Language dynamics of three multilingual communities in Graz

Language dynamics of three multilingual communities in Graz

The study Language dynamics of three multilingual communities in Graz is carried out in the context of Multilingual Graz. During a pilot phase, we investigate the sociolinguistic situation of three multilingual communities.

The three sub-projects collect data on language use, language attitudes, and language transmission through semi-structured interviews. Data on language use describe the linguistic repertoires of the respective multilingual communities and demonstrate the function and status of individual languages. Language attitude as an emotive parameter offers information on dominant language ideologies and group identity. Both emotive and functional parameters influence language transmission, which reveals, amongst others, intergenerational changes regarding proficiency and use of languages. This project aims to describe language plurality in the context of urban multilingualism and, furthermore, to highlight the socio-political relevance of the speakers’ languages.

The sub-project ‘The first language that comes - we speak it’: African communities in Graz with a focus on Rwanda/Rundi speakers deals with speakers from Rwanda and Burundi whose linguistic repertoire comprises of Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, as well as Swahili, English and/or French. In general, the linguistic repertoires of African communities consist of varieties of numerous languages: besides German, speakers use one or more languages of their regions of origin, usually including a lingua franca and one or more ex-colonial languages. Thus, code-switching is a common feature of everyday communication. In Europe, many African languages remain to a large extent invisible. Scarce knowledge and disregard for dominated languages based on the monolingual habitus of European nation states leads to the marginalization of African languages. Consequently, this sub-project addresses questions of prestige, social function and the role for identity formation in different age cohorts of this community.

The sub-project PIZ – Persian is like sugar: the Persian language community addresses speakers with a migration background from Iran. Some speakers among the community migrated to Austria at the beginning of the 1980s and have thus been living in Graz for more than thirty years. The following generations have been born and raised in Austria. They have passed through the educational system with an above-average rate of high educational qualifications. The linguistic repertoire of first-generation speakers comprises of Persian/Farsi, German, and sometimes other linguistic varieties from their region of origin such as Azeri, Arabic, Armenian, Balochi, Mazanderani, and Kurdish varieties. The main focus of this project lies on the changing functions of the linguistic repertoires across generations, as well as on the speakers’ attitudes towards the status and prestige of their languages.

The sub-project ‘The small languages leave‘: Minority languages of the Turkish community in Graz focuses on the linguistic situation of families that have migrated to Graz from Turkey, some of which have been living in the city for decades. The linguistic repertoire of the community consists of proficiencies in German while reflecting the linguistic diversity of their country of origin. Nearly 40% of Turkish migrants in Europe are speakers of minority languages. A basic assumption is that the language policy of the country of origin shapes the sociolinguistic situation of the language community during migration. In this context, the numerically strongest language is Kurmanji. Due to current developments, the Kurdish community in Graz is in a process of linguistic transformation and restructuring. Therefore, Kurds from Syria are included in this study as well.

Link to publication:


A project by treffpunkt sprachen / Plurilingualism Research Unit at University of Graz

Persons responsible: Martin Fripertinger, Agnes Grond, Kerstin Gruber, Angelika Heiling, Christina Korb