Kiezdeutsch - A new emerging variety of the standard German

Essay, 2013

12 Pages, Grade: 1,5


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Sociolinguistic factors in Kiezdeutsch

3. Morpho-syntactic changes
a. The omission of articles, pronouns and other words
b. Word order in Kiezdeutsch
c. Morpho-syntactic reduction: new particles

4. Conclusion

Definition of abbreviation

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1. Introduction

Across Europe new types of linguistic varieties have emerged, mainly spoken by adolescents with foreign roots. The development of these varieties have been analysed and observed in recent decades, such as Rinkebysvenska in Sweden or Straattaal in the Netherlands. All these varieties display common characteristics, e.g. spoken by young people with different migratory backgrounds and a linguistic system developed by the contact language. (Paul, Freywald, Wittenberg 2009, 1-2)

A new emerging phenomenon, with similar proprieties of the other varieties in Europe is Kiezdeutsch - a multiethnolect1 variety spoken in urban cities across German speaking countries. (Wiese 2012, 110 - 114) In recent years in Germany there has existed a great debate about the status of Kiezdeutsch. Three different positions came out; if Kiezdeutsch could be defined, as a “dialect“ strongly affirmed by Wiese (2012), or as a “style of speaking” affirmed by Helmut Glück, professor of German at the University of Bamberg, or as an “incomplete language acquisition” defined by the public opinion.

In this essay I will focus on the sociolinguistic factors that played an important role for the birth of Kiezdeutsch, and describe this variety as a language of the youth, and on the linguistic system that combines features of contact language. I will research what makes Kiezdeutsch a dialect with a dynamic linguistic system, and how it is undervalued by the public opinion, which considers Kiezdeutsch not as a dialect, but rather a “broken German” or “an incomplete language acquisition”, acquired by immigrants.

2. Sociolinguistic factors in Kiezdeutsch

As mentioned above, speakers of Kiezdeutsch live in large metropolitan areas across German speaking countries such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Frankfurt etc. Kiezdeutsch emerged among adolescents of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, and living in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods. From the name Kiezdeutsch, other different terms have been used, like kanak Sprache (wog language), which became popular through a political novel and interview collections (e.g. Zaimoğlu 1995). However, this term carries the pejorative connotation of Kanake, and emphasizes a foreign association. Another term mostly used in the literature is Türkendeutsch (e.g. Androutsopoulos 2001) , associating this phenomenon with the origin of the speakers. In contrast to this, Kiezdeutsch is a more neutral meaning as it doesn´t have an ethnic restriction, and is used to emphasize the fact that belongs to a “Kiez”, a “ hood” (neighbourhood) - a term used in an informal everyday communication. In Berlin, this might refer to one of the city's many distinct regions, such as Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg, or Neukölln. (Wiese, Freywald, Mayr 2009, 1 - 4)

This new variety emerged in the mid 90s in the immigrant neighbourhoods, where the contact between German and other languages, such as Turkish and Arabic, gave the birth to this new linguistic system. Today speakers of Kiezdeutsch are from the second or third generation of immigrants in Germany, and in families they still speak their ancestral language (e.g. Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, Polish, etc.). However, Kiezdeutsch is spoken with friends, in a multiethnolect area of the city, and quite apart from the origin of the family. In more formal situations they are able to use colloquial standard German, and is not spoken only by German citizens, but also by German natives. (Paul, Freywald, Wittenberg 2009, 92-94)

Kiezdeutsch is spoken to mark a social identity in special communication contexts, and is bound to a particular age group, namely adolescents, and in fact is considered a youth language. Social groups are always trying to distinguish themselves from other groups, e.g. hairstyle, clothing, music and language. Speakers of Kiezdeutsch use this particular variety to mark a particular peer group code, as a symbol of autonomy or as a particular social identity, different from the others.

The public opinion defines Kiezdeutsch as a phenomenon of incomplete language acquisition or the language spoken by the first generation of immigrants that arrived in Germany in the 1960s (Gastarbeiter Deutsch - guest worker German). This opinion has been disseminated by the mass media, especially in comedy shows, and also because is mostly spoken by immigrants. This variety is usually called Kanak Sprak by the public and, as mentioned above, has a negative connotation. The development of this opinion often leads to social problems, such as migrant teenagers often failing at school or finding difficulty in the search for work. (Androutsopoulos 2001, 5 - 10). In contrast to this, Kiezdeutsch differs completely from the fossilized German spoken by the first generation or the so-called Kanak Sprak, and is a new emerging variety with a systematic linguistic system. The main reasons are that firstly, Kiezdeutsch, as a youth language, is used to differentiate the speaker from other groups, for example a demarcation from the adult world. Secondly, a speaker of Kiezdeutsch can speak standard German, and is able to switch between Kiezdeutsch and standard German. (Paul, Freywald, Wittenberg 2009, 93)

3. Morpho-syntactic changes

In the previous section, the sociolinguistic factors showed the origin, the characteristics of the speaker, and the social use of this linguistic variety. From a linguistic point of view, the linguistic system of Kiezdeutsch is also interesting, because it combines features of contact language. Contact language means that it is set in a context of multi-language interaction, because of the different backgrounds of the speakers. Moreover, the multi-language contact in Kiezdeutsch leads to a linguistic dynamic that tends to a more liberal linguistic system. The linguistic system subsequently brings innovation to the morpho-syntactic and the semantic fields, such as the omission of articles, different sentence structure, fusion of words, and phonetic change. In the next section, I will present some of the grammatical innovation of Kiezdeutsch with examples, which can be distinguished from standard German. (Wiese 2012, 30 - 38)

a. The omission of articles, preposition and other words

The grammatical innovation of Kiezdeutsch might seem at first chaotic or arbitrary, but it shows stable morpho-syntactic features. The first innovation is the omission of article, preposition and other words that are common in Kiezdeutsch. For example:

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Sentences without prepositions are also found in spoken German, but restricted to specific structures, while in Kiezdeutsch the tendency to drop grammatical elements goes even further. For example:

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As noted in example (3), sentences without prepositions in spoken German are not a new phenomenon solely found in Kiezdeutsch. These types of sentence in spoken German are restricted only to public name station, while in Kiezdeutsch the omissions of the article are overgeneralized to sentences structure that employs local, and directional adverbials. In standard German the omission of the article is used for reasons of economy of the language (Sprachökonomie) that provides information to the listener quicker. (Wiese 2012, 49 -58)

Another phenomenon is the omission of the verb sein, especially if the sentence is comprehensible without it. For example:

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The omission of the verb sein in sentences where the verb does not provide full meaning (in the term of “exist”), and only in the form of the predicate, such as in “Sie ist eine Lehrerin - she is a teacher”. (Wiese 2009, 84 - 86)

Although the omission of the article or the verb seems to be a simplified language form of the Standard German, Kiezdeutsch shows a phenomenon of expanding structural possibilities of the standard German by over-generalising language structure.


1 Multiethnolect varieties occur in places where people of different ethnic origins, and with different mother tongues live together.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Kiezdeutsch - A new emerging variety of the standard German
Free University of Berlin
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ISBN (Book)
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Linguistic, variety, multiethnolect, Dialect
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Tomasello Rosario (Author), 2013, Kiezdeutsch - A new emerging variety of the standard German, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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