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Phonotactics of Dialects in Germany

The comparative description and analysis of the phonotactic structure of dialects is a research desideratum both for German and for the languages of the world. The DFG project “Phonotactics of dialects in Germany. Initial Exploration of Areal Diversity on the Basis of Spoken Language” aims at the phonotactic-phonological exploration of dialects in Germany and thus, for a core area of grammar, the areal diversity of German. The project is intended to address two major research gaps, which we situate in the areas of the combinatorics of sounds and the typicality of sound groups on the one hand, and in the area of the prosodic structuring of phonological units and the rule-boundness of phonotactic patterns on the other. In line with these research gaps, the overall goal of the project is to document and analyze the phonotactic structure of German dialects on a spoken language basis for the first time. The related guiding research question aims at areal dependency and is: “To what extent are phonotactic structures space-forming for the dialects of German?” To answer this question, the work program will create a corpus of approximately 350,000 words based on spoken language, which we will linguistically process in a way that allows for targeted phonotactic analyses at the word level as well as at the syllable, sound and feature levels. The corpus will be made accessible for research via a database and will be designed in such a way that comparative studies between the major German dialects will be possible on different linguistic levels. This way, we intend within the project to examine which phonetic sequences are at all possible in the dialects and to what extent they differ from those of the standard language. In addition, we want to uncover the phonetic-phonologically and morphologically motivated ordering principles that license the phonotactic possibilities of the dialects (e.g., adherence to sonority sequences, word type restrictions, upper and lower limits of sound clusters). Our project thus becomes a test laboratory for linguistic theories, for example in the area of syllable structure, syllable complexity, and prosodic phonology. The project opens up new empirical territory for central areas of the language system and serves an area-oriented interest in phonology and morphophonology as well as a microlevel interest in language typology.