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Languages in Cities

Interdisciplinary Center "European Languages: Structures - Development - Comparison" at Freie Universität Hosts Symposium from August 21 to 24: Language and the City

№ 201/2012 from Jul 30, 2012

The Interdisciplinary Center "European Languages: Structures - Development - Comparison" (ZEUS) at Freie Universität is organizing a symposium dealing with the use of languages in cities. It will be held from August 21 to 24. Among other things the researchers will be discussing how the standard languages of urban areas are influenced by variants used by multilingual youth. The role played by social networks will be one important aspect of the discussions.

Large cities attract increasing numbers of individuals. Since 2007, there have been more people living in urban areas than in the less populated countryside. These demographic changes have an impact on language. There is great social diversity in cities, often due to immigration. During the conference, about 1,000 linguists will be presenting their research results on modern cities and urban areas. The focus will be on Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, and Cape Town as well as Berlin, London, and Paris. The symposium will be offering diverse, interdisciplinary, and intercultural insights into a wide range of sociolinguistic topics.

Among other issues, the linguists are interested in whether Facebook, Twitter, and other means of communication on the Internet have an impact on language use. They are examining the consequences of multilingualism and of how linguistic urban standards emerge. For example, they will discuss what neighborhood German (Kiezdeutsch) is and how it originated. What linguistic means do rappers in São Paulo select in order to stage their cultural and social identity? How is it possible to document the everyday language of a metropolis empirically? Which dialect of Spanish is preferred by the Spanish-speaking community in New York? These are just some examples of issues being discussed.

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Matthias Hüning and Prof. Dr. Uli Reich, Freie Universität Berlin, Interdisciplinary Center "European Languages: Structures - Development - Comparison," Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-548 07, Email: and Tel. +49 (0)30 / 838-546 11, Email: