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Dissolving Linguistic Borders? Contemporary Multilingual Literature in German-speaking Countries.

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posted on 20.06.2014, 00:00 by Kristina Foerster
This dissertation explores contemporary multilingual literature in the German language. Current research has experienced a wave of interest in literature by multilingual writers. The realm of language mixing in their text, however, has scarcely been touched. Existing studies focus instead on common themes more than on language itself (see for example Arnold, Bürger-Koftis, Schmitz); critics tend to avoid an analysis of the actual language mixing in the texts, and rarely draw from linguistic scholarship on multilingualism. I thus adopt a new focus by concentrating on language itself – both thematically and stylistically –using linguistic research on multilingualism as a framework for a close textual analysis of language mixing in literature. This project sets out to show that language takes center stage in multilingual literature not only thematically. Rather, I show that a stylistic analysis informed by linguistics can help determine how the author’s multilingualism impacts the language of the texts. This approach allows me to demonstrate precisely what makes multilingual writers sound unique and innovative to critics – their style is a product, at least in part, of their multilingualism. My work thus provides a new methodological framework for the discussion of the literature in question and sheds new light on the unique voice of multilingual writers. My research is based on five case studies: it analyzes the works of two writers who learned German at a very young age (Melinda Abonji and Marica Bodrožić), in tandem with the work of polyglot writer Terézia Mora and two German expatriate writers (Barbara Honigmann and Gregor Hens). In applying linguistic insights as a tool for literary analyses, I investigate how the writers’ multilingualism contributes into their literary works. Abonji and Bodrožić question the dichotomy of foreign versus familiar or foreign versus native language. Mora intentionally creates an unintelligible language mix and Honigmann’s and Hens’s code mixing reflects their expatriate lifestyle. My findings demonstrate that even though contemporary multilingual literature destabilizes the binary of concepts like native versus foreign, standard versus non-standard, and slowly makes its way into the mainstream, there are still limits and restrictions. Contemporary multilingual literature conforms to the current linguistic situation in German-speaking countries, where multilingualism is highly valued but in a selective way.



Loentz, Elizabeth


Germanic Studies

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University of Illinois at Chicago

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Hall, Sara Potowski, Kim Meyer, Imke Gonzalez-Vilbazo, Kay

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