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Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Spracherwerb und Sprachentwicklung in multilingualen Kontexten

Kolloquium Mehrsprachigkeit, Sprachkontakt, Variation (SS 2020)


Das Kolloquium "Mehrsprachigkeit, Sprachkontakt, Variation" findet donnerstags von 16:15h bis 17:45h statt. Informationen zu den Gastvorträgen finden Sie hier. Alle Vorträge werden voraussichtlich als Videokonferenz über Zoom stattfinden. Gasthörer*innen sind herzlich willkommen; bitte schicken Sie eine kurze Email an Juliane Koerbel <koerbeju@hu-berlin.de> für den Zugang zum Zoom-Meeting.

Aufgrund der aktuellen Gefährdungssituation durch das Coronavirus wurde der Beginn der Vorlesungszeit auf den 20.04. verschoben. Bitte besuchen Sie regelmäßig die Website Ihrer Fakultät bzw. Ihres Institutes und natürlich AGNES, um das zusätzlich geschaffene digitale Lehrangebot nicht zu verpassen!


23.4.2020 - Dr. Heike Pichler: The challenges of testing contact effects in discourse-pragmatic change

7.5.2020 - Dr. Milene Mendes de Oliveira: The transfer of metaphorical conceptualizations from Portuguese L1 into English L2: initial findings of a pilot study

4.6.2020 - poetry reading by Greg Nissan

18.6.2020 - Anja Penssler-Beyer: Analyzing societal multilingualism in a postcolonial context

25.6.2020 - Dr. Tatjana Scheffler: Discourse level variability in social media




23.4.2020: Dr. Heike Pichler (Newcastle University, UK) - The challenges of testing contact effects in discourse-pragmatic change 


In contemporary London English, the tag form innit – illustrated in (1)-(3) – is rapidly spreading across linguistic contexts and developing into an invariant tag whose occurrence is unconstrained by the syntactic-semantic properties of its anchor clause (Andersen 2001; Pichler MS). Based on evidence that the use of innit is most advanced among London adolescents from ethnic minority backgrounds and reports that invariant tags are widespread across contact varieties of English, Andersen (2001) evokes multilingualism to account for these developments. In this presentation, I review some of the challenges of testing a language contact hypothesis for the spread of innit specifically and for discourse-pragmatic change more generally.

(1) Potato is good for you, innit.
(2) But next year she’ll get paid, innit.
(3) You get dazed, innit.

My focus is on the imperative to systematically compare the use of a candidate linguistic feature (e.g. innit in London English) with that of its source counterpart (e.g. question tags in assumed contact varieties) (see Poplack & Levey 2010). In the specific case of innit, following this imperative is complicated by: (i) a lack of certainty regarding the source variety (or varieties) that may have provided a model for the observed innovations; (ii) insufficient insight into the innovators’ and early adopters’ use of or exposure to question tags in any potential source variety (or varieties); (iii) a dearth of corpus studies exploring the distribution and functionality of question tags cross-linguistically. Given the limited number of discourse-pragmatic variation studies, especially in languages other than English, the final complication will apply more widely.
Following Cheshire et al. (2011), I appeal to Mufwene’s (2001) feature pool, a heterogeneous set of co-variants drawn from different input varieties spoken in the ambient multilingual environment, to propose that multiple indirect language and dialect contact may have played an ancillary or accelerating role in the spread of innit in London English. I outline my motivations for hedging this proposal, and set out the meta-linguistic and cross-linguistic data required to establish with greater confidence contact effects in discourse-pragmatic change.



  • Andersen, Gisle. 2001. Pragmatic Markers and Sociolinguistic Variation: A Relevance-Theoretic Approach to the Language of Adolescents. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Cheshire, Jenny, Sue Fox, Paul Kerswill & Eivind Torgersen. 2011. Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: the emergence of Multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15: 151-196.
  • Mufwene, Salikoko S. 2001. The Ecology of Language Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pichler, Heike. under revision. The interaction of internal and external forces in a discourse-pragmatic change: the spread of innit in Multicultural London English.
  • Poplack, Shana & Stephen Levey. 2011. Contact-induced grammatical change: a cautionary tale. In Peter Auer & Jürgen Erich Schmidt (eds), An International Handbook of Linguistic Variation. Berlin: de Gruyter. 391-419.  


7.5.2020 - Dr. Milene Mendes de Oliveira (Universität Potsdam): The transfer of metaphorical conceptualizations from Portuguese L1 into English L2: initial findings of a pilot study


There are claims that conceptual metaphors get transferred from the L1 into the L2 of a speaker (Jarvis 2011, Odlin 2005, Sharifian 2011, Mendes de Oliveira 2018). Despite the claims, the transfer itself has not been thoroughly investigated from a cultural linguistic perspective yet.

