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LINGUIST List 25.2477

Sat Jun 07 2014

Review: Sociolinguistics: de Cillia & Vetter (2013)

Editor for this issue: Mateja Schuck <mschuckwisc.edu>

Date: 30-Apr-2014
From: Franz Dotter <franz.dotteruni-klu.ac.at>
Subject: Sprachenpolitik in Österreich
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-5121.html

EDITOR: Rudolf de Cillia
EDITOR: Eva Vetter
TITLE: Sprachenpolitik in Österreich
SUBTITLE: Bestandsaufnahme 2011
SERIES TITLE: Sprache im Kontext
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Franz Dotter, Universität Klagenfurt

This collection of 13 articles in German analyzes Austrian language policy
from 2001 to 2011, updating an original overview produced in 2001 (Busch,
Brigitta & De Cillia, Rudolf (eds.): ''Sprachenpolitik in Oesterreich. Eine
Bestandsaufnahme'', 2003).

The VERBAL group (Verband für Angewandte Linguistik/Association for Applied
Linguistics; the Austrian section of AILA = Association Internationale de
Linguistique Applique) is an active group which has often published important
statements on language policy in Austria (e.g. in the interest of improving
the linguistic situation of autochthone minorities in Austria, including
Austrian Sign Language, as well as the important role of migrant languages in
integration). With these activities, the group plays an outstanding role in
Austrian linguistics.

In the preface, the editors see some improvements in Austrian language policy,
like the recognition of Austrian Sign Language, positive developments in
literacy and language teaching, or the establishment of an Austrian counseling
organization (Austrian Language Committee/Oesterreichisches Sprachenkomitee;
www.oesko.org). A negative evaluation is given about the growing
discrimination against migrant languages.

Elfie Fleck describes the situation of pupils who are bi- or multilingual
because they have ‘migrant background’ (''Zur Situation von lebensweltlich
mehrsprachigen SchülerInnen: aktuelle Lage und neuere Entwicklungen in der
Bildungspolitik''). She gives statistical data on migration to Austria: In
2011, 1,5 million persons, or 18% of the population were migrants. The largest
groups were 220,000 persons with German as mother tongue; 209,000 from Serbia,
Montenegro and Kosovo, 185,000 from Turkey. Among pupils, about 201,000 (18%)
had a first language other than German; the pupils being rather unequally
distributed (e.g. Vienna had 56.3% of these pupils). Austria's school laws
have been adapted to this situation: There is some special support to help
immigrant children develop their competence in German (5-12 hours in a week),
but the respective qualification of teachers is still lacking to a great
extent. Also support for the pupils’ non-German mother tongues is possible
within the curriculum (at the moment about 32,000 pupils with 23 languages
take advantage of this offer). Intercultural learning is a so-called
''principle of instruction''. The author criticizes the continuing tendency
towards monolingual German education contexts by examples; she also criticizes
the apparently common belief that early language support in the kindergarten
(only one year is obligatory) would be sufficient to overcome deficits some
children already suffer by that point. She demands language support for the
entire duration of schooling. She sees discrimination in the practice of
having a significant number of pupils with low competence in German are forced
to attend special schools as if they had developmental disabilities.
Summarizing, Fleck describes some positive developments (efforts towards a
general evaluation of the competence of all children in German shortly before
entering school = ''Sprachstandserhebung''), but these were not sufficient to
replace a systematic policy on multilingualism.

