The impact of language ideologies on register distinctions in multilingual contexts

Project C07 investigates how language ideologies impact register distinctions. It contributes to models of register knowledge by incorporating the role of societal contexts. The main focus is on multilingual contexts, where speakers can draw on resources from different languages for register marking. Building on our findings on register distinctions and perceptions from Phase 1, we compare societal macro contexts with a mono- vs. multilingual societal habitus. We investigate the impact of language ideologies at the meso level of speech communities and the micro level of speakers’ linguistic practices, comparing register distinctions in Germany, Namibia, Singapore, and Australia.


Project leader


Cooperation Partner

Prof. Marianne Zappen-Thomson

University of Namibia, Language and Literature Studies


Student assistant

Former members

Project in Phase I

Project Title for Phase I

Register perception in a multilingual context of German: Differentiation, awareness, and attitudes

Project Description for Phase I

The research project investigates how formal and informal registers are perceived in the multilingual context of German spoken in Namibia. Through corpus-linguistic and experimental methods we investigate register differentiation (e.g., What new registers of German emerge in multilingual settings?), awareness (e.g., What features do language users pick up in their perception of register distinctions?), and attitudes towards different registers (e.g., What role do different types of features play for sociolinguistic evaluations and associations?).

Project Leaders in Phase I

Publications & Presentations



  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Serova, Dina; Lukassek, Julia; Sauermann, Antje; Schäfer, Roland; Adli, Aria; Bildhauer, Felix; Egg, Markus; Hülk, Kristina; Ito, Aine; Jannedy, Stefanie; Kordoni, Valia; Kühnast, Milena; Kutscher, Silvia; Lange, Robert; Lehmann, Nico; Liu, Mingya; Lütke, Beate; Maquate, Katja; Mooshammer, Christine; Mortezapour, Vahid; Müller, Stefan; Norde, Muriel; Pankratz, Elizabeth; Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Plesca, Ana-Maria; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Rotter, Stephanie; Sauerland, Uli; Schulte, Britta; Schüppenhauer, Gediminas; Sell, Bianca Maria; Solt, Stephanie; Terada, Megumi; Tsiapou, Dimitra; Verhoeven, Elisabeth; Weirich, Melanie; Wiese, Heike; Zaruba, Kathy; Zeige, Lars Erik; Lüdeling, Anke; Knoeferle, Pia; Schnelle, Gohar  (2023) Situating language register across the ages, languages, modalities, and cultural aspects: Evidence from complementary methods In:  Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    In the present review paper by members of the collaborative research center ‘Register: Language Users’ Knowledge of SituationalFunctional Variation’ (CRC 1412), we assess the pervasiveness of register phenomena across different time periods, languages, modalities, and cultures. We define ‘register’ as recurring variation in language use depending on the function of language and on the social situation. Informed by rich data, we aim to better understand and model the knowledge involved in situation- and function-based use of language register. In order to achieve this goal, we are using complementary methods and measures. In the review, we start by clarifying the concept of ‘register’, by reviewing the state of the art, and by setting out our methods and modeling goals. Against this background, we discuss three key challenges, two at the methodological level and one at the theoretical level: 1. To better uncover registers in text and spoken corpora, we propose changes to established analytical approaches. 2. To tease apart between-subject variability from the linguistic variability at issue (intra-individual situation based register variability), we use within-subject designs and the modeling of individuals’ social, language, and educational background. 3. We highlight a gap in cognitive modeling, viz. modeling the mental representations of register (processing), and present our first attempts at filling this gap. We argue that the targeted use of multiple complementary methods and measures supports investigating the pervasiveness of register phenomena and yields comprehensive insights into the cross-methodological robustness of register-related language variability. These comprehensive insights in turn provide a solid foundation for associated cognitive modeling.
  • Wiese, Heike  (2023) Grammatical Systems without Language Borders: Lessons from Free-Range-Languages[ViVo]
  • Sauermann, Antje; Schulte, Britta; Wiese, Heike  (2023) Sprachkontakt in Namibia: Registerdifferenzierung im Namdeutschen In:  Deutsch im Kontakt [ViVo]

    Das Deutsche in Namibia („Namdeutsch“) zeichnet sich gegenüber anderen außereuropäischen Varietäten des Deutschen durch den Gebrauch in informellen ebenso wie formellen kommunikativen Situationen aus (Kellermeier-Rehbein 2016; Riehl 2013, Shah 2007, Wiese u.a. 2017, Zimmer 2021).

    Unser Beitrag präsentiert Ergebnisse zur Registerdifferenzierung unterschiedlicher sprachlicher Merkmale innerhalb des Namdeutschen auf der Basis von Korpusdaten aus dem DNam-Korpus (Wiese u.a. 2017; Zimmer u.a. 2020) und einer experimentellen Studie zur Wahrnehmung in formellen Registern. Wir diskutieren Unterschiede in der Registerdifferenzierung und lokalisieren die verschiedenen Arten sprachlicher Merkmaler auf einer Social Salience Hierarchy (Wiese et al. 2022), die Merkmale im Hinblick auf ihre Fähigkeit, soziale Bedeutung zu evozieren, ordnet.


