Influence of Attitude on the Pronunciation of Vowels in Turkish by bilingual German-dominant heritage-speakers of Turkish

Term Paper, 2019

24 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Previous Research
2.1 Research on Attitude
2.3 German-Turkish culture

3. Participants and Methods
3.1 Participants’ profiles
3.2 Data collection

4. Results
4.1 Questionnaire
4.2 Vowel Duration in Turkish

5. Discussion
5.1 Results of Attitude towards Turkish Language and Culture
5.2 Vowel Duration in Turkish
5.3 Relation of Attitude found in Questionnaire and the Vowel Duration

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

8. Appendix

1. Introduction

In Foreign Accent, Alene Moyer mentions that there is “little doubt that attitudes play some role in phonological attainment, however, the directness of that relationship is uncertain” (Moyer, 2013, p. 70). Moyers statement is comprehensible when one remembers that attitude is something that is hard to measure or score; unlike things like phonetic contrasts, these would be things that a researcher could hear and thus analyze. Although there is some research about the influence of attitude on foreign language acquisition (each with different outcomes), there seems to be none about the influence of attitude when looking at bilinguals and their two native languages.

Moyer also mentions two extreme examples of people immigrating to Germany where one wants to be part of the culture and the other does not (Moyer, 2013, p. 71-72). This made me think of German-Turkish people living in Germany who usually are also very split between wanting to integrate or trying to perceive the Turkish culture. The first generation of Turkish people who immigrated to Germany usually tried preserving their culture and are often far from sounding native-like in German. In this study I will focus on the second generation, their children, who were all born and raised in Germany, to see if the influence of the Turkish culture through their parents and the influence of the German culture which they were born into, has an effect on their pronunciation in their parent’s language.

Another observation that inspired this research is the following. Native Turkish speakers living in Turkey are usually quick in realizing whether or not a person is a bilingual German-Turkish person because of the way German-Turkish people use long and short vowels. The Turkish language does not have as many long vowels as the German language. My prediction is that by being German-dominant speakers and thus being used to a stress-timed language the German-Turkish speakers will have trouble producing the right duration of vowels in Turkish.

In my research I do not only want to analyze the way German-dominant bilingual speakers of Turkish produce vowels but also see if there is any correlation between the way they see themselves in regard to the Turkish language and culture. Other researchers have also laid their focus on the concern for pronunciation accuracy or the desire to sound native-like but as afore mentioned my focus will be on the attitude towards the language and culture. Because there is hardly one dominant opinion about the influence of attitude towards the production of a language, I also hope to help to further understand this relationship. This will also be interesting when projected to language acquisition in general. Can people who have a better attitude towards the language and culture of their target language acquire said language more easily? Can the heritage language and the dominant culture in which the learners live hinder or further the language acquisition?

I hypothesize that the more positive someone’s attitude towards a culture and the acquisition of the culture’s language is, the more native-like they will sound.

In what follows, I will summarize previous research on attitude and its influence on language acquisition/pronunciation. Section 3 introduces the German-Turkish participants and my methodology. In section 4, I will present the results. Following is a discussion in chapter 5 and ending this paper is the conclusion in section 6.

2. Previous Research

2.1 Research on Attitude

How can attitude be defined? On this topic Alfred Smith quotes Milton Rokeach (1968): “An attitude is a relatively enduring organization of beliefs around an object or situation, predisposing one to respond in some preferential manner.” (Smith, 1971, p.82). An attitude, according to Rokeach, is enduring which means that should it have an effect on language it is best to ensure that the attitude towards new languages in learners is always positive.

Alfred Smith also lists the generally accepted three dimensions of attitude which are the cognitive, affective and evaluative dimensions. He also mentions that through the evaluation a person will come to a final attitude, if this attitude is acted out it is translated into a behavioural component (Smith, 1971, pp. 82-83).

As mentioned in my introduction research on the topic of attitude in foreign language acquisition can easily be found. One of these researches is by Crismore, Ngeow and Soo who took a look at the attitude towards English in Malaysia. In their research they quote Shuy and Sasold (1973) who state that attitude or “the expression of positive or negative feelings towards a language may reflect impressions of linguistic difficulty or simplicity.” (Crismore, Ngeow and Soo, 1996, p. 321). Although the research by Crismore, et. al. is focused on foreign language acquisition it is also interesting to see whether in my research the linguistic difficulty or simplicity will be due to the attitude toward the Turkish language or if not being able to speak native-like is the cause for a negative attitude towards the Turkish language.

