Banner Viadrina

German as a Minority Language

Range of tasks
Previous research activities
Concerning current research activities and planning
Recent Publications

Range of tasks

German minorities live in numerous countries worldwide. They have settled in more than 30 countries in all five continents due to economic, political or religiously motivated migration, but also due to state colonialization projects in various historical epochs. Today the German minorities have, to a greater or lesser degree, integrated themselves into their respective societies and have – despite the continuation of independent ethnic-cultural characteristics – assimilated themselves into the majority culture and language. However, these minorities were always involved in a process of cultural exchange, the give and take of cultural and linguistic interference; sometimes in the role of a cultural mediator. The return of German population groups primarily from eastern Europe and eastern central Europe today brings elements of cultural interference back to Germany. Research into multilingualism and multiculturalism, which has involved German minorities both historically and at the present, is essentially comparative cultural research. The chair, in its research and teaching and its coordination of linguistic and interdisciplinary research in Germany and abroad, deals with the Language, Culture and History of German Minorities worldwide.

In the medium term, focus is put especially on German minorities in eastern Europea and eastern central Europe (above all CIS, Poland) and in Latin America as well as on the linguistic integration of ethnic German emigrants in Germany.

Our research concentrates above all on questions concerning sociolinguistics, dialectics and linguistic historical issues. Interdisciplinary areas that are related to these questions are, amongst others, linguistic minority and linguistic contact research, linguistic policy and minority rights and issues concerning migration and ethnicity research. Furthermore, applied research will be carried out into the integration of ethnic German emigrants, school lessons for German minority groups and current transformations in linguistic policy concepts in various European and non-European countries.

Previous research activities

Founding of the chair:
Commencement of activities:
1989 (at the Freie Universität Berlin)
since 1993 at the European University Frankfurt(Oder)
Prof. Dr. Harald Weydt
Dr. Peter Rosenberg
Dr. Klaas-Hinrich Ehlers


  • own research work and research trips concerning the language, culture and history of Germans in the former Soviet Union in cooperation with local partners 
  • supervising and evaluating research work concerning German minorities in eastern Europe and eastern central Europe (e.g. Poland, Russia, Bashkiria, Kazakhstan) and Latin America (e.g. Belize, Mexico) and other countries (South Africa) 
  • specialist research cooperation with linguists in Germany and abroad (e.g. Russia, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, the Czech Republic, former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, USA) 
  • interdisciplinary cooperation with scientists from related areas (history studies, literary studies, sociology, educational science, geography)
  • two international conferences concerning the German language in the former Soviet Union/CIS in cooperation with Russian partners (Berlin 1990, St Petersburg 1993) 
  • joint organization of workshops concerning the linguistic integration of German ethnic emigrants in Germany in cooperation with partners in the Federal Republic of Germany
  • scientific support and advising of institutions, associations and state organizations in matters concerning minorities and German ethnic emigrants 
  • publications and editorships concerning the language, culture and history of German minorities in eastern Europe and eastern central Europe 
  • compilation of an electronic bibliography “German in Eastern Europe” (DIOBIB) currently containing circa 1,500 titles 
  • documentation of speech samples and speech biographies (currently circa 80 cassette tapes) 
  • financing of research activities from third-party funding (German Research Foundation, Fritz Thyssen Foundation, German Academic Exchange Service)

Concerning current research activities and planning


  • Studies concerning language development in Russian-German villages in the Altaj Region (western Siberia): Under which conditions do the German language and culture remain intact, under which are they lost? Where is German still spoken, where is Russian spoken now? What are the effects of the variety of German dialects on a village? Do religious groupings have a positive effect on the retention of the German language and culture? 
  • Research into the language history of the Russian Mennonites in the Orenburg (Ural foreland) region: which (lower German) dialects of the Mennonites have remained intact, how many have become mixed? 
  • Research into the linguistic and ethnic cultural assimilation of Russian-German youth in a village in the Altaj Region (western Siberia) 
  • Joint research project with Prof. Lew Malinowskij (Barnaul State Pedagogical University/Russia): sociolinguistic follow-up study relating to a study carried out in the 1960s concerning the conditions which led to the retention or loss of the German language amongst the Germans in the Altaj Region. The development after 25 to 30 years will be documented in a longitudinal study 
  • Empirical study into the language of the German population in selected parts of Upper Silesia
  • Cooperation within the framework of a project applied for by Prof. Helga Schultz, (History Studies, Faculty of Social and Cultural Sciences of Viadrina) concerning the border region along the Oder 1945-1990: partial project concerning German-Polish bilingualism in the Oder region.
  • Studies concerning the historical role of the German language in eastern central Europe and eastern Europe and its suppression in the time of the emerging national socialism in the second half of the 19th century: exemplary case studies concerning the historical function types in eastern central Europe and eastern Europe:


German as a lingua franca in large interconnected areas of settlement with extensive bilingualism in today’s Poland


German as a complex ensemble of numerous regional dialects of farming populations separated into colonies in Russia


German as the language of the ruling class and administration in the Baltic area and the settlement areas of the Teutonic Order


German as a language of learning in Hungary and further afield (e.g. Prague)


German as an urban language variety, partially with the function of a lingua franca (e.g. Lodz)

  • Cooperation with linguists from Poland and the Netherlands within the framework of studies into the history of German minority groups in today’s Poland.



