The second generation: language use among migrants in Berlin

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James, David Randolph Franklin

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This dissertation investigates language use among second-generation migrants in Berlin. It is based on findings from the speech samples that I collected from second-generation migrants in Berlin in 1997-1998 and Summer, 2002. I am especially interested in the intersection of identity and language use. In my quest to understand more about language use in modern Germany, I chose the following questions, which guided my research: 1) To what extent and in which environments do informants in this study use the selected linguistic features? 2) What influence do social variables such as gender, level of education, age at arrival in West Germany, and length of residence in Germany have on their language use? 3) How do second-generation migrant group members in Berlin express their sense of identity and through which domains do they express this sense of identity? My dissertation project rests at the convergence of several different fields: Sociolinguistics, Anthropology and identity politics. It uses methodologies from sociolinguistics and statistics to study the correlations between language use and social variables such as gender, level of education, age at arrival in the Germany, and length of residence in Germany among second-generation migrant group members in Berlin. Sociolinguists have traditionally concentrated on German spoken by the first generation of immigrants, describing it often in terms of the mechanisms of pidginization, which assumes a speech variety based upon two different languages with considerably negative connotations. My project will instead focus on second-generation immigrants, in order to see how their retention of traits of their parents’ languages correlates with the aforementioned social variables. The results will shed light on questions of identity in today’s Germany, a multiethnic society, which still regards itself in many ways as homogeneous.