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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 14, 2021

Apps for capturing language variation and change in German-speaking Europe: Opportunities, challenges, findings, and future directions

Adrian Leemann
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


Smartphone apps are ubiquitous: in 2018 in Germany alone, 79% of the population owned a smartphone. Virtually everyone in this cohort always carries with them a recording device and a notepad (i.e., a screen), two essential tools that linguists typically use in the field. In the present contribution we discuss how linguists can harness this ubiquity of linguistic tools in the population to capture language variation and change, illustrated through apps that were developed for German-speaking Europe. We present four apps (Dialäkt Äpp, Voice Äpp, Grüezi Moin Servus, and Deutschklang) that were developed to (a) engage with the public and (b) to collect linguistic data. We discuss opportunities (e.g., the multimodality of said devices), as well as challenges (e.g., maintenance, updating and the costs involved therein). Finally, we present new findings that have emerged from working with this new paradigm and speculate about future directions and developments in using smartphone apps to collect linguistic data.


The author thanks Daniel Wanitsch at for the development of the apps and Thomas Kettig (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa) as well as two reviewers for useful comments and edits on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (DOI:

Received: 2019-03-08
Accepted: 2019-12-07
Published Online: 2021-01-14

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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