Point of Departure
The historical development of spoken German has been shaped by parallel and conflicting convergence and divergence processes. While small local dialects formed the basis of oral communication in the early modern period, these same dialects have become increasingly less important since the beginning of the 20th century because of the development of the codified German standard language and the subsequent dissemination of a northern German pronunciation norm by means of the mass media. The number of dialect speakers is continually decreasing and other forms of regionally influenced speech shape the everyday language today.
With that said, the object of variation-lingusitic research has changed and has become much more complex. (German dialects have already been amply studied in traditional dialectological work). It is for this reason that there are no comprehensive or comparable studies on the spoken German in the whole of Germany.
There are two superordinate research questions:
- What do the standard-near forms of the spoken language look like in each dialect region, and what kind of spatial structures can be ascertained (horizontal dimension)?
- What does the spectrum of linguistic variation between the dialects and Standard German look like (vertical dimension)?
Other research projects such as Sprachvariation in Norddeutschland (SiN) and Deutsch heute are also investigating these questions, albeit with slightly different approaches, thereby allowing for a more complete picture. These newly collected data will be set in relation to already existing mapped regional-language data and regional-language audio recordings, both of which have been collected since the beginnings of dialectological research.