Mapping German Dialects: Georg Wenker's Sprachatlas and its Successors
UW Madison Memorial LIBRARY, room 126; 728 State Street
Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 6:00pm
Center for German and European Studies at UW-Madison
German dialect mapping began with Georg Wenker (1852–1911). Working as a librarian at the University of Marburg between 1879 and 1888, Wenker sent written questionnaires to all schoolmasters in the German Empire, using 40 sentences that were later named after him (Wenkersätze). Eventually he collected nearly 50,000 questionnaires, and it took the rest of his life (and those of his successors) to map just a small fraction of the data in the hand-drawn Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reichs. In the 20th century this highly detailed atlas could not be published, but with the advent of digitization it has finally become accessible. This presentation will outline Wenker’s project, highlight its 19th-century origin and context, and show that this large body of linguistic data is far from exhausted.
Juerg Fleischer is Professor of Germanic Linguistics at Philipps University of Marburg, Germany