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uni'wissen 01-2015

capable of using prepositions and articles correctly; they just don’t do it all the time,” says Siegel. This has nothing to do with a lack of language skills but is an expression of their identity, similar to clothes. “It’s a style they can use to position themselves with.” The title of Vanessa Siegel’s dissertation is Morphosyntaktische Reduktion in multiethnolek- taler Jugendsprache (“Morphosyntactic Reduction in Multiethnolectal Youth Language”). She is writing it at the Hermann Paul School of Linguistics (HPSL). Interdisciplinary research and a broad interna- tional network are the trademarks of this joint graduate school of the Universities of Freiburg and Basel, which is dedicated to training PhD students in linguistics and neighboring disci- plines – a total of 95 at the moment – and pre- paring them for the job market. Doctoral candidates, postdoctoral scholars, and profes- sors form an inspiring collective at the school, building bridges between topics, methods, and research traditions. Siegel is working with empirical language data on teenagers from Stuttgart for her study. Most of the 14- to 18-year-olds speak the language of their parents in addition to German. The linguist aims to glean various information from the interviews she conducted with the youths. First she compiles statistics on the frequency with which the youths leave out articles, pronouns, or prepositions in their speech. Then she deter- mines the grammatical and semantic contexts in which this happens. She wants to demonstrate that these omissions are not simply arbitrary but systematic. In addition, she is studying whether perhaps the youths’ second native language also plays a role, and if so, how. Siegel says that she has grown very fond of the speakers she recorded anonymously for her study, and above all, her own perception of youth language has changed. “At the beginning I was not entirely free of the associations aroused in many when they hear this language: People think of the ghetto, aggressive machismo, a propensity for violence,” says Siegel. She has long stopped making such associations. On the contrary: “This form of speech makes the youths’ language creative and rich. It’s an additional form of ex- pression that even girls like to make use of.” Multi-Layered and Always in Flux Vanessa Siegel has been fascinated by lan- guage all her life. Reading has always been one of her favorite hobbies. While completing her studies in German and linguistics, however, she realized that she found spoken language even more fascinating. “Since everyone can speak, no one is interested in exactly how it works. We think of it as something that just happens,” says Siegel. “But our language is an incredibly creative and dynamic system. It is always in flux and at the same time so multi-layered and complex.” Grappling so intensely with language day in and day out has made Siegel into an especially attentive listener. She detects subtleties in con- versations that no one else notices: Does a speaker use a lot of antiquated words? Does a speaker realize he can’t finish a sentence as intended and then change it in mid-sentence although he knows the grammar doesn’t quite fit anymore? Is a fine, barely perceptible intonational nuance the sign of a particular accent? “I register certain things, but I don’t analyze,” says Siegel. Comedy stars like Bülent Ceylan brought the reduced language to the public consciousness. Photo: Ralph Larmann “This form of speech makes the youths’ language creative and rich.” 18 uni wissen 01 2015 Specialtopic:ResearchintheUpperRhineregion 18 uni wissen 012015