Social Meaning

Social meaning studies how speakers position themselves through the use of language in wider and more narrow social contexts. It also studies in what ways listeners make use and sense of the linguistic information (what was said?) and the social information (who is the speaker?) and how they develop an interpretation of and a stance towards the speaker. This interpretation may as well be intended by the speaker. Research in this area is rare in Germany as traditionally, work on dialectology – the regional variation – is undertaken here rather than variation due to social, functional or situational causes. Therefore, we are now investigating the impact of social factors such as age, gender, profession, name, ethnic background or education on language production and speech perception and interpretation. Qualitative and quantitative experimental data are modelled theoretically.

Several third party funded projects are contributing to this research topic: the Marie-Curie-project How Language is used to oppress (Popa-Wyatt), three projects within the collaborative research center (CRC) on Register (a) Variation in situated interaction (Jannedy), (b) Speaker’s choices in a creole context: Bislama and Morisien (Krifka & Veenstra) and (c) Modeling meaning-driven register variation (Solt & Sauerland) and the Marie Curie ITN grant (within Conversational brains: COBRA) Communicative alignment at the physiological level (Fuchs). A further project contributing to this research topic is the DFG-project  The interrelation between social gender and grammatical gender: A novel socio-theoretical approach (Steriopolo).