Austrian Standard German as a language of instruction and education

FWF project (P 23913-G18)
Principal investigator: A.o. Univ. Prof. Mag. Dr. Rudolf de Cillia
Scientific assistants: Mag.a Jutta Ransmayr, Mag.a Elisabeth Fink
Project duration: 01.09.2012-31.10.2014

The role of Austrian Standard German and its socio-linguistic varieties as a language of instruction and education

This project will examine the role of Austrian Standard German as a language of instruction and education at Austrian schools. Special attention in this context has to be paid to the dialect – colloquial language – standard – continuum which is characteristic of Austria.

Research activities will include data collection at schools, analyses of curricula, books and teaching materials used for teaching German as a first and second language (DaM and DaZ) at school level, and curricula and courses of study at universities and teacher training institutes. The main focuses of this project are the examination of the following complexes of questions:

1. What is the role of Austrian German in teaching at elementary and secondary school levels? To what extent is Austrian German taken into consideration in teacher training? Which concept of norms (monocentric or pluricentric) is predominantly followed by Austrian pupils and teaching professionals? How do pupils and teachers perceive and conceptualize the linguistic situation in Austria concerning the characteristic dialect – colloquial language – standard – continuum?

2. What conclusions can be drawn about teacher training didactics and teaching practice at schools? In this context the integrative approach to language teaching will have to be given special consideration: It emphasizes the central role of German as a language of education throughout all school subjects. German, in this context, can be both: the first language/mother tongue (L1) for some students and the second language (L2) for others.

The current state of research implies that there is a crucial connection between the concept of norms presented and taught in schools and the lack of loyalty among Austrians to their variant of German. As the results of the guided expert interviews carried out for this project application prove, there are numerous research desiderata on the role of Austrian Standard German in the context of German as a first or second language (DaM and DaZ). The project on hand intends to fill these gaps in knowledge.

The data collection will include analyzing the the data obtained from different sources (curricula for schools, universities and teacher training institutes), as well as gathering data at schools by means of different methods (questionnaires, group discussions, guided interviews, participatory observation in class). The data evaluation will consist of both quantitative statistical and qualitative discussion-analytical approaches.

In addition to clarifying the role of Austrian German in education, one result of this project will be the development of recommendations for language and educational policies about Austrian German – with a particular focus on the conscious treatment of linguistic variants and Austrian German in teaching practice, as well as for the development of teaching materials and lesson plans