U när i so, es geit ume Dialäkt hie: quotative variation in Bernese Swiss German

Schneider, Christa; Britain, David; Grossenbacher, Sarah (6 June 2017). U när i so, es geit ume Dialäkt hie: quotative variation in Bernese Swiss German (Unpublished). In: International Conferene on Language Variation in Europe 9. Malaga. 06.- 09.06.2017.

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U när i so, es geit ume Dialäkt hie: quotative variation in Bernese Swiss German

Whilst there have been a multitude of variationist studies examining the changing quotative system of English, especially the diffusion of innovative BE like (e.g. Tagliamonte and Hudson 1999, Buchstaller and D’Arcy 2009), examinations of the quotative systems of other languages (see Buchstaller and Van Alphen 2012) have largely been descriptive (e.g. Guardamagna 2010) or anchored in discourse analytic approaches (e.g. Mazeland 2006), or examining one type of quotative (e.g. Foolen et al 2006), with few examining the linguistic and social constraints that shape speakers’ preferences for certain variants over others (see, however, Palacios Martinez 2014, Cheshire et al, forthcoming). Research on German has been relatively limited and largely tackles quotatives from a conversation analytic perspective (e.g. Golato 2000, Bagi 2006, Imo 2007, Mertzlufft 2014). Here, we conduct a variationist analysis of the quotation system of a variety of German, Bernese Swiss German (BSG).
All tokens of quotatives were extracted from a corpus of recordings of conversations with 19 working-class young adults from the western parts of the city of Bern in which a third of the population are not Swiss. We therefore have recordings from speakers of Swiss, but also, for example, Bosnian, Bangladeshi and Albanian backgrounds.
We found that all constitutive elements of the quotative were variable in BSG:
presence of a subject (present in (1), absent in (2)); presence of a verb (3 and 4); and presence of so (= like) (5 and 6)
(1) när i so 'nei' (then I [no verb] like 'no')
(2) u när so 'uuuhh' (and then like 'uuuhhh')
(3) hei si gseit 'ja, das gits o nume bi de Usländer' (they said 'yes, that exists only
among foreigners')
(4) när si so 'ja, di zwöi wuchenänd bini wäg gsi' (then she [no verb] like 'yes, I was
away for these two weekends')
(5) u i bi so 'hahahahaha' (and I'm like 'hahahahaha')
(6) u när chunnt är 'chum schnäu mit' (and then he comes 'just come with me')
Our results showed that:
- Verbless quotatives as in (4) are found more among women than men. The latter preferred to use säge (= say), see (3);
- So was used frequently, and was predominantly but not exclusively found in verbless quotatives, as in (4), with the result that so was found more among women than men. An alternative form for ‘like’, wie, often heard in quotatives in Bern, was very rarely used.
- So was considerably more common when there was an overt 1st singular subject than when there was a 3rd singular subject, and rarer still with other subject types.
- Quotatives are often accompanied by a temporal adverb, especially när (= after this), and, exclusively among women, immer wieder (=time and again). We are able to demonstrate, consequently, that the quotative system in contemporary working-class BSG is shaped by a range of social and linguistic constraints. Further research is needed in order to assess the extent to which these patterns are locally oriented, or shared across other varieties of Swiss German.

Buchstaller, I. and Van Alphen, I. (eds.) (2012). Quotatives: Cross-linguistic and
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Buchstaller, I. and D’Arcy, A. (2009). Localised globalisation: A multilocal,
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typification. In T. Koole, J. Nortier and B. Tahitu (eds.), Artikelen voor de 5e Sociolinguïstische Conferentie. Delft: Oburon. 354 – 365.

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A contrastive corpus-based study. Miscelania 49: 95-114.

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Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Digital Humanities
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Schneider, Christa, Britain, David, Grossenbacher, Sarah


400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages
400 Language > 430 German & related languages




Christa Schneider

Date Deposited:

14 Apr 2021 11:47

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:50





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