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Code-Switching in Lower-Class Writing: Autobiographies by Patients from Southern German Psychiatric Hospitals (1852–1931)

Markus Schiegg

Abstract

This paper examines intra-speaker variation in historical writing. Its purpose is to show that lower-class people were able to consciously switch between language forms of conceptual orality and distance in their texts. To test this hypothesis, the article focuses on code-switching phenomena in autobiographic writing by patients from the Southern German psychiatric hospitals in Irsee and Kaufbeuren (1852–1931). The corpus of this paper consists of c. 98,300 tokens by 22 writers, of whom 11 use code-switching. First, I develop a method to distinguish code-switching from code-mixing phenomena in written texts by combining structural with functional approaches. In the article’s empirical part, I analyse the writers’ different communicative repertoires and the structures and functions of code-switching. Writers use linguistic variants of both conceptual orality and distance for code-switching. Thereby, they often use dialect, regional, or Southern German language forms that are outside of their regular linguistic repertoires. This leads to a re-evaluation of diatopically marked variants as not necessarily reflecting a writer’s lack of standard competence, but on the contrary being his or her deliberate linguistic choices.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation (Bonn), the University of Bristol and the University of Augsburg. I owe my thanks to the Bezirkskrankenhaus Kaufbeuren (PD Dr Albert Putzhammer, Petra Schweizer-Martinschek, Erich Resch) for granting access to the patient files and their interest in my work. Katherine Bennett (Salzburg), Nils Langer (Bristol), Timothy Jacob-Owens (Bristol) and Simon Pickl (Salzburg), the two anonymous reviewers and the editors have provided useful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Appendix

The following table gives context information on the 22 patients with autobiographic writing:

File no. & patientBirthProfessionAdmission & accommodation class [15]Date & title(s)PagesTokensOther ego documents
#80, Hans A.1901jobless apprentice24.10.1917; 3p26.09.1919; ‘My fatuities and pranks’, ‘Experiences’, ‘Pranks’237,689ca. 120 letters, notes, prayers, etc.
#373, Wilhelm N.1842tanner18.05.1882; 326.06.1882; ‘Episodes from my life’83,5081 letter
#457, Anton H.1832farmer’s son09.01.1858; 327.11.1857 [16]; ‘Protocol’23920
#696, Clement W.1848warehouse clerk; bookkeeper08.07.1883; 3pafter 08.12.1885; ‘Excerpts from my diary’, ‘List of assaults experienced’112,1352 letters
#882, Theodor H.1850post office assistant08.09.1880; 2undated; no title (CV) [17]23571 letter, 2 religious illusions
#936, Pius G.1847tailor06.04.1883; 3p06.04.1883; ‘From my life (3rd, revised edition)’205,845ca. 100 letters
#1342, Josef R.1886unskilled labourer13.06.1907; 3p01.10.1921; no title (CV)41,1377 letters
#1356, Josef B.1873factory worker27.05.1899; 3pundated; no title (CV)216510 letters
#1483, Michael Z.1887day labourer28.02.1906; 3p10.03.1906; ‘Curriculum vitae’246913 letters
#1623, Johannes G.1851assistant carpenter20.08.1874; 3pundated [ca. 1874–1905]; ‘Description of my curriculum vitae’ (2 versions)455218 letters, 1 song
#1725, Josef B.1856postillion18.07.1908; 3p06.08.1908; no title (CV)1459 letters
#1763, Georg S.1831assistant miller22.08.1863; 3undated; no title (CV)9452,16244 letters
#1809, Konrad A.1835tailor26.06.1885; 3p15.07.1885; no title (CV)46901 letter
#2058, Franz W.1842assistant miller14.01.1875; 327.08.1880; ‘Curriculum vitae’498222 letters
#2132, Josef K.1870mason02.04.1908; 3p08.04.1908; no title (CV)1582 letters
#2585, Anna K.1830spice trader’s daughter30.04.1853; n.a.22.04.–01.05.1852; no title (Diary)3711,5802 letters
#2936, Urban S.1872day labourer13.05.1922; 3pbetween 13.05.–16.05. 1922; ‘Curriculum vitae’82,508ca. 100 letters, 10 notes
#2938, Alois S.1870day labourer28.01.1923; 3p30.01.1923; no title (CV)22888 letters
#3041, Ludwig P.1883merchant28.03.1905; 223.07.1905; ‘Curriculum vitae of my son’ (but autograph)28771 letter
#3688, Rudolf B.1881bookkeeper20.04.1905; 3undated; Curriculum Vitae (original title)44363 letters
#3713, Julius E.1838merchant and mill owner15.01.1884; 3p02.02.1884; ‘Life description’285,7902 letters, notebook with letter drafts
#3842, Josef S.1880mason, farmer21.09.1909; 3pafter 1931; ‘Curriculum vitae’463210 letters
Published Online: 2016-4-12
Published in Print: 2016-4-1

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