2.3 German-Turkish culture and language

In this chapter I want to focus on the previous studies concerning the German-Turkish culture and language. German-Turkish culture is not to be confused with German or Turkish culture. When I use the term “German-Turkish culture” in this research I talk about the specific culture that has formed in the second generation of Turkish people living in Germany. Although I personally see them as German with Turkish heritage.

Dirim and Auer think that the picture German society had of Turkish people living in Germany has shifted in the 1990s because they are now no longer immigrants who could possibly migrate back to Turkey but citizens who were born in Germany and plan on staying in Germany. They also mention that Turkish people are no longer mostly immigrant workers and have now transgressed from that social class into other (Dirim, Auer, 2004, pp. 1-2).

The participants for my study are all born in the 1990s but were raised by parents who may even have been immigrant workers themselves. It will be interesting to see whether they still have the view on German-Turkish people that their parents might have had or if they also transgressed from this.

Dirim and Auer mention studies that were held in the 1970s because the migrant workers quickly and spontaneously adapted the German language; a possible outcome according to those studies could have been a fossilization of faulty German grammar and pronunciation in the migrant workers German but also handing said faulty German over to their children (Dirim, Auer, 2004, pp. 13-14).

According to Dirim and Auer the Turkish language in European environment has and further will develop without the influence of standard Turkish spoken in Turkey (Dirim, Auer, 2004, p.14).

3. Participants and Methods

3.1 Participants’ profiles

For this research four bilingual German-dominant speakers of Turkish (two female, two male) were recruited. The participants are between the ages of twenty to twenty-six and were all born and raised in Germany. All of the participants have completed the Abitur and three are currently studying at a university; speaker 2 is currently in training to be a nurse. German being the language which they predominantly use in their everyday life and at their workplaces/universities makes it the dominant language in their bilingualism.

All the participants have a Turkish mother and father, who are all native Turkish speakers but immigrated to Germany sometime either in their childhood or early adulthood. The participants also all have Turkish grandparents and answered that they use the Turkish language when communicating with them. All four participants have siblings, two of the participants speak only German with their siblings and two replied that they use both languages when communicating with their siblings. Speaker 1 stated that although their mother lives in Germany, her mother almost only speaks Turkish and thus being able to speak in Turkish has an important role in the life of speaker 1.

When asked if they were ever specifically motivated by one person when it comes to language acquisition three of the participants answered that they were motivated by their parents or grandparents. Speaker 4 answered that there was “regrettably” no such person in their life.

In the questionnaire the participants answered whether they see themselves as bilinguals and if they see themselves as bilinguals with Turkish or German as their native language or if they see themselves as native speakers of either German or Turkish with some knowledge in the opposing language. All of the participants answered that they are bilingual; three see themselves as bilingual with Turkish as their native language and one sees themselves as bilingual with German as their native language. Interestingly the two female participants answered that they feel like they speak German a little better than Turkish but both male participants answered that they felt like they speak German significantly better than Turkish.

In the questionnaire the participants were asked if they participated in any leisure activities that would require them to speak Turkish; none of them do so.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

F: female; m: male;

Table 1: Background statistics of participants

3.2 Data collection

The data used for this study was gathered through a questionnaire which was available to the participants online. The questionnaire is in German since this study is interested in German-dominant speakers of Turkish. I decided not to score the answers in the questionnaire because I had some open questions for the participants to help me better understand the participants experience as a German-Turkish person and their view on both cultures. By relying on experience, it is impossible to score those type of answers since everyone has individual experiences. Still, I will try to see if there any common experiences or opinions and if those correlate with my hypothesis.

Beside the questionnaire the participants also had to read out loud a Turkish text “Emre’nin yaz tatili” (“Emre’s summer vacation”) and record themselves doing so. The text originally was meant for Turkish pupils that can read at the level of an elementary school child, but for the purpose of this study it was found ideal because it has a lot of easily pronounceable words. The text consists of 75 words (192 syllables).

