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Contact Induced Change of Migrant Turkish in Germanic

Language Speaking Areas:

Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria


1. Introduction
2. Contact induced change
2.1 Social factors
2.1.1 Language status
2.1.2 Self perception
2.1.3 Code switching and code mixing
2.1.4 Education
2.2 linguistic factors
2.2.1 Lexicon
2.2.2 Phonology and prosody
2.2.3 Morphosyntactic phenomena
2.2.4 Word order
2.2.5 Criticism
3. Conclusions
1. Introduction
Migration leads to bilingualism and plurilingualism. In the multicultural and multi-ethnic
contexts of most western European urban or suburban areas, there is a wide range of
opportunity for language contact. Phenomena like code switching can be observed anywhere
in the world just as in the communicative households of Turkish families in European cities,
and especially among younger people. Another implication of the migration process are
peculiarities, that show up in the diaspora languages over time. In this article we look for
these peculiarities in migrant Turkish. Generally speaking there are 3 known outcomes of
language contact linked to social situations:
- language maintenance, in which the speaker community maintains its language from
generation to generation,
- language shift, in which the native language gradually disappears in favour of a dominant
- language creation, in which a new language emerges, possibly one that shows features of
both source languages (Winford 2003:23ff).
The case of Turkish in western European context is clearly a maintenance situation. The third
generation immigrants speak Turkish, just as their parents and grandparents do. The question
is: has it undergone structural change, that can be traced back to the contact situation as
cause? To answer that, we need first to look thoroughly into the contact situation, i.e. we have
to analyse the social factors, that shape the life of the Turks in Europe. How intense is the
contact? How long has it sustained? What are the power relations between the languages
involved and which patterns do they follow? Only then we can, in a second step, examine the
linguistic factors. Turkish and Germanic languages are typologically and genetically different.
That seems to enable us to draw quick conclusions concerning the source of a given
phenomena or interference. But as we will see, caution is needed here. Not each immigrant
from Turkey is indeed a native speaker of Turkish. And the Turkish communities in Europe
are far from homogenous. This aspect is quite central: If we assume there to be a relationship
between language use variation and social relations, different social relations indicate
different language use. Because of that, we have to be specific about the place (e.g. a quarter
of Berlin or Køge in Denmark), where research has been done and must not generalise results
rendering them valid for entire speech communities. In this paper we look at the research
done in Germany (Dirim/Auer), Denmark (Jørgensen), Norway (Türker), the Netherlands
(Boeschoten/Verhoeven) and Austria (Brizić).

2. Contact induced change

2.1 Social factors

According to Winford an “intense inter-community contact situation” leads to “moderate

structural borrowing” and “heavy lexical and/or structural diffusion” (Winford 2003:23).
He points out, that the sociocultural factors are crucial when it comes to explaining linguistic
changes in a contact situation. These sociocultural factors are the historical background, the
social dynamics, the types of community settings, the demographic aspects, the patterns of
social interactions, the power relationships and the length of the contact situation.
The migration from Turkey to north-western European countries started in the 1960s and is
still going on. In Germany, the peak of naturalization of Turkish immigrants was in 1999,
with 100,000 per year (Statistisches Bundesamt 2008:13) leading to a total number of German
citizens of Turkish origin considerably above 2 million. Today, the second-generation
immigrants are spread over wide parts of the European society, to be found at all levels of
income and educational backgrounds. In spite of that, the Turks are clearly distinctive as an
ethnic and cultural group (Auer/Dirim 2004:2).

2.1.1 Language status

Migrant languages in industrialised countries are typically of low importance and their use is
restricted to a few native speakers. Therefore their status is usually rather low. Jørgensen
(2003a:76) for example reports a low status of immigrant languages like Turkish in Denmark.
Danish authorities, including educational institutions, view mother tongues other than Danish
as a “burden” (Jørgensen 2003a:76). They say bilingualism, if not constituted by Danish and a
major european language, is by no means an advantage. The situation in the Netherlands is
quite similar, Turkish is of comparably low status there (Yağmur 2004:130ff). In Germany
and Norway, Turkish language lessons have been established in the regular school programs
of secondary and tertiary level for Turkish immigrants. The discussion on L1 school lessons is
highly politicised and we will not pursue it further. Media in Turkish language, like
newspapers, radio and TV are easily accessible everywhere in central Europe. This builds a
basis for a strong community spirit, which is contributing to the maintenance of Turkish (see
Yağmur 2004:130-140 for an outline).

