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Outline of the History of the Institute

The institute was founded by linguist Georg Wenker (1852–1911).

Year Event
1876 Georg Wenker sends a questionnaire with 42 short “folk” sentences to schools in the Rhineland, which he translated into the respective local dialects with the teachers’ help, to create a “dialect map of the northern Rhine Province.” The goal is to identify the boundary between the southern “Central German” and the northern “Low German” dialects.
1877 Wenker takes on a librarian position at Philipps-Universität Marburg.
1879 Via the Faculty of Philosophy at Philipps-Universität Marburg, he submits a plan for a “Dialectkarte der preuß. Monarchie” to the Prussian Minister of Culture in Berlin and then receives support from there.

He starts the preliminary work for a “Sprachatlas von Nord- und Mitteldeutschland”. The data are collected in the same way as for the “Dialectkarte der nördlichen Rheinprovinz,” but with modified phrases, which have been used as “Wenkersätze” in German dialectology to the present day.

1887 The survey area is extended to the entire German Empire, and Wenker’s enterprise becomes an institution under the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. The preparation of the handwritten “Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reichs” begins. Later, the German-speaking areas of Central Europe outside the borders of the German Empire are also covered. By the end of the survey in 1939, questionnaires became available from a total of about 55,000 locales.
1908 Publication of the first edition of the series Deutsche Dialektgeographie (DDG), which was originally founded by linguist Ferdinand Wrede and still exists today. The available dialect surveys are expanded with in-depth local and regional studies (so-called “landscape” or Landschaft grammars).
1911 After Wenker’s death, his colleague (since 1887) Ferdinand Wrede (1863-1934) takes over. In personal union, he heads the office of the newly founded Hesse-Nassau Dialect Dictionary, an enterprise of the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

The Deutsche Sprachatlas-enterprise is transformed into the “Zentralstelle für den Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reichs und deutsche Mundartenforschung” as an institute at Philipps-Universität Marburg.

1927 Printing of the Deutscher Sprachatlas (DSA) begins as the first form in which the available Wenker-data were published. By 1956, 128 maps are published.
1930 Hermann Jacobsohn (1879-1933), an Indo-Europeanist from Marburg, is appointed provisional head of the “Zentralstelle”. On April 25, 1933, shortly after Hitler’s seizure of power, Jacobsohn – who was a member of the Jewish religious community – was dismissed from his position as a university lecturer. Two days later he takes his own life.
1933 Walther Mitzka (1888-1976) succeeds Ferdinand Wrede – who had retired in 1929 – as director of the institute, which from then on bears the name “Deutscher Sprachatlas” (DSA) in reference to the print atlas that is being made.
1938 Mitzka begins the data collection for the “Deutsche Wortatlas” (DWA). Again, data are collected from almost 50,000 locales in German-speaking Central Europe (excluding Switzerland). The Deutsche Wortatlas is published between 1951 and 1980 in a total of 22 volumes.
1956 Ludwig Erich Schmitt (1908-1996) becomes Mitzka's successor. The institute is renamed: “Forschungsinstitut für deutsche Sprache - Deutscher Sprachatlas”. Schmitt founds the series Deutscher Sprachatlas. Regionale Sprachatlanten and drives the work on the Deutsche Wortatlas, making the institute an internationally recognized training center for scholars of Germanic linguistics by including new questions in its research program.

The Institute becomes part of a unit of Philipps-Universität Marburg by decree of the Hesse State Minister of Culture, incorporating the Hesse-Nassau Dialect Dictionary Research Institute. A directorate takes over management. The executive directors are Reiner Hildebrandt (1974–1979, 1995–1998), Wolfgang Putschke (1979–1987) and Joachim Göschel (1987–1995). Between 1983 and 1989, the Research Institute is divided into an Institute I (General Dialectology) under Director Walter Haas and an Institute II (Departments of Historical Dialectology, Phonetics, Linguistic Informatics, Language in Hesse, and the Hesse-Nassau Dialect Dictionary) with alternating executive directors.

1984 The “Kleiner Deutscher Sprachatlas” (KDSA), compiled using computer methods, begins to appear, covering the topics not addressed in the printed German Language Atlas based on a selection of 6,000 questionnaires from a total of about 50,000 collected (completed 1999).
2000 Jürgen Erich Schmidt (born 1954) is appointed director of the institute in the course of the reorganization of the institute where the individual departments are merged into one overarching institute.
2001 The DFG project “Digitaler Wenker Atlas” (DiWA) begins, running for eight years, to facilitate the completion of the publication and digital processing of Wenker’s maps on the Internet. In parallel, the writings about the “Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reiches” compiled by Wenker will also be published.
2003 The institute hosts the 1st Congress of the “Internationale Gesellschaft für Dialektologie des Deutschen” (IGDD) in Marburg from 5–8 March 2003.
2008 The institute is renamed the “Research Center Deutscher Sprachatlas”. In the same year, the major project (REDE), is launched, financed by the Academy of Sciences and Literature (Mainz) for 19 years. Language surveys begin throughout Germany, which are intended to lead to a reassessment of regional language conditions. In parallel, the research platform on German regional languages set up using the DiWA is expanded.
2016 The Institute moves into a research building approved by the German Science and Humanities Council and financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the state of Hesse. This move enables a closer focus on the fields of language dynamics and cognition.
The institute hosts the 6th Congress of the Internationale Gesellschaft für Dialektologie des Deutschen (IGDD) in Marburg from 13–15 September 2018.
2020 Alfred Lameli (born 1971) is appointed as Schmidt’s successor.