Small languages, big ideas

On April 4-5, Marie Schnieders (an MA student Language Dynamics) and I visited the conference 'Small languages, Big ideas: the smaller Germanic languages from a theoretical perspective' at the University of Zürich. The conference brought together speakers investigating a large variety of (smaller) Germanic languages. In addition to well-known Germanic languages like Dutch, Afrikaans and Norwegian, there were also presentations on lesser-known varieties such as Pennsylvania Dutch and Unserdeutsch.  The presentations covered different fields of linguistic inquiry, including phonology, morphology, syntax, sociolinguistics and historical linguistics.

Since several of the languages that were presented at the conference are minority lanaguge with an endangered status, the plenary discussion at the end also focused on the question of how to preserve - and importantly - document these languages. In that respect, the smaller Germanic languages certainly deserve attention by the linguistic community.

The presentation that Marie and I gave focused on word order variation in verbal clusters in Low German compared to High German. In our study, we combined techniques from dialectology and experimental syntax and looked at the extent to which there was transfer from one variety into the other and in which direction. A pdf of our presentation can be found here. Marie and I will also be giving a poster presentation of this talk at the TABU-dag in Groningen, 20-21 May.

For more information on the conference itself, the conference's website can be found here.