Sprechen Wir Deutsch? The construction of identity in Austria and South Tyrol


  • Barbara L. Hilden Graduate of the University of Alberta




This paper examines some of the linguistic tools, techniques, means, and methods by which the populations of Austria and South Tyrol construct identity. In order to better situate these two communities, this paper begins with an overview of the conditions which led to the creation of each state. It then explains some of the ways in which language can be used as a tool of identity construction. Positioning theory details ways both these groups create categories of separation
and belonging. Citing the use of Austrian German, dialect in literature, differing pronunciation, and lexical development, this paper examines how the population of Austria constructs a linguistic identity distancing itself from Germany. This paper also examines how, using similar linguistic tools such as pronoun use and naming techniques, the population of South Tyrol constructs its identity. In contrast to Austria, the South Tyroleans align themselves with Germany, creating closer ties with Germanic neighbours while distancing themselves from Italy. Each population positions itself in relation to Germany, either with or against, using linguistic tools to create a group identity.

Author Biography

Barbara L. Hilden, Graduate of the University of Alberta

2011 Richard Frucht Memorial Student Conference Undergraduate Paper Winner