Kolloquium 2003. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 125–135.

Feine, Angelika & Mechthild Habermann. 2005. ‚Eine korpusgestützte Analyse zur deutschen Fremd-Wortbildung. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen.‘ In: Johannes Schwittalla & Werner Wegstein (eds), Korpuslinguistik deutsch: synchron, diachron, kontrastiv. Würzburger Kolloquium 2003. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 89–98.

Nübling, Damaris, Antje Dammel, Janet Duke, and Renata Szczepaniak. 2013. Historische Sprachwissenschaft des Deutschen. Eine Einführung in die Prinzipien des Sprachwandels. 4. Aufl. Tübingen: Narr.

Rössler, Paul. 2005. Schreibvariation – Sprachregion – Konfession. Graphematik und Morphologie in österreichischen und bayerischen Drucken vom 16. bis ins 18. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Weisser, Martin. 2016. Practical Corpus Linguistics. An Introduction to Corpus-Based Language Analysis. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.