Monika Dannerer, Magdalene Knappik and Birgit Springsits deal with the
training of teachers /pedagogues in the context of multilingualism and
especially German as a second language (''PädagogInnenbildung in einer
mehrsprachigen Gesellschaft -- Deutsch als Zweitsprache und
Mehrsprachigkeitsdidaktik in der Aus- und Weiterbildung von LehrerInnen und
Kindergarten-PädagogInnen in Oesterreich''). To prepare these professionals
for a multilingual society, courses in German as a second language or in
intercultural learning are offered at some universities for teachers of pupils
10 and older. There are normally 2-4 obligatory semester hours; additionally
it is possible to choose up to 14 or even 24 hours for specialization. Primary
school teachers get about 3-7 hours, for kindergarten teachers there is no
systematic instruction in the curriculum. The article ends with

Verena Plutzar analyzes legal obligations for migrants who want to stay in
Austria (''Deutsch lernen per Gesetz'') to show a certain competence in German
in order to be allowed to stay in Austria and gain citizenship (according to a
2003 law; similar obligations are spreading across the countries of Europe).
The target competence is B1. She notes critically that a positive certificate
of a respective course may not be sufficient as the authority can even then
state that the competence is still to low, also the low extent of the courses
offered (300 units in Austria against 600-1200 in Germany).In the meantime the
possibility to expand to 1200 units has been realized. Summarizing, the author
pleads for more interculturally oriented and flexible efforts to help

Gero Fischer and Ursula Doleschal describe the changed role of spoken minority
languages in the Austrian educational system (''Von Minderheitensprachen zu
Nachbarsprachen - Die Rolle der Minderheitensprachen in Oesterreichs
Bildungswesen 2011''). There are 6 recognized minorities: Croatian, Roma,
Slovak, Slovene, Czech and Hungarian (Austrian Sign Language is not
acknowledged as a autochthonous minority language). Their language rights are
regulated rather differently by several laws, starting with the State Treaty
of Vienna 1955 which defined Austria's independence after the Second World War
and formulated some obligations for Austria. The authors describe the
situation of every minority language in depth and add Polish as a language
which should have minority status. The authors call attention to the
increasing loss of minority languages as languages in use in families,
institutions, etc. Instead they take on more and more the status of foreign
languages used in neighboring countries. They recommend increasing efforts for
these languages, especially in terms of materials development and research.

Susanna Buttaroni (''Frühe Mehrsprachigkeit in der Elementarbildung'') deals
with multilinguality in kindergarten. As kindergartens are administrated by
the individual provinces, there is no uniform Austrian perspective on it.
There is growing awareness and some individual initiatives, but no structural
changes are visible to date (the author analyzes official documents and
research results). They discuss strengths and weaknesses of how children’s
competence in German is evaluated, something which is done regularly (except
children with special needs) in kindergarten shortly before the children enter
school in order to identify possible support needs. Concerning training of
kindergarten staff, only one institution in Carinthia offers a linguistic
introduction within the regular curriculum, the other provinces only offer
further training. The article closes with recommendations.

Verena Krausneker writes about the situation of Austrian Sign Language = OeGS
(''Oesterreichische Gebärdensprache ist anerkannt''). She describes the
constitutional acknowledgment of OeGS in 2005 and puts it into the
international context. About 10,000 Austrians use OeGS as their first
language. The sign language community has benefited from some advances, but in
general the big hopes of the Deaf have not been not fulfilled. The Austrian
Deaf Association has documented extensive discrimination, especially with the
educational situation remaining as bad as it was before (www.oeglb.at). There
is still no bilingual curriculum for OeGS-German while there are curricula for
spoken minority and immigrant languages (see above). Access to information is
still limited (subtitling in the public TV ORF is at only about 50%, with no
subtitling at all in private TV). Barrier-free access to public information is
generally lacking -- except some individual initiatives. Interpreting is
guaranteed for public administration, the courts and work, but not for private
purposes. University research is a very small niche; except interpreter
education it is not possible to study sign language or deaf culture (only
individual courses or small parts of alternative curricula). The article ends
with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and
Austria's respective National Action Plan. Summarizing, Krausneker states that
language rights for the deaf are not yet given in most everyday situations.