2.1.2 Self perception

In spite of the assumedly low status of Turkish in north-west Europe, there are strong signs of
language maintenance and even spread. Auer and Dirim argue, that Turkish as language is the
dominant variety of "ghetto oriented” (Auer/Dirim 2004:37) groups in Hamburg. There it
functions as a lingua franca between them, due to the high percentage of Turks in the non-
native population and the status of the Turkish minority as “Leitbild” (Auer/Dirim 2004:2).
Turkish has evolved from a useless debris, that obstructs integration, into a valid language
code of the socially disadvantaged minorities in general. Auer and Dirim describe this
development as an act of defiance: The “ghetto-oriented” groups speak Turkish because it is
not accepted by the mainstream. Inci and Hieronymus, who also studied young people from
Hamburg, speak of “social creativity of local speech communities”( Inci/ Hieronymus
2003:54) in this context. The use of Turkish elements is a large part of the mixed language
inventory of their informants. Hinnenkamp (2003) puts it this way:

"The adolescents use of hybrid language is an attempt at appropriating semantic space where
their language is no longer the object of the migratory discourse as defined by majority
society but constitutes an autonomous and exclusive form of (counter-) discourse in its own
right" (Hinnenkamp 2003:12)

By the term “hybrid language” Hinnenkamp refers to the frequently observed code-switching
and code-mixing, which will be treated more closely under 2.1.3. Hinnenkamps work deals
with the mixed language variety, as he calls it (Hinnenkamp 2003:13), of German-Turkish
adolescents in Augsburg, Bavaria. He discusses the question, if “these adolescents’ use of a
‘split language’ is analogous to the way in which they possess a ‘split identity’” (Hinnenkamp
2003:34ff) and denies it, reasoning that the term identity can not be understood in such a
simplistic way. Identity is a dynamic concept and its constitution is a permanent process,
which is related to the interaction and struggle with different identities.
2.1.3 Code switching and code mixing

Code switching is the term used for the speech style in which a group of speakers constantly
switch between languages or varieties. Also many immigrants do so in their daily
conversations. Obviously this practice provides ground for language change, as it practically
combines two or more languages. But what is the social motivation for code switching?

”Bilinguals, however, often share languages, one of which is a societal minority language
(we-code), the other one a societal majority language (they-code). By switching from
minority to majority language, the bilingual speaker invokes its value as a they-code. The
message of the utterance will be influenced by the switch – the meaning will include the force
and power attached to the majority language. On the other hand, the bilingual may switch
from the majority to minority language, and the message will contain a reference to the
solidarity and closeness of the minority language. Such metaphorical code-switches are
determined by the intention of the speaker to relate a specific understanding of the content.”
(Jørgensen 2003e:2)

As Jørgensen points out here, code switches are related to the social value of the languages
involved, as they trigger certain associations or emotions. Hence they create meaning on the
pragmatic level. They can be seen as acts of identity in a multilingual social setting, where a
simple one-person-one-language relation is no longer valid. Also, code switches are a means
of negotiating social relations (Jørgensen 2003c:127). Hinnenkamp takes this a step further,
when explaining hybridity or ‘gemischt sprechen’:

”It mirrors an autonomous approach by way of language alternation, language mixing and
appropriations from both linguistic communities and both ‘cultures’ (if we allow this
simplification for a moment). In this sense gemischt sprechen represents an autonomous
hybridolectal We-code. That is, code alternations do not correspond to alternations of
metaphorical We versus They-affiliations along the lines of Ingroup–Outgroup/We-
Code–They-Code but represent a We-code in its own right” (Hinnenkamp 2003:35, italics
from the original)

