WP141 Linguist in an ideological firestorm: Personal reflections on the Kiezdeutsch controversy

Wiese with Eley & Rampton


Heike Wiese is Professor of Contemporary German Language at the University of Potsdam, Germany and Speaker at the university?s Centre for Language, Variation, and Migration. She has research interests in linguistic variation, grammar, lexicon, and linguistic architecture, and her most recent work has investigated the urban vernacular Kiezdeutsch (lit. ‘(neighbour-)hood German’), spoken informally by young people living in linguistically and ethnically diverse urban areas.? While the general public has tended to see Kiezdeutsch as ‘broken German’ and as evidence for a ‘double semilingualism’, Heike approaches it from a dialect perspective, showing that Kiezdeutsch phenomena are systematic, innovative and primarily motivated by internal dynamics of the German linguistic system rather than heritage language interference.? This has provoked a veritable firestorm ? an intense and often aggressive language ideological debate in the media, on the internet and in hate mail.? She has described the conceptual contours of this in an earlier working paper,? and in this very wide-ranging interview with Louise Eley and Ben Rampton, she talks about her personal experience of being at the centre of this uproar, the strategies she developed to handle it, the other ways in which she engages the public with her research on Kiezdeutsch, the responses from other linguists, and approaches to public and practical intervention in German academic life.