In this paper, I aim at exploring whether and how L1 conceptualizations can potentially be subject to transfer into an L2 English. By comparing and investigating excerpts from two videos featuring interviews with the Brazilian actor Wagner Moura speaking about the same topics in Brazilian Portuguese and English, similar conceptual metaphors were identified on the verbal and gestural planes, such as BRAZIL IS AN ISLAND, and CULTURE IS A CONTAINER. The findings are in clear opposition to a tendency in Linguistics to ignore the concept of culture altogether (see Wolf 2015). Culture is shown to be ‘everywhere,’ even in English as a Lingua Franca/English as an L2.



  • Jarvis, S. (2011). Conceptual transfer: Crosslinguistic effects in categorization and construal. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition , 14(1), 1-8.
  • Mendes de Oliveira, M. (2018). Cultural conceptualizations of business negotiations in the Expanding Circle. World Englishes, 37(4), 684-696.
  • Odlin, T. (2005). Crosslinguistic influence and conceptual transfer: What are the concepts? Annual review of applied linguistics, 25, 3-25.
  • Sharifian, F. (2015). Cultural linguistics and world Englishes. World Englishes, 34(4), 515-532
  • Wolf, H-G. (2015). Language and culture in intercultural communication. In Farzad Sharifian (ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and culture, 445–459. Oxford & New York: Routledge.


18.6.2020: Anja Penssler-Beyer (Universität Potsdam) - Analyzing societal multilingualism in a postcolonial context


The analysis of linguistic practice and language contact in multilingual societies requires a common understanding of the terminologies and definitions applied to the subjects under study. Influential models that are still valid today were established in the early 1960's and despite several extensions, their basic assumptions have remained unchanged to this day. That is, for example, the assumption of linear hierarchies in relation to the notion of prestige. Here, the highest (most prestigious) poles typically describe linguistic varieties of political and/or socio-economic power, while the lowest and less prestigious poles typically describe lesser spoken languages (e.g. Eckert 1980: 1054). Furthermore, previous concepts on societal multilingualism assume stable linguistic conditions and reflect a point in time rather than dynamic linguistic processes, thus "forcing binary distinctions to variable gradient phenomena" (Schiffman 1996: 40).

One more point addresses the overall debate on ethical research standards. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) defines: "(R)acism is the belief that a ground such as 'race', colour, language, religion, nationality, or national or ethnic origin justifies contempt for a person or a group of persons, or the notion of superiority of a person or groups of persons." (§1, GPR1, Glossary of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, retrieved online, June 12, 2020).

I argue that the main concepts applied in language contact research, e.g. the (Post-) Creole Continuum together with its notions on "acrolects", "mesolects", and "basilects" (e.g. Allsopp 1996: 9), or models like Di- and Polyglossia (e.g. Platt 1977, Lüdi 1989), justify the notion of superiority over languages and thus over persons or groups of persons. They should not be applied in (scientific) debates on present-day language use, in general.

In my presentation, I would like to describe the limits of existing models in language contact research. I also would like to introduce a promising way of ethically responsible language contact research
by presenting first results from a pilot study on the matter, conducted in Jamaica in fall 2019.



  • Allsopp, R. (2004). Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. University of the West Indies Press. Jamaica: Kingston.
  • Eckert, P. (1980). "Diglossia: Seperate and unequal" in Linguistics 18 (11-12): 1053-1064.
  • GPR1, Glossary of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, retrieved online, June 12, 2020: https://rm.coe.int/ecri-glossary/168093de74
  • Lüdi, G. (1989). Situations diglossiques en Catalogne. In: Holtus, G., Lüdi, G.,
    Metzeltin, M. (Eds.). La Corona de Aragón y las lenguas románicas: Miscelànea de homenaje para Germán Colon / La Corona d'Argaól les llengües romániques: Miscellània d'hommenatge per a Germà Colon. Tübingen: Narr: 237-265.
  • Platt, J. T. (1977). A model for polyglossia and multilingualism (with special reference to Singapore and Malaysia). Language in Society 6:3 (pp. 361-378).


25.6.2020: Tatjana Scheffler (Universität Potsdam) - Analyzing societal multilingualism in a postcolonial context


It is well known that linguistic expressions vary between different media (such as spoken conversation vs. written newspaper article). In this talk I address two specific aspects of this: I discuss phenomena and dimensions in which language differs on the discourse level (as opposed to more commonly studied phonological, lexical, and syntactic levels). And I try to pinpoint which aspects of a certain medium or channel leads to a given discourse variability, by comparing text types from different social media. I will present a corpus of blog posts and tweets from the same individuals, which allows me to investigate individual variation at the discourse level. Phenomena discussed include intensifiers, coherence relation marking, and tag questions. The findings show that the specific social media differ along dimensions such as formality, conversationality, and closeness of participants.