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Sassenberg, Stefan (2010): Sprechen wie die Ungarn: Sprachkontakt im Varietätenbewusstsein westrumänischer Sprecher. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty for Languages and Literatures



This dissertation focuses on Hungarian-Romanian language contact in Northwest Romania. In the bilingual region of Crişana, a major ethnographic change has occurred since 1920. This has resulted in Hungarians becoming the minority. Migration of ethnic Romanians from the countryside into the cities caused a significant sociolinguistic split between modern urban and traditional rural populations. There has been no sociolinguistic study of the Romanian language in this region up to now. Prior dialect research in the 1960s and 1970s limited itself to contact-induced language change. It contains conflicting views of a number of features of the old, rural Crişana subdialect: mid-open vowels, quantity variation of all vowels, and palatal stops and nasals. Since these features appear in Hungarian too, some scholars consider them to be loans from the contact language, while others do not. An analysis of folk-linguistic beliefs may help explain these inconsistencies. Prior research has not considered this metalinguistic view of the speakers. This dissertation fills this gap. It starts methodologically from a model developed by Krefeld and Pustka (2010), that speakers’ knowledge is manifested both in discourse about language and in actual behavior. A survey was carried out, comprising thirty six hour of interviews with a sample of local people of all linguistic backgrounds and ages. The goal was to collect spontaneous folk linguistic discourse (a method suggested by Niedzielski/Preston 2000). In addition there was a questionnaire with open-ended questions. The present dissertation shows conclusively that phonetic borrowing is not the case but, on the contrary, a folk belief about language. It is argued that the Hungarian contact language effects as a negative model for the development of an urban variety that draws from both the Romanian standard and from eliminating similarities with Hungarian. Another major contribution of the dissertation is a taxonomy of speakers which goes beyond the established dichotomy of „Hungarians” vs. „Romanians”. A distinction between practicing bilinguals („communicators”) and practicing monolinguals („segregators”) turns out to be more convincing. In the field of variational linguistics, the results of this study imply that consideration of folk beliefs can be an important factor for determining the value of older research. Furthermore, in this study it proved to be indispensable for establishing a taxonomy of speakers to take into account not only their linguistic competence but their actual performance.