    Compared to other non-European varieties of German, German in Namibia ("Namdeutsch") is characterised by its use in both informal and formal communicative situations (Kellermeier-Rehbein 2016; Riehl 2013, Shah 2007, Wiese et al. 2017, Zimmer 2021).

    Our paper presents results on register differentiation of different linguistic features within Namdeutsch based on corpus data from the DNam corpus (Wiese et al. 2017; Zimmer et al. 2020) and an experimental study on perception in formal registers. We discuss the differences in register differentiation between linguistic features using the Social Salience Hierarchy (Wiese et al. 2022), which distinguishes individual linguistic features based on their ability to evoke social meaning.

  • 2022

  • Wiese, Heike; Sauermann, Antje; Bracke, Y.  (2022) Coherence and language contact In:  The Coherence of Linguistic Communities Orderly Heterogeneity and Social Meaning [DOI] [ViVo]
    This chapter investigates sociolinguistic coherence and differentiation in Namibian German (“Namdeutsch”), based on corpus data and a copy-editing task. The Namdeutsch speech community draws on a local Namibian identity as well as an ethnic German identity. At the linguistic level, this leads to a tension between a tendency for Namdeutsch to develop distinctive local features on the one hand and to remain close to standard German in Germany on the other hand, and this can interact with register distinctions. Data from the DNam corpus of German in Namibia shows that noncanonical local variants are primarily associated with informal registers but that some are also used in formal language. We hypothesised that variants with weaker overt reflexes, in particular, which we assumed to be of lower social salience, can enter formal registers. This was confirmed in a copy-editing task where Namdeutsch speakers were asked to correct a newspaper article. Taken together, our findings point to a broader Namdeutsch dialect that encompasses informal and formal settings in an orderly heterogeneity that is modulated by social meaning linked to local and ethnic identities and a hierarchy of sociolinguistic salience reflecting the overt manifestation of linguistic variables.
  • Wiese, Heike; Alexiadou, Artemis; Shanley, Allen; Bunk, Oliver; Gagarina, Natalia; Iefremenko, Kateryna; Martynova, Maria; Pashkova, Tatiana; Rizou, Vicky; Schroeder, Christoph; Shadrova, Anna; Szucsich, Luka; Tracy, Rosemarie; Wintai, Tsehaye; Zerbian, Sabine; Zuban, Yulia  (2022) Heritage Speakers as Part of the Native Language Continuum In:  Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    We argue for a perspective on bilingual heritage speakers as native speakers of both their languages and present results from a large-scale, cross-linguistic study that took such a perspective and approached bilinguals and monolinguals on equal grounds. We targeted comparable language use in bilingual and monolingual speakers, crucially covering broader repertoires than just formal language. A main database was the open-access RUEG corpus, which covers comparable informal vs. formal and spoken vs. written productions by adolescent and adult bilinguals with heritage-Greek, -Russian, and -Turkish in Germany and the United States and with heritage-German in the United States, and matching data from monolinguals in Germany, the United States, Greece, Russia, and Turkey. Our main results lie in three areas. (1) We found non-canonical patterns not only in bilingual, but also in monolingual speakers, including patterns that have so far been considered absent from native grammars, in domains of morphology, syntax, intonation, and pragmatics. (2) We found a degree of lexical and morphosyntactic inter-speaker variability in monolinguals that was sometimes higher than that of bilinguals, further challenging the model of the streamlined native speaker. (3) In majority language use, non-canonical patterns were dominant in spoken and/or informal registers, and this was true for monolinguals and bilinguals. In some cases, bilingual speakers were leading quantitatively. In heritage settings where the language was not part of formal schooling, we found tendencies of register leveling, presumably due to the fact that speakers had limited access to formal registers of the heritage language. Our findings thus indicate possible quantitative differences and different register distributions rather than distinct grammatical patterns in bilingual and monolingual speakers. This supports the integration of heritage speakers into the native-speaker continuum. Approaching heritage speakers from this perspective helps us to better understand the empirical data and can shed light on language variation and change in native grammars. Furthermore, our findings for monolinguals lead us to reconsider the state-of-the art on majority languages, given recurring evidence for non-canonical patterns that deviate from what has been assumed in the literature so far, and might have been attributed to bilingualism had we not included informal and spoken registers in monolinguals and bilinguals alike.
  • 2021

