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Unit information: Linguistic Variation and Change in German in 2017/18

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Unit name Linguistic Variation and Change in German
Unit code GERM30060
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will be taught by Dr Anna Havinga.

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.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to final year level.
  • To further skills of linguistic analysis and research and build on the students’ existing knowledge of varieties of German.
  • To engage students in quantitative methods and corpus linguistic tools for text analytical research.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills developed at Level I.
  • 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 have:

  1. Demonstrated sophisticated knowledge of German varieties and language change;
  2. Developed and deployed advanced topic-specific skills: quantitative methods and text analytic tools for linguistic analysis;
  3. Articulated an advanced understanding of processes involved in language change;
  4. Demonstrated advanced skill in the selection, synthesis, evaluation and analysis of relevant topic-based material, appropriate to level H;
  5. Presented independent judgements in a range of written forms in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity.

Teaching details

Two seminar hours per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours).

Assessment Details

One 3000-word essay (50%) and one project-based assignment (50%), each testing ILOs (1)-(5).

Reading and References

Holmes, Janet and Kirk Hazen (eds). 2014. Research Methods in Sociolinguistics'. A Practical Guide. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

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.

Rasinger, Sebastian. 2008. Quantitative Research in Linguistics. An Introduction. London: Continuum.

Salmons, Joseph. 2012. A History of German. What the past reveals about today’s language. Oxford. OUP.

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