SynMod: Modelling morphosyntactic area formation in Swiss German

About the SynMod research project

Both dialectology and geography are concerned with spatially dispersed phenomena. There are various hypotheses in dialectology about the distribution of linguistic phenomena, most of which, however, date back to an earlier period, since research on spatial distribution has not been the main focus during the last few decades. More recently, however, there has been renewed interest in the study and explanation of the spatial distribution of linguistic phenomena not only in dialectology, but in typological research as well. The proposed project aims to more closely link between research questions and methods of the two disciplines dialectology and geography, especially in the field of Geographic Information Science (GIScience). This coordinative effort is expected to advance conceptual approaches to the understanding of spatial distribution in linguistics and to further the development of existing methodology in GIScience.

In Subproject A, the initial goal is to create an overview, based on the material gathered during the project “Dialect Syntax of Swiss German” (Dialektsyntax des Schweizerdeutschen, SADS) and preliminary cartographic work, of the boundary tendencies and spatial distribution of the morphosyntactic phenomena of Swiss German dialects. In close conjunction, both Subproject A and B shall conduct joint studies employing the quantitative methods of GIScience to verify linguistic hypotheses about dispersion patterns in the compiled phenomena. The geographic Subproject B will produce a dissertation that aims to test the applicability of GIScience methods and develop them further on the basis of the SADS-project data. Although several papers with quantitative orientation on the formation of dialect areas have been written in the field of dialectometry, they almost always lacked collaboration between dialectologists and geographers. On account of this, only rather simple geographic concepts, such as geographic distance, were incorporated. This project plans to apply to linguistic data a number of procedures derived from GIScience for the analysis of areal distribution – a methodological challenge, owing to the special characteristics of language data.

See the project overview in the University of Zurich Research Database: Link

Duration of project

February 2013 – April 2017