2.1.4 Education

Immigration and school education have advanced to a main topic of current political discourse
and research of migration. Many non-native speakers experience difficulties in school, and
not only in the lessons of the official language, i.e. German, Danish, Dutch etc..Especially
Turkish children generally get bad grades in western European education institutions (Brizić
2007). But how can that be? What are the factors of this peculiar situation? Brizić suggests in
her language-capital-model the following variables to be decisive for the educational success:
- Status of L1 in the country of origin (official or unofficial, standardised or not)
- The bilinguals’ personal view of the value of L1
- Educational level of parents
The conditions in the country of origin, Turkey, are especially important in this context.
Turkey is a nation, in which many different ethnic groups are native, yet it has a very strong,
nationalistic attitude towards its citizens. This can lead to a low esteem of one’s native
language, if other than Turkish, which in turn, results in poor linguistic abilities and language
learning skills in the migration context. Vice versa, a good command and esteem of the L1
eases L2 acquisition (cf. Brizić 2007:221ff). In 2.2.5 we will deal with the problem of
minority languages in Turkey in detail.
The Danish line of research called “Køge Project” is a longitudinal study with school children
from grade 1 through grade 9 led by Jørgensen (2003a; 2003c; 2003d). Jørgensen’s findings
seem to support Brizić’s view:

“Generally the successful students are also the linguistically efficient negotiators .... In a
comparison of a wide range of measures of language skills and school success ...[there is]
very little variation in the ranking of the bilingual children.”[sic] (Jørgensen 2003a:82)

2.2 Linguistic factors

There are certain indications that a European Turkish is evolving, or more specifically a
number of varieties of north-western European diaspora Turkish under the influence of
Germanic languages. Dirim and Auer (2004:14) state three reasons for that:
- Germanic influence and restructuralisation when integrating Germanic vocabulary
- oral simplification strategies
- dialectal influences
As we have seen above, Turkish is still a vivid tool of communication in the cities of Europe.
But many claim, that it is no longer a fully functional, non-restricted language and speak of
semi-lingualism (see Cabadağ 2001:28 for discussion). We skip this argument, as it is merely
concerned with valuing the skills of the speaker. Instead we focus on the results of studies on
changes in the language structure.

2.2.1 Lexicon

According to Winford, immigrant languages are particularly receptive to lexical borrowing

from the dominant language:
“The greater intensity of contact during the phase of bilingualism and shift, as well as the
asymmetry in power and prestige of the languages involved, promote borrowing, primarily
into the subordinate language”(Winford 2003:33ff).
The insertion of Germanic expressions in Turkish can be divided in two categories: "cultural
borrowings" and "core borrowings". This analysis makes it possible to differentiate between
lexical gaps in the Turkish lexicon where no equivalents exist and other borrowings, that do
match Turkish expressions. Boeschoten and Verhoeven’s research on the integration of
Dutch lexical elements in the speech of first and second generation immigrants shows that the
larger part of the insertions are ad-hoc borrowings and only a few are actually necessary to fill
lexical gaps and could be caused by a need for functional expansion of the lexicon. Instead,
the confrontation with institutions, terms and goods that were unknown in the home villages
can lead to semantic enlargement of already existing terms (e.g. plakasız actually ‘without
license plate’ for ‘illegal worker’) or to spontaneous word creations like oturum for ‘residence
permit’ (Boeschoten/Verhoeven 1985:354). Well documented is the generalised usage of verb
infinitive + yapmak (‘to do’; ‘to make’) to simplify the integration of Germanic verb roots
(Boeschoten/Verhoeven 1985:358, Türker 2005:454). This is a very common phenomenon in
verb borrowing strategies of many contact situations; see Wohlgemuth (2009:102-117) for
description. Turkish primary verb stems – monosyllabic stems without any derivative
suffixes, that is - are a closed class (Boeschoten/Verhoeven 1985:358). A language system is
less likely to insert borrowings into a closed class than into an open class, thus this technique
(infinitive + yapmak) suggests itself. It is interesting to note though, that yapmak is used
instead of etmek (‘to do’), which is the other possibility of a 'to do'-construction in standard

