Proposing a Sociolinguistic Dimension to Language Endangerment: The Case of Texas German
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The aim of the present study is to test how distinct Texas German has become compared to High German in order to examine why some languages stay alive while others die. This research will add a sociolinguistic dimension to the notion of “endangered language,” which to date appears to have been largely understood in terms of the shrinking number and reduced geographic distribution of native speakers of a given language (Crystal, 2000). The present study assesses the degree to which Texas German is perceived as homogeneous by High German speakers through a language-related questionnaire based on one used by Lam and O’Brien (2014). The questionnaire, which was administered to native High German-speaking participants (n=4), includes audio recordings of Texas German speakers from a Texas city with a relatively smaller population of such speakers, and a Texas city with a relatively larger population of such speakers. Audio recordings of Texas German were adapted from the Texas German Dialect Project’s database (Boas, 2002), while the High German recordings were made by the researcher. It is hypothesized that native High German-speaking participants’ language-related qualitative impressions of the Texas German audio recordings as well as their quantitative ratings of them in terms of overall intelligibility, confidence that the speaker is a native speaker of High German, and resemblance to High German will be significantly more positive and/or exhibit less variance for Texas German speakers from the city with the relatively larger population of such speakers. The findings discuss how the ratings data demonstrate a trend that supports the hypothesis. Limitations and future avenues for research are also discussed.