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“Language”: Latest Volume in the Heidelberger Jahrbücher Series

Press Release No. 5/2009
12 06 2009
A comprehensive overview of the German language
Volume 53 of the prestigious interdisciplinary Heidelberger Jahrbücher (Heidelberg Yearbooks) series has now appeared in print. Edited by Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Felder, Sprache (“Language”) offers a comprehensive overview of the German language. Thirteen articles in German by language and linguistics scholars discuss the latest research findings in the field and cast new light on language as a fundamental condition of human existence.

“Action, not words!” Slogans like this are frequently heard, but this of course does nothing to lessen the importance of language for both public and private communication. Public discussion frequently hinges on debates about words and their exact meanings, and there is considerable awareness of the way language can be used to influence and manipulate others. Accordingly, language issues are a frequent subject for media surveys. Appropriate use of language is one of the key factors in aptitude tests at school and is also a regular bone of contention in political controversies. The articles in this volume indicate the range and scope of linguistic research and the light it casts on our “information society”.

The first article, by Ekkehard Felder, centres on the extent to which language, an ostensibly “neutral” medium, can in fact be used for an objective representation of objects and states of affairs in the real world. The author draws upon a multitude of examples from many different contexts to indicate that certain perspectives and tendencies are invariably present in the way we express ourselves.

Jochen A. Bär’s outlook on the future of German is based on a highly knowledgeable review of the history of the language. After that, Jörg Riecke takes medical history as an example of the way in which language history interacts with the evolution of a particular subject, indicating how memory and the transmission of historical facts are inextricably bound up with language. Jörg Kilian also takes an historical perspective, focusing on spoken language and its role in the process of language change.

In modern linguistics the term “discourse” is both a ubiquitous and a fuzzy concept. Klaus-Peter Konerding provides an outline of scholarly engagement with the subject matter it refers to and points up the relevance of linguistic and cross-disciplinary investigation of discourses. In a similar vein, Fritz Hermanns () approaches the question of comprehension from the viewpoint of linguistic hermeneutics.

The articles by Nina Berend and Klaus J. Mattheier discuss recent investigations on present-day spoken German, one conducted by the German Language Institute in Mannheim as the basis for an online language atlas, the other a communication profile of the Heidelberg area and its dialect speakers. Herbert Ernst Wiegand deals with a lexicographical subject (the structure of dictionary articles) and shows just how profitable writing “unnaturally” about natural language can be.

Norms and their justification are also the central concern in Jörn Stegmeier’s article on the frequently heated debate about the recent reform of German spelling and punctuation. Subsequently, Marcus Müller focuses on infographics and the challenge these relatively new textual components pose for descriptive linguistics, notably the precise delineation of the interplay between texts and images.

Katharina Bremer approaches the subject of language from the perspective of individual human development. Her article highlights recent findings in the field of language acquisition. She describes language acquisition as an extremely demanding process that children can only master because they draw on resources from many different sectors at one and the same time. For centuries language and language use have been subject to all kinds of criticism. Jana Tereick’s article outlines the historical developments, analyses various forms of language criticism and discusses the relationship between language criticism and linguistics.

All the articles in the volume draw upon relevant research findings and cast light on the methods used in the different fields of linguistic research. The presentation of new insights from the different sectors of linguistics provides a fascinatingly kaleidoscopic view of German past, present and future.

The Heidelberger Jahrbücher series was established in 1957 to exemplify the “academic spirit” and “historical scope” of the University. Editor-in-chief is Prof. Dr. Michael Wink, acting on behalf of the Society of Friends of Heidelberg University. Since 1999 each new volume has focused on one particular subject regarded from a variety of perspectives. The overall objective is to encourage exchange and contact between the different fields of academic endeavour.

The editor of Volume 53 is professor of German language and linguistics at Heidelberg University.

Ekkehard Felder (ed.): Sprache. Im Auftrag der Universitätsgesellschaft Heidelberg e.V. Berlin et al.: Springer Verlag (Heidelberger Jahrbücher Band 53). ISBN: 978-3-642-00341-7.

Please address any inquiries to
Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Felder
Heidelberg University
Germanistisches Seminar
Hauptstraße 207-209
D-69117 Heidelberg
phone: +49 6221 543240

Prof. Dr. Michael Wink
Heidelberg University
Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology
phone: +49 6221 544881
fax: +49 6221 544884

General inquiries from journalists can also be addressed to
Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Public Information Officer

Irene Thewalt
phone: +49 6221 542311
fax: +49 6221 542317
Editor: Email
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