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uni'wissen 01-2015

by Claudia Füßler “Und dann halt sind wir Schule gegangen.” Kiez” German, Turk slang, ghetto language – the object of Vanessa Siegel’s research goes by many names. But what the research assistant for German linguistics at the University of Freiburg is actually interested in only becomes clear when she says things like “Ich bin Jugendhaus” (“I’m youth center”) or “Ich geh Schule” (“I go school”). This reduced language, which sound in the ears of native German speakers as if someone had missed a few grammar lessons in school, is what the doctoral candidate is focusing on in her research. Siegel wants to create a profile of this speech style in her dissertation. “Almost nothing at all has been done on it yet. Everyone knows this way of speaking, but there are no extensive empirical studies on it,” says the linguist. That’s astounding when one considers that it is by no means new. “Historically speaking, the phenomenon does have to do with migration. It presumably originated with Turkish youths in large cities.” There is evi- dence that teenagers in Frankfurt were already speaking like this 20 years ago. “Like this” means syntactically reduced. Words that would normally be there in standard German are dropped, espe- cially words with a grammatical function – like articles, as in “Komm, du bist doch aus kurdische Krieg gekommen” (“Come on, you came from Kurdish War”), prepositions, as in “Wir waren halt so Campingplatz und so” (“We were like campground”), or pronouns, as in “Wenn der ein paar Sachen nicht aussprechen kann, sagt der dann einfach auf Türkisch” (“When he can’t pro- nounce things, he just says in Turkish”). An Expression of Identity Although these syntactic structures have long distinguished the speaking style of certain youths, they have only entered the public consciousness in the past ten years – through comedy stars like Bülent Ceylan. As a result, more and more people have begun speaking this way as a joke. “Even here my colleagues sometimes say things like ‘Ey, kommst du mit Mensa?’ (‘Hey, you want to come along cafeteria?’),” says Siegel. However, most people aren’t aware that this language is not spoken by people who “can’t yet speak German quite right” but by people who learned German as their mother tongue, mainly teenagers in neighborhoods with a high immigrant population. “What many don’t know is that teenagers are fully “ 17uni wissen 01 2015 17uni wissen 012015