Rudolf de Cillia and Michaela Haller discuss the learning of foreign languages
in Austrian kindergartens and schools (''Englisch und ...? Vorschulisches und
schulisches Sprachenlernen in Oesterreich'') in the context of the Council of
Europe's ''Language Educational Policy Profiling'' and the Austrian Language
Committee. They describe the legal framework of language instruction at every
level of education in depth (aims, curricula, didactic principles and methods)
and give a table of foreign languages offered in the 4th, 8th, 10th and 12th
level: English is taught to 98.6% of Austrian pupils, French to 1.7%, Italian
to 1.4%, Slovenian to 0.8%, Croatian to 0.5%, Czech to 0.3%, Hungarian and
Russian to 0.2%, Slovak and Spanish to 0.1%. The authors finally turn to
discussion/recommendations regarding multilinguality and innovative teaching

Martin Stegu, Regina Winkler and Barbara Seidlhofer describe foreign language
teaching in Austria's higher education system(''Fremdsprachenlernen an
Universitäten, Fachhochschulen und Pädagogischen Hochschulen''). They list all
languages taught, curricula and competences needed for starting a study, then
turn to recent developments. The chapter ends with 13 concrete demands
(including a general concept for tertiary language studies, a tight connection
between research and teaching, the adoption of international standards).

Thomas Fritz gives an overview of language learning in adult education (''60
Sprachen lernen in Österreich. Sprachenpolitik -- Sprachenlernen --
Erwachsenenbildung''). There are no statistical data, but one can say that 60
languages are offered by the many institutions active in the field; there is a
recent increase especially in German as a second language. The most frequently
taught languages in about 10,000 courses of one of the biggest institutions,
the Austrian Adult Education Centers (''Volkshochschule''), are English with
28% of all courses, German with 20%, Italian with 15%, Spanish with 10% and
French with 6%. 78% of Austrians are competent in one foreign language, 27% in
two, and 9% in three 9. Legal basics and the situation/training of teachers
are also discussed.

Antje Doberer-Bey, Angelika Hrubesch and Otto Rath describe adult literacy and
basic education (''Alphabetisierung und Basisbildung seit 2002. Vom Frosch zum
Prinzen?''). The article starts with discussing the German notion of
''functional analphabetism'' which is now given up in favor of ''basic
education'' (''Basisbildung'') or ''literacy'' (''Literalität''). Especially
in the context of integration of immigrants, different concepts of basic
education can be found. The authors discuss them and their respective
practices using the terms ''critical'', ''social'', and ''new literacies'', as
well as ''multiliteracies'', including digital competences. In order to
establish criteria for the evaluation of basic education for abilities at the
workplace, the ''Austrian National Framework of Qualification'' was developed.
Many necessary data are lacking, but at least the scientific engagement in the
field is increasing. Basic education plays a major role in the strategy of
lifelong learning and is predominantly realized by networks of organizations
and projects. Quality standards and profiles of trainers as well as their
training are discussed and the situation of actual trainers is analyzed.
Besides other recommendations the authors propose a nationwide campaign for
basic education.

Judith Purkarthofer analyzes the relationship between language policy and the
media (''Lokal, global und mehrsprachig? Sprachenpolitik und Medien''),
especially that of the public-legal broadcasting institution ORF
(''Oesterreichischer Rundfunk Fernsehen''/Austrian Radio Television). This
institution has secured some legal support for e.g. autochthonous minority
languages (there are regular broadcasts in these languages). Since 1998 there
are also ''free radio'' broadcasting companies, mostly small, which dedicate
up to 30% of their time to languages besides German. Printed media are
overwhelmingly German, but there are a few commercial ones printed in Turkish
or Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian (i.e. the largest immigrant groups) and also a few
small printed media for autochthonous minority groups, partially funded by the
state. Books and films in foreign languages as material for language learning
are used by about 11% of the population, radio courses are not offered at the
moment. The article ends with short recommendations to offer more integrative
media initiatives.