2.2.2 Phonology and prosody

The Turkish phonological inventory is assumedly complete in European Turkish varieties1, as

Germanic languages use all phonemes of standard Turkish as well except for the mid-central
vowel ‘ı’ and in some cases of Germanic varieties the alveolar flap [ɾ] . Rather than deletion,
phonemic inventory expansion in the Turkish-Germanic varieties can be expected, because of
the rich consonant inventory of Germanic. Boeschoten/Verhoeven (1985:355) state the
realisation of uvular [R] in fluent Turkish speech when using Dutch loans (e.g. [stRa.t]
‘street’). Uvular [R] is not used in standard Turkish and only in some Dutch varieties, in the
south and the west of the Netherlands. They also find problematic aspects of the integration of
Dutch loans into the vowel harmony system: The locative suffixes -te and -ta are found in
irregular variations after the non-Turkish schwa ‘ə’ of Dutch (Boeschoten/Verhoeven
Turkish prosody on the other hand does not necessarily correspond to Germanic, but the
research on prosodic change in contact languages and creoles is traditionally scarce
(Clancy/Gooden 2009:263). What is said is that there is a mechanism called “transfer” that
incorporates substrate and/or superstrate elements into the contact language system.
Cindark/Sema studied a group of young bilingual women in a suburb of Mannheim, which
has a high percentage of immigrant residents. They examined the question particle mI, which
denotes, what is expressed in German by a rising phrase-final intonation. The assumption that
the question particle is replaced by Germanic question intonation in the contact language is
straightforward. But in the survey results there are no signs of that (Cindark/Sema 2004:12).
Queen (2006) examined the phrase final intonation in narratives told by three Turkish-
German bilinguals. The 10 year-old schoolgirls were recorded all at once in their classroom in
Hessen, Germany. The difference of intonation in German and Turkish is “that Turkish stress
is achieved primarily with amplitude [...] and relies relatively little [opposite to German] on
pitch accents or other tonal units“ (Queen 2006:159). This includes the above mentioned
question intonation: “Turkish does not normatively distinguish declaratives from
interrogatives based on a final boundary tone. Rather, Turkish relies primarily on its
morphology to make such distinctions”(Queen 2006:159). Her findings are, that the bilinguals
use both patterns contrastively in a strategic way to cue structural aspects as well as aspects of
content in their narratives. Queen regards this as “a fusion of Turkish and German
intonational patterns” (Queen 2006:153) and traces it back to the sociocultural background of
the informants, which is a large and stable bilingual community (25% of the inhabitants of the
town in which the students live is of Turkish origin). These findings are strongly opposing the
results of Cindark and Sema (2004). Unfortunately, we do not have a more detailed
description of their informants' sociocultural background. But, following the assumptions of
Winford's theory of language contact (Winford 2003) the contact situation of the informants

None of the studies, that are subject of this paper, mention phoneme deletion in the Turkish spoken by the
informants. But there is an considerable amount of phoneme substitution in the dominant language spoken by the
informants (see Boeschoten/Verhoeven 1985:355ff).
of Sindark and Sema is less intense and the degree of bilingualism is lower, hence there is less
structural diffusion.

2.2.3 Morphosyntactic phenomena

Türker (2005) analysed nominal groups in Norway. She recorded conversations of eight 16-
24 year-old Turco-Norwegians, that use constant code-switching. Türker distinguishes 3 types
of nominal constructions, which are common in standard Turkish, for her examination
(Türker 2005:459):
- nominal compounds with compound marker (N+N-CM), e.g.

