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BA Film Studies and German

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
The German Language Today

Unit code GERM20221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by German Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


Languages never stand still – they constantly change and evolve in response to the needs of language users. This course gives students and opportunity to explore what has been happening to German in recent decades, ranging from the strong influence of English on German vocabulary to the question of how modern German can accommodate gender equality and politeness conventions, taking in recent developments in word and sentence structure on the way. And we also cast a glance across political borders, investigating German in Austria and Switzerland today.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to German Linguistics GERM10040 Pre-Requisite Compulsory

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?

Yes, subject to adequate German language skills and willingness to acquire basic concepts in syntax and morphology independently


  • To expand students’ knowledge of a range of different varieties of German as well of the syntax, morphology and lexis of present-day Standard German
  • To deepen awareness of the social elements of linguistic communication in German, especially in the context of gender equality and politeness
  • To explore ways of evaluating language change in light of the current influence of English on German lexis, syntax and morphology

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course unit, students will be able to think and write critically about a range of topics relating to the special characteristics of the German language today.


1              Varieties of German

2              What is ‘the German language’?

3              Zeitstil, Gattungsstil, Personalstil: how can we observe them?

4              What is special about German today? Syntax and morphology

5              What is even more special about German today? Lexis

6              „Sprechen Sie Denglisch?“ Linguistic purism in Germany today

7              „Wollen wir uns nicht duzen?“ Politeness: du vs. Sie

8              „Man erlebt seine Schwangerschaft und Geburt jedes Mal anders.“ (Senta Trömel-Plötz) Is German a sexist


9              „Murks mit Majonäse (Mayonnaise?)“ The 1998 spelling reform: what was it for and where has it got     us?

10           The German language in Switzerland today: Schwizerdütsch – d Schproch zom Dezueghöre

11           Revision and exam preparation

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, interactive seminars and project workshops. Students do preparatory reading for each seminar. 

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of the course unit, students will be able to:

a)     show an appreciation of the range of varieties of German

b)     discuss the difficulties of defining ‘the German language’

c)      list and discuss the most important trends in present-day German syntax, morphology and lexis

d)     comment on the syntactic, morphological and lexical properties of a given text and relate these to the concepts of Zeitstil, Personalstil and Gattungsstil

e)     critically discuss the current movement towards linguistic purism in German-speaking countries

f)      discuss the usage of du and Sie and the difficulties associated with choosing between the two pronouns

g)     discuss the questions of whether German could be viewed as a sexist language and how its users could express themselves in ways that reflect gender equality more successfully

h)     outline the guiding principles behind the 1998 spelling reform and, in the light of the key changes it has brought about, comment critically on its success in achieving the stated aims

i)        discuss the concept of diglossia with reference to German-speaking Switzerland and contrast the diglossic situation with the Standard-with-dialects set-up found in Austria and Germany

Intellectual skills

  • applying specific linguistic concepts to real-world language data;
  • reading and interpreting statistical data generated through the quantitative analysis of texts

Practical skills

On successful completion of the course unit, students will be able to:

  • through reading, seminar discussion, and the writing of a project report, demonstrate the skills of information-gathering, interpretation, and the construction of a lucid argument, both visually and in writing
  • decide on the most appropriate means of representing statistical data graphically and produce suitable charts

Employability skills

¿ language skills ¿ intercultural awareness ¿ greater sensitivity to gender inequality and gender-neutral language use ¿ ability to critically interpret statistical information ¿ project planning and implementation ¿ organising and chairing meetings; drafting agendas and writing minutes ¿ improved numeracy

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Written examination

1 hour


Group project report

4,000 words



Feedback methods

  • Face-to-face feedback on group project plan (by appointment)
  • Written feedback on group project report
  • Feedback on exam technique and subject competence to students who submit their answer(s) to up to two exam questions from previous years
  • Written and, where possible, face-to-face feedback on exam (on request)

Recommended reading

Set Texts:

Russ, Charles V.J. 1994. The German language today: a linguistic introduction. London: Routledge.


Selected further reading:

Besch, Werner. 1998. Duzen, Siezen, Titulieren. Zur Anrede im Deutschen heute und gestern. 2nd edn. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht.

Braun, Peter. 1998. Tendenzen in der deutschen Gegenwartssprache: Sprachvarietäten. 4th edn. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Clyne, Michael. 1995. The German language in a changing Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gardt, Andreas & Bernd Hüppauf (eds.). 2004. Globalization and the future of German. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hellinger, Marlis. 1995. Language and gender. In Patrick Stevenson (ed.), The German language and the real world, 281-316. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hoberg, Rudolf (ed.). 2002. Deutsch – Englisch – Europäisch. Impulse für eine neue Sprachpolitik. Mannheim: Dudenverlag.

Stevenson, Patrick. 1997. The German-speaking world: a practical introduction to sociolinguistic issues. London: Routledge.

Steffens, Doris. 2012. Bufdis und Anderes: Neues im Wortschatz 2011. IDS Sprachreport 2/2012. 2-7.

Steffens, Doris & Doris al-Wadi. 2015. Neuer Wortschatz: Neologismen im Deutschen 2001-2010. 3rd edn. Mannheim: Institut für Deutsche Sprache.

Wray, Alison & Aileen Bloomer. 2012. Projects in linguistics and language studies: a practical guide to researching language. 3rd edn. London: Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 189

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wiebke Brockhaus-Grand Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Pre-requisite: GERM10040, or by consent of Convenor

Taught during: Semester 1

Pathway: Level 3: GERM30342


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