Rudolf Muhr describes the situation of Austrian German (''Zur
sprachenpolitischen Situation des Oesterreichischen Deutsch 2000-2012''),
exhaustively covering language political issues 2000-2012 and comparing them
with 1995. Furthermore, a complete annotated list of publications on Austrian
German is offered: The number of publications on Austrian German has increased
enormously in comparison to earlier decades: the author quotes 140 books and
95 articles and classifies them formally (monographs, collections of articles,
dictionaries, etc.) as well as content-related (identity, literary language,
attitudes, terminology, teaching of German, etc.). Muhr defines the notion
'Austrian German' comprehensively as covering all language phenomena in
Austria related to German. This means that not only the Austrian variety of
Standard German, but also all other language forms (regional colloquial
variants and dialects of different extension) are taken under this notion, as
they contribute to Austrian identity in the perspective of the author. With
this he denies that Austrian German is only one among various regional
varieties but instead a national variety of pluricentric German (which has
been approved by the European Union). All relevant literature (including
information in the internet) can be found in the chapter.

From a sociolinguistic/pragmatic perspective Muhr describes the image problem
of Austrian German vs. German in Germany, the latter the dominant variety.
This results in a lower status of Austrian German related to teaching German
as a foreign language, in a tendency to replace Austrian German terms by
'German German' ones, leading to a gradual assimilation of the former to the
latter, especially also by the media. Muhr takes what he calls the tabooizing
of the relationship between nation and language in Austria as the main reason
for the following phenomena: the non-codification of Austrian German; some
ambivalences of Austrian identity; the characteristics of ''double language
use'', i.e. public use of standard vs. internal use of colloquial registers;
the dogma of ''good and unified German'' (= monocentric German), the
stigmatization of Austrian German in some dictionaries, the ''purification''
of the language of Austrian writers by German editors (deleting Austrian
variants) and the ignorance of ''internal plurilingualism'' in Austria.
Related to the last, Muhr criticizes the ''old'' linguistic trichotomy of
''dialect -- colloquial/regional language -- standard'' as outdated due e.g.
to a high mobility of the population. He would rather see a complex diglossia
between the Austrian variant of Standard German and different forms of
colloquial varieties, the respective communicative/pragmatic choice of
speakers mainly dependent on the privacy of communication, namely nearness or
distance, less on social status. The article closes with a discussion of the
notion ''Austrian German'' vs. the notion ''German in Austria'' and of the
allegation of nationalism toward those who insist on ''Austrian German''. The
summary contains measures in favor of this language variant.

Karin Wetschanow and Ursula Doleschal write about feminist language policy
(''Feministische Sprachpolitik''). Starting from the history of feminist
linguistics in the 1980s they list 4 possible strategies for representing
gender in German in a fair, symmetrical manner (see Mark Twain's ''Awful
German language''): (1) to build upon the proposed generic meaning of the
masculine; (2) to actively change the morphology of German; (3) to use the
existing system for naming both genders equitably or ''feminize'' texts; (4)
to ''degenderize'' texts. From the perspective of acceptability and economy,
they go for the third variant in order to make women in German ''visible'' and
generate gender ''symmetry''. They discuss ''psychocognitive'' effects of
feminist language policy and describe the Austrian law on the issue of
equality as well as its implementation e.g. in calls for proposals or in
official texts, offering many examples from everyday usage (representing the
diverse orthographic proposals). Negative attitudes against feminist language
planning from public discourse are analyzed, followed by aspects of queer
language policy. Finally, they propose public discussion of and research on
the issue.

An appendix contains the ''Klagenfurter Erklärung 2011'' (Klagenfurt
declaration 2011) on Austrian language policy containing a general statement
and 12 recommendations related to the outcomes of the articles.

