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GERM2004 Language and Society in German-Speaking World

Module Overview

The first part of the course considers the position of German in the world: the importance of the geo-political position of the German-speaking countries in the centre of Europe and the status of German as an international language.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to a wide range of topics dealing with uses of the German language in particular social contexts and its status in relation to other languages; • give you the opportunity to relate sociolinguistic concepts such as multilingualism and code-switching to specific German settings; • encourage you to explore the relationship between policies and practices in the development of sociolinguistic regimes in German-speaking countries and to reflect on the similarities and differences in other national contexts with which you are familiar.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the status of German as an international language;
  • language and national identities in German-speaking countries;
  • multilingualism in German-speaking countries;
  • linguistic and sociolinguistic consequences of contact between German and other languages;
  • public debates on language issues in Germany.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and describe examples of key sociolinguistic concepts in relation to contemporary German;
  • evaluate arguments in the relevant German secondary literature;
  • analyse primary data (e.g. written texts, interview transcripts);
  • make connections between what you read about German contexts and your own experience as a learner of German;
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan and prepare individual and joint seminar presentations;
  • use Blackboard to exchange ideas with other students in ‘reading groups’.


The first part of the course considers the position of German in the world: the importance of the geo-political position of the German-speaking countries in the centre of Europe and the status of German as an international language. The second part explores social, linguistic and political consequences of multilingualism in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The final part focuses on language change and public attitudes towards language use in German-speaking countries.

Special Features

This module encouraged you to develop your skills as a researcher through conducting your own investigation of contemporary linguistic change in German. This will help to sensitise you to aspects of current language use that you will encounter during your year abroad and prepare you for your Year Abroad project.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching method: • 1 weekly double seminar Learning activities include • doing specified reading tasks; • preparing individual and joint presentations; • conducting online and library research. Innovative or special features of this module: the module places considerable emphasis on collaborative forms of learning, in particular through reading groups in which you will discuss topics in advance of seminars and reflect on them afterwards.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Glück, H. & Sauer, W. (1997). Gegenwartsdeutsch. 

Barbour, J. S. & Stevenson, P. (1998). Variation im Deutschen. 

Clyne, M. (1995). The German Language in a Changing Europe. 

Stevenson, P. (1997). The German-Speaking World. 

Wolff, S. (ed) (2000). German Minorities in Europe. 

Holmes, J. (2001). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 

Stevenson, P. (ed) (1997). The German Language and the Real World. 

Barbour, S. & Carmichael, C. (eds) (2000). Language and Nationalism in Europe. 

Edwards, J. (1994). Multilingualism. 

Rash, F (1998). The German Language in Switzerland. 


Assessment Strategy

[The project is conducted in small groups of 3-4 students. The assessment is in 2 parts: (a) a group oral presentation worth 20% with a single, common mark awarded to the whole group; (b) an individual written report worth 30%, with each member of the group submitting their own report and receiving an individual mark.] Considerable emphasis is placed on collaborative learning, especially through discussion of and reflection on specified tasks that you will undertake in pairs or small groups in preparation for seminars. This will enable you to develop your individual research skills, your ability to formulate ideas and defend arguments and your teamwork skills. These discussions, together with the pre- and post-seminar exchanges with your reading group members on Blackboard, will also help you gain confidence in dealing with concepts and ideas and in understanding and analysing academic literature in German. The essay assignment will then give you the opportunity to draw on these discussions and develop your own ideas on particular topics in written form. You will receive feedback on the essay before submitting your written report for the second assignment, which will enable you to develop your formal writing skills by drawing on the tutor’s comments. The second assignment again reflects the combination of collaborative and individual study but in a different way. This task gives you the opportunity to undertake a small-scale research exercise that takes you beyond the published literature and requires you to gather and evaluate primary material of various kinds. You will design and carry out the project in a small group and present your findings in an oral presentation in class. In order to demonstrate your own contribution to this exercise and your own detailed analysis of the material you have gathered, you will then write an individual report on the project.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Group project with supporting report 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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