(1) kül tabla-sı

ash-NOM board-CM

- genitive constructions (N-GEN+N-POSS) as in

(2) anne-nin yemeğ-i

mother-GEN food-POSS.3SG
‘mother’s food’

- nominal compounds without markers (N/ADJ+N)

(3) kadın doktor

woman doctor
’female doctor’

She is aware, that there are other nominal constructions in Turkish that use suffixed particles,
but the study does not cover them. We see in Türker’s examples that the Turkish grammar is
not changed or affected by Norwegian. All three types of nominal groups are used correctly
and show great productivity as to combinations with Norwegian nouns. Examples are:

(4) O-ra-da Avrupa-nin en büyük KLATTREVEGG-i var

That-DER-LOC Europe-GEN most big climbing wall-POSS exist

Indoors, inside.
’Europe’s largest climbing wall is there, inside.’ (Türker 2005:468)

(5) Hala-m-lar SAFTFLASKE-si-ne yağ-ı dol-dur-muş

aunt-POSS.1SG-PL juice bottle-CM-DAT oil-ACC fill-CAUS-PPART
‘My aunt and the other have filled the juice bottle with (olive) oil.’ (Türker 2005:471)

Example (5) shows that even Norwegian compounds like ‘Saft-flaske’ are reanalysed after the
Turkish scheme N+N-CM. The informants obviously do not have problems integrating
Turkish morphology into Norwegian material. Nor does it seem to be difficult to use
Norwegian nouns in Turkish sentences.

Aytemiz (1990), who studied German and Turkish language competence of school children
on written renarration, does detect anomalies in nominal compounds. His informants
frequently dropped the Turkish genitive marker. He also reports different to standard case
marking assigned by some verbs (Aytemiz 1990:73). In Turkish, dative and accusative have
similar semantic roles but some verbs, that have the same meaning, use different cases. The
verb meaning ‘to search’, for example, takes accusative in German (suchen) and dative in
Turkish (aramak). Further, Aytemiz notes generally an excessive use of pronominal subject
and object particles, and multiple plural marking (pronoun and verb), which is not necessary
in Turkish and unusual. This is also stated by Menz (1991:49), who uses oral interviews and
written renarrations of school children between 14-17 in Mannheim, Germany. Menz
(1991:46ff) points to the extended use of directional adjectives as verbal attributes:

(6) devam git-tik

on go-PST.1PL
‘we went on’.

parallel to

(7) geri git-tik

back go-PST.1PL
‘we went back’.

She also reports changes of subcategorical rules for verbs like almak, according to the
German scheme:

(8) uçağ-ı al-dım bu sefer

plane-ACC take-PST.1SG this time
'this time I took the plane'.

A speaker of standard Turkish would not use almak in this sense, instead possibly:

(9) uçak-la git-tim bu sefer

plane-COM go-PST.1SG this time
'this time I went by plane'

and the excessive use of ki as introductory particle for subordinate structures (Menz 1991:80).
Auer/Dirim (2004:134) note the overgeneralisation of hep (‘always’; ‘complete’) in
attributive, emphatic use, as in

(10) bana hep ders ver-mi-yor-lar

me.DAT always lesson give-NEG-PRS-3PL
‘they dont teach me something’

instead of standard Turkish bana hiç ders vermiyorlar (‘they dont teach me anything’).

2.2.4 Word order

Doğruöz and Backus (2007) analysed Turkish-Dutch language contact using eight Interviews
with 18-24 year old students, who have Turkish families. They also interviewed as many
people in Turkey to match their statistical data with a control group. They report a tendency to
VO structures of the Dutch-Turkish sample in sentences, that display post-verbal focused
items, which is a severe violation of Turkish information structure, where OV is the norm.
Cabadağ (2001) conducted a thorough examination of syntactic constructions in the written
translations of his university students with Turkish background. He finds several peculiarities
like Germanoid word order in relative clauses (Cabadağ 2001:112) and post verbal topicalised
participle phrases, as it is common in German:

(11) Eski-den hatta bir erkek sevgili-si-ni

old+ABL even INDF man mistress-POSS.3SG-AKK.]

anl-ıyor-du, [eşarp-la gez-ince]

understand-PROG-PST [scarf-COM stroll-CVB]
'In the past a man understood his mistress, [when she wore a headscarf]' (Cabadağ 2001:121)

The “correct” version according to standard Turkish would be the verb in final position:
Eskiden hatta bir erkek sevgilisini, [eşarp’la gezince] anlıyordu.