The book is of interest for every reader who reads German and wants
comprehensive information on Austrian language policy or sociolinguistic
issues. The 13 articles offer a wide spectrum from kindergarten to higher
education, gives sound information and illustrates how Austrian linguists
would like to configure language policy. I conclude that the book as a whole
achieves their goals. Readers can acquire either a picture of a special area
of Austria's language policy by concentrating on single articles or a rather
coherent picture of this policy when working through the whole book (though
the editors do not give a closing overview, but offer it indirectly with the
Klagenfurt declaration). The comprehensive references make the chapters a
valuable source for any survey or research task (as they are mostly overview
articles of about 15-30 pages, they do not contain detailed data on e.g.
school success of different types of pupils or on attitudes or opinions of
politicians, parents or teachers). Muhr's article on Austrian German is
exceptionally long (50 pages) and offers a complete bibliography for the years

In order to illustrate the book’s main features, I highlight first Austrian
school law, then Austrian German as a traditionally controversial issue, and
conclude with comments on the situation of Austrian Sign Language.

First, Austrian school policy is regulated by a constitutional law stating
that all school issues have to be decided on by a 2/3 majority in the
parliament. Since that law was passed, many reforms advocated by scientists or
educators were simply blocked because they did not attain this majority.
Therefore progress in the Austrian school system is rather slow or even
non-existant on major points.

Second, Muhr's statement that more or less all German dialects had died out
and one should no longer use the trichotomy ''dialect - colloquial/regional
language -- standard'' does not seem convincing: Naturally, mobility and other
factors like tourism affect especially local dialects. But there are still at
least valleys or regions, even towns with their ''dialect''. These are not the
“dialects” of 1900 but reflect massively changed circumstances: In the 1950s,
many farmers or workers had rather limited education; since the 1970s
educational opportunities were increased radically. Therefore I argue for a
dynamic view of the notion of ''dialect'', related to education: Many
Austrians use the word ''dialect'' for decribing their ''variant of local
nearness'', keeping some ''old'', specific usage to signal their identity, but
also adapting to the regional society, by avoiding usages which they interpret
as outdated or difficult to understand. The notion ''colloquial/regional
language'' I would rather assign to official and partially public
communication in the regions or provinces. And many speakers' utterances still
show register phenomena which have to be distinguished into either dialectal
or colloquial. It is also clear that the number of native dialect speakers
decreases because there are e.g. many children of couples from different
regions, then developing a compromise variety. In any of the registers,
however, many people 'know' rather exactly which signals to use in which
social-communicative context. Examples for the use of more than one register
in pragmatic/stylistic functions in a single communication can be found in the
speech of many Austrian politicians and in literature (hear e.g. into the
recordings of Qualtinger's ''Herr Karl'').

Finally, though the VERBAL group strongly advocates for OeGS, the editors
unfortunately 'separate' it from all other languages, concentrating discussion
in one article (Krausneker) and isolating the language and its users from
spoken languages since most other authors ignore it, making a comparison of
the language rights of sign language users with others impossible. As a
result, it has to be added to Fleck's article that autochthonous Austrian Sign
Language is not contained in the list of languages available at school. This
results in severe discrimination against deaf people. Similarly, it has to be
added to Fischer's & Doleschal's article that ÖGS is not acknowledged as an
autochthonous minority language because minorities are defined ethnically by
the constitution and the Austrian government is not willing to change this
(cf. http://www.uni-klu.ac.at/zgh/downloads/Band_23_Kafkas_Schloss.pdf), again
resulting in fundamental discrimination against Austrian Deaf despite the
UNCRPD. Finally, Susanna Buttaroni ignores sign language for early language

In summary, the volume is a valuable resource for future research on Austrian
language policy.

Franz Dotter has been retired since has 2013 and before that served as
Associate Professor for General Linguistics at the Alps-Adria University of
Klagenfurt, Austria. He earned his dr. phil. in 1975, and wrote his
habilitation on iconicity in syntax in 1990. 1996-2013 he served as head of
the Centre for Sign Language and Deaf Communication
(http://www.uni-klu.ac.at/zgh). His main interests are typology and cognitive
linguistics, sign languages, sociolinguistics of politics and minorities,
text/discourse analysis, and deaf education.
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