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

  • 1 University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
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.

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