  • Wiese, Heike; Bracke, Y.  (2021) Registerdifferenzierung im Namdeutschen: Informeller und formeller Sprachgebrauch in einer vitalen Sprechergemeinschaft In:  Kontaktvarietäten des Deutschen im Ausland [ViVo]
    Namibian German has an interesting status among German contact varieties outside Europe. It has its roots in colonisation, but is used by a speech community with German ancestry who live in  Namibia today, which distinguishes it from typical (post-)colonial varieties, and makes it more similar to “language island” varieties of German. However, unlike either of these types – and more similar to the situation within Europe than those – German in Namibia is linguistically vital, it is acquired by children, and also used in public domains. This means that we find not only a number of interesting contact phenomena, but also systematic register differentiation. In our paper, we compare language use in informal and formal settings, address the status of informal vernaculars in speakers’ broader linguistic repertoires, and discuss how standard language ideologies pan out in this setting where German is not the national majority language, and how they interact with markers of local, Namibian identity
  • Wiese, Heike  (2021) Communicative situations as a basis for linguistic systems: Integrating linguistic multi-competence with grammatical structure In:  Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies [ViVo]
    This paper brings together two research strands that rarely interact and might even seem in-commensurable, namely sociolinguistic approaches to linguistic fluidity and multi-competence on the one hand, and structural approaches to linguistic coherence and grammatical systems on the other hand. I show that we can reconcile insights from these two strands in a linguistic architecture that takes communicative situations as the core of linguistic systematicity, and integrates them into lexical representations. Under this view, communicative situations are the basis for linguistic coherence and grammatical systems, while languages can emerge as optional sociolinguistic indices.
  • Presentations


  • Sauermann, Antje; Dobler, Fynn Raphael; Wiese, Heike; Bunk, Oliver  (2022) Sociolinguistic variation in Kiezdeutsch and Namdeutsch In:  Methods XVII (1.8. - 5.8.2022), Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz [ViVo]
  • Schulte, Britta; Lukassek, Julia  (2022) Narration in Context: Between Linguistic Theory and Empirical Operationalization - Introduction In:  44. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sprachforschung (DGfS), Tübingen, zoom [ViVo]
  • Schulte, Britta  (2022) Register(wahrnehmung) im Namdeutschen In:  Tagung Netzwerk (deutsche) Sprachminderheiten [ViVo]
  • Schulte, Britta  (2022) Narration in Context: Between Linguistic Theory and Empirical Operationalization In:  Narration in Context [ViVo]
  • Bunk, Oliver; Schulte, Britta; Wiese, Heike  (2022) Bare NPs in German in the US, Namibia, and Germany: Results from a comparative corpus study In:  Deutsche Sprachminderheiten kontrastiv, Bamberg [ViVo]
  • 2021

  • Schulte, Britta  (2021) V3 Sentences in Namibian German – Register Differences In:  Kolloquium Netzwerk (deutsche) Sprachminderheiten [ViVo]
  • Schulte, Britta  (2021) "Bakkie" oder "Auto"? Registerdifferenzierung im Namdeutschen In:  Seminar HU Institut für deustche Sprache und Lingusitik WiSe 2021/22  [ViVo]
  • Wiese, Heike  (2021) How alien is it abroad? German in heritage and majority language settings In:  German Abroad 4, Windhoek [ViVo]
  • Wiese, Heike  (2021) Language Situations: A method to elicit comparable, naturalistic data across registers, languages, and speakers In:  Colloquium Østfold University College [ViVo]

Featured Master's Theses

  • Pott, Johanna, MA (2024) Mediale Darstellung von Sprache(n) und Registern in der Schule. Eine Untersuchung von Zeitungsartikeln. Erstbetreuung: Schroeder, Christoph, Zweitbetreuung: Wiese, Heike
  • Conti, Erica, MA (2022) German Left Dislocations across communicative situations: A corpus study Erstbetreuung: Bunk, Oliver, Zweitbetreuung: Wiese, Heike
  • Khodkevich, Ekaterina, BA (2021) Registerzuordnung im Namdeutschen Erstbetreuung: Wiese, Heike, Zweitbetreuung: Sauermann, Antje
  • Otto, Alicia, BA Deutsch (2021) Inwiefern produzieren Kinder der ersten Klasse unterschiedliche formelle und informelle Personalpronomen in Abhängigkeit der Adressat/innen und inwieweit erkennen die Kinder Adressat/innen anhand formeller und informeller Personalpronomen? Erstbetreuung: Sauermann, Antje, Zweitgutachten: Verhoeven, Elisabeth
  • Pott, Johanna, BA Deutsch (2021) Deutsch als Muttersprache an der DHPS in Namibia: Zur Rolle von Schule bei der Vermittlung einer Standardvarietät in einem multilingualen Kontext Erstbetreuung: Wiese, Heike, Zweitbetreuung: Leugner, Janosch
  • Roy, Albrun, MA (2022) Elizitierten Informalität. Ein Vergleich elizitierter und spontansprachlicher Sprachnachrichten Erstbetreuung Wiese, Heike, Zweitbetreuung: Bunk, Oliver