2.2.5 Discussion

The problem with written material, as used by Aytemiz (1990), Menz (1991) and Cabadağ
(2001) is, that the informants never could have learned such grammatical subtleties, as they
did not get the same (if any) Turkish language education in school, as students in Turkey do
(Aytemiz’ and Menz’ informants are primary school children in Germany). Cabadağ teaches
Turkish to his university students, of who he picked his informants.
That is what Cindark/Aslan (2004) criticize about these studies. The results have to be
carefully interpreted, because they have mostly been conducted on writing skills, they say.
Second or third generation Turks never acquired writing skills in Turkish, therefore their
performance is weak and study results rather represent mistakes than interferences of German.
If a schoolchild in Germany does not read and write Turkish the same way an adult in Turkey
does, one can not call these differences contact induced language change. According to
Cindark and Aslan's own research (Cindark/Aslan 2004) anaphoric pronoun frequency is
normal and question particle use as well as case marking are correct and apart from
insignificant differences similar to Turkish as it is spoken, i.e. not written, in Turkey.
Furthermore the material has mainly been examined in the context of standard Turkish and
German. A language influence other than German has never been anticipated, even though
linguistic backgrounds of immigrants from Turkey, other than standard Turkish, are highly
likely. Brizić (2007) lists 40 minority languages spoken in Turkey:

Turkic language branch of Altaic language family (13):

Turkmen, Azeri, Kumyk, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uyghur, Usbek, Usbek-Tatar, Crimean Tatar,
Nogay-Tatar, Gagauz, Balkarian, Qaraçay

Northwest Caucasian languages(3):

Kabardian, Abchaz, Ubykh

Northeast Caucasian languages(7):

Avar, Andi, Dido, Lak, Dargwa, Lezgian, Chechen
South Caucasian languages(2):
Georgian, Laz

Indoeuropean language family(12):

Bulgarian, Bosnian, Greek, Pomak, Albanian, Romanes, Kurdish, Zaza, Armenian,
Hemshinli, Judäo-Spanish= "Ladino", Ossetic

Semitic Branch of Afro-Asiatic language family(2):

Arabic, Turoyo/ Surit

And Karapapachean. Also there are very many dialects spoken in different parts of the
country: central Anatolian, Karadeniz and Cypress varieties for example. Brizić (2007) refers
to them as rural Turkish.
According to Grimes (1996) the number of minority languages is 42. Considering this
diversity of languages, structural differences to standard Turkish can freely be anticipated.
Also Doğruöz and Backus (2007:189) highlight deviations from standard Turkish also in their
monolingual control group in Kırşehir, central Anatolia. And they call upon researchers to
question standard Turkish, which is based on written standard and the Istanbul variety, as the
standard of comparison to the migrant language, as Turkish displays variability also in

3. Conclusions
If one realises that language change presupposes innovations of individual interaction partners
and that these innovations can have one or more starting points in the socio-geographic
continuum and that the linguistic change lies less in the innovation and more in its extensive
take-over within the continuum, then it is clear that language change without simultaneously
happening social processes is not possible. We looked closely at these processes and it seems
obvious that, at least in Germany, the situation of the Turkish speaking minority is changing,
yet indeed, the speaker community itself is changing. Rather than slow and steady language
loss, researches witness maintenance and even growth of the speaker community (Auer/Dirim
2004:37). Turkish not only proves to be relatively resistant to pressure of higher prestige
languages like German, Turkish actually seems to influence these higher prestige languages,
in the sense that a certain speaking style with specific phonetic features is introduced and
becomes a valid code over the years of its existence. The widely known ’Kanak Sprak’ or
‘Kiezdeutsch’ spoken in urban contexts of Germany is just one example of this development.
European Turkish is different to standard Turkish as we have seen, and some of the
differences can even, with the necessary precautions, be viewed as contact phenomena under
Germanic language influence. Opposite findings would be extraordinarily singular, since
language contact without any influence on a given target language is unusual everywhere
around the globe. The relatively short time period of the language contacts between Turkish
and Germanic languages and the fact that the social circumstances related the speaker
community are still changing make it impossible to predict further developments accurately.
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