On 19 June 2019, Rob Penhallurick gave a guest talk at the prestigious Deutscher Sprachatlas, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. The title of Rob’s talk was ‘Change and Continuity in Dialect Study’, based on the extensive research done for his 2018 book, Studying Dialect (Palgrave Macmillan International Higher Education).
Marburg University is a major centre of dialect research, and is where the world’s first national linguistic atlas, the Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reichs, was started by Georg Wenker in 1876. Collecting data from over 40,000 localities between 1876 and 1887, the project has been producing important research ever since, on German dialects and on the nature of historical and ongoing linguistic change. Wenker’s work was a key influence on the geolinguistics of the English language as dialect atlases were carried out in the British Isles and North America in the twentieth century, including the Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects and the Survey of English Dialects.
Since 2001, a wealth of Wenker’s work and many other German linguistic atlases have been digitized and placed online by the Deutscher Sprachatlas, with the help of funding from the Academy of Sciences and Literature (Mainz). Read about the project and use its resources at: https://www.regionalsprache.de.
The new Deutscher Sprachatlas building has its own library and archive rooms housing original audio recordings dating back a hundred years and thousands of meticulously hand-drawn dialect maps made by Wenker and his team. Scholars at the Centre continue to be at the forefront of research on the relationship between linguistic diversity and linguistic change, and the Deutcher Sprachatlas is an impressive example of the foundational achievements that are possible when sustained, long-term investment supports the work of dedicated scholars.
Simon Kasper shows Rob an original hand-drawn map by Georg Wenker from July 1880. You can see the full digitized version at: https://www.regionalsprache.de/SprachGIS/Map.aspx.