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uni'wissen 01-2015

“But it is indeed interesting that you can learn things about the person you are speaking to without them having to say them outright, such as where he comes from, his educational level, if he’s used to speaking a lot, and what kind of people he usually speaks with.” Only Unimportant Words Are Dropped Vanessa Siegel’s second passion is some- thing one wouldn’t expect: numbers and computers. The linguist completed training as an IT specialist before beginning her studies. “Not a bad combi- nation,” says Siegel, who also takes care of com- puter-related tasks at her department. After all, linguists work with language databases and soft- ware that is still far from perfect from a techno- logical standpoint. “A particularly interesting field is natural language processing,” says Siegel. “The machines often can’t cope with things like dialect or even indistinct speech, no matter how much the researchers have programmed them and fed them with speech material beforehand.” She could see herself working on new solutions to these problems in the future. But for now she is completely wrapped up in analyzing her own collection of speech data. She finds it striking that there are no adults who speak like the youths she is studying – outside of the odd joke. It appears to be a passing phenom- enon, a habit that young people grow out of. However, this again is a sign that the youths have a good command of language – as is a further finding from which Siegel derived the underlying hypothesis of her study: She noticed that the words and linguistic elements youths leave out are always ones that aren’t absolutely necessary to understand the content of the sentence. “This suggests that the speaker knows without think- ing about it that these words have no important function.” Further Reading Kotthoff, H. / Mertzlufft, C. (Eds.) (2014): Jugendsprachen. Stilisierungen, Identitäten, mediale Ressourcen. Frankfurt (= Sprache, Kommunikation, Kultur 13). Siegel, V. (2014): Präpositionalphrasen ohne Präpositionen? Zur syntaktischen Reduktion im „Türkendeutschen“. In: Kotthoff, H. /  Mertzlufft, C. (Eds.): Jugendsprachen. Stilisierungen, Identitäten, mediale Ressourcen. Frankfurt (= Sprache, Kommunikation, Kultur 13), pp. 67–93. Auer, P. (2013): Ethnische Marker im Deutschen zwischen Varietät und Stil. In: Deppermann, A. (Eds.): Das Deutsch der Migranten. Berlin / Boston (= Jahrbuch des Instituts für Deutsche Sprache 2012), pp. 9–40. Vanessa Siegel is a research assistant at the Department of German of the University of Freiburg and a doctoral candidate at the Hermann Paul School of Linguistics in Basel and Freiburg. Before beginning her studies in linguistics and German literature in Freiburg and Stuttgart, she completed training as an IT specialist at the Freiburg University Library. She has been stud- ying “Turkish slang” – or, more precisely, syntactically reduced youth language – for more than four years. Photo: Thomas Kunz Urban origin: Youths in Frankfurt were already using the speech style Vanessa Siegel is studying 20 years ago. Photo: Frank Wagner/Fotolia 19