The recordings were listened to by a Turkish person who is a native speaker of Turkish and does not know any German. This person asked another native Turkish speaker (her daughter) with no ties to the German language to read out loud the text for her too so that she could more easily compare the way the participants pronounced the vowel duration. This is also what the “listener” was supposed to focus on; she was asked to mark in the text whenever she felt like one of the participants was pronouncing a vowel longer than a native Turkish speaker would pronounce said vowel.

4. Results

4.1 Questionnaire

The results for the questions which helped me to create a profile for the participants can be found in the previous chapter.

In this chapter I want to take a look at the answers the participants gave to the questions that deal with the attitude towards the German and Turkish culture and the Turkish language.

The first question that the participants had to answer was to determine how they use the Turkish language in social situations. The participants were asked to choose how often they spoke Turkish to the following groups of people: colleagues at work, fellow students, friends, teachers and their bosses at work. They did not necessarily have to have been in a working situation and were asked to still answer this question hypothetically. The purpose of this and the following question was to see when the participants were comfortable with using the Turkish language but also to see how often they use the Turkish language in different situations.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 2: Usage of Turkish when speaking in social situations

As afore mentioned, the second question was also used to determine how often the Turkish language is being used by the participants but in this question the participants were also asked if they would be comfortable in using the Turkish language in said situations regardless of whether or not they have ever used the language when in such a situation before. This question was posed to further illuminate the level of confidence the participants have in their Turkish speaking abilities.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

n: cannot and does not speak Turkish in this situation; x: can use Turkish in this situation but does not; y: can use Turkish and does so (often)

Table 3: Usage of Turkish language in different social settings

The third question asks the participants about different types of media and in which language they choose to use said media with. They could also answer with another language besides Turkish. With this question I hoped to see how much language exposure the participants have beside their families and social groups.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Ger: mostly in German; Turk: mostly in Turkish; Both: Both languages are used equally; Eng: mostly in English

Table 4: Which language is used with which medium

The fourth question asked the participants about when they felt that it was more “natural” for a German-Turkish speaker to speak German or Turkish. “Natural” in this case was used to see when the participants thought it was socially acceptable for a German-Turkish speaker to speak either language and to see when they would feel comfortable to use either one of the languages.

Speaker 1 feels that is acceptable and most natural to speak German in school or at workplaces and Turkish feels natural to her when talking to one’s family. Speaker 2 also mentions school and work places but also medical practices as places where German should be the dominant language used. In her opinion Turkish feels natural when in a Turkish supermarket, at the hairdresser or when visiting (Turkish) relatives. Speaker 3 answered that German should be used in public life in Germany and Turkish in privacy or when “gossiping” at a workplace. Speaker 4 answered that German should be used all the times one is in Germany and Turkish should only be used when other Turkish speaking people are around.

In the next question the participants were asked whether they felt like there were situations in their life’s when they were either expected to speak in German or Turkish, but they personally wanted to use the other language. This question helps me to further determine how comfortable they are with speaking the Turkish language since it helps me to see if they are always confident in using the language that is expected/wanted from them or if they would rather use another language which they may feel more capable of using.

Speaker 1 answered that there were no such situations for her in either language. Speaker 2 wants to speak Turkish when German is expected at school and work but did not give any further indication as to why. She also answered that she would like to speak German with her grandmother instead of Turkish, but Turkish is the language which is expected of her. Speaker 3 misread the question as a yes/no question and answered that there were situations where he would rather use German or Turkish instead of the other language but did not explain why or in which situation that would be. Speaker 4, similar to Speaker 2, wants to use German with his elderly relatives but is also expected to speak Turkish with them.


Excerpt out of 24 pages


Influence of Attitude on the Pronunciation of Vowels in Turkish by bilingual German-dominant heritage-speakers of Turkish
University of Würzburg
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linguistics, english linguistics, sprawi, englisch sprawi, bilingualism, bilingual, attitude, pronunciation, heritage speakers, turkish, german, SLA
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Selin Izgi (Author), 2019, Influence of Attitude on the Pronunciation of Vowels in Turkish by bilingual German-dominant heritage-speakers of Turkish, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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