  • A study concerning the phase development of the linguistic and social integration of Russian-German emigrants in the Federal Republic of Germany and their identity conflicts
  • Language re-acquisition of Russian-German emigrants: advantages in acquiring high German due to knowledge of dialects using the example of the use of articles
  • Empirical work concerning the structural interference of the Russian language in the usage of German by Russian-German speakers (use of the verb)
  • Investigation into linguistic and social integration of Russian-German youth in the Federal Republic of Germany: from Meckenheim (near Bonn) came the first reports of serious conflicts with so-called “Russian gangs”. The comparison of two Russian-German youth groups shows how strongly “ghettoization” on the one hand, and Russian patterns of behavior, on the other hand, could result in the segregation of emigrant youth from the native German environment when identity conflicts between native German and Russian culture are driven into irreconcilableness.
  • Workshops concerning the linguistic integration of German emigrants in cooperation with the Institute of German Language and the University of Duisburg-Essen: theoretical and practical problems of the integration of German ethnic emigrants and German lessons for German ethnic emigrants.


  • An empirical study of linguistic development and the ethnic-cultural identity of the Mennonites in Belize: where do the Mennonites (originally from Russia) continue to speak their low German dialect and where do they speak their “bible language” high German? Which cultural characteristics have they maintained? Which language do they use in contact with the inhabitants of this multilingual country (Spanish, English, native languages)?
  • Joint supervision of a study concerning language use, social and religious change and ethnic identity of Old Colony Mennonites in Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Research and contact visit to develop a cooperation network of existing research institutes and projects concerning German minority groups in Latin America (e.g. Mexico, Brazil, Chile).


Rosenberg, Peter (1991a): "Deutsch in Osteuropa". In: Klein, Eberhard, Pouradier Duteil,Françoise, Wagner, Karl-Heinz (Hrsgg): Betriebslinguistik und Linguistikbetrieb. Akten des 24.Linguistischen Kolloquiums, Universität Bremen, 4.-6. September 1989. Bd. 2. Tübingen: Niemeyer: 341-354.

Rosenberg, Peter (1991b): "Deutsch in der Sowjetunion". In: Feldbusch, Elisabeth, Pogarell, Reiner, Weiß, Cornelia (Hrsgg.): Neue Fragen der Linguistik. Akten des 25. Linguistischen Kolloquiums, Paderborn 1990. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Rosenberg, Peter (1992): Neue Forschungen zum Zustand der Sprache der Deutschen in der Sowjetunion". In: Kugler, Hartmut (Hrsg.): Kulturelle Identität der deutschsprachigen Minderheiten in Rußland/UdSSR. (= Dokumentation des Kasseler Ost-West-Kongresses 1990, Bd.2). Kassel: Jenior und Pressler: 45-73.

Rosenberg, Peter (1993a): "Deutsch für Aussiedler: Alte Fehler auf neuem Gebiet?" In: Klotz,Peter, Sieber, Peter (Hrsgg.): Vielerlei Deutsch. Stuttgart: Klett: 162-172.

Rosenberg, Peter (1993b): "Deutsche, die nicht Deutsch können?" In: Handschlag 5/1993: 4-5.

Rosenberg, Peter (1994a): "Sprachgebrauchsstrukturen und Heterogenität der Kommunikationsgemeinschaft bei den Deutschen in der GUS - eine empirische Studie". In: König,Peter-Paul, Wiegers, Helmut (Hrsgg.): Satz - Text - Diskurs. Akten des 27. Linguistischen Kolloquiums, Münster 1992. Bd. 2. Tübingen: Niemeyer: 287-298.

Rosenberg, Peter (1994b): "Varietätenkontakt und Varietätenausgleich bei den Rußlanddeutschen: Orientierungen für eine moderne Sprachinselforschung". In: Berend, Nina, Mattheier, Klaus J. (Hrsgg.): Sprachinselforschung. Eine Gedenkschrift für Hugo Jedig.. Tübingen: Lang: 123-164.

Rosenberg, Peter (1994c): "Nachbarsprachen in West- und Osteuropa: Einleitendes zum zentralen Themenbereich der GAL 1992 `Nachbarsprachen in Kontakt´". In: Spillner, Bernd (Hrsg.): Nachbarschaften in Europa. Kongreßbeiträge zur 23. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Angewandte Linguistik GAL e.V. (= forum Angewandte Linguistik, 26): 39-43.

Rosenberg, Peter (1994d): "Sprache, Identität und Sprachgemeischaft bei den Deutschen in der ehemaligen Sowjetunion". In: Eichinger, Ludwig, Raith, Joachim (Hrsgg.): Vorträge der Sektion "Kontaktlinguistik" der 22. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Angewandte Linguistik, Mainz 1991. Essen: Brockmeyer.

Rosenberg, Peter, Weydt, Harald (1992): "Sprache und Identität. Neues zur Sprachentwicklung der Deutschen in der Sowjetunion". In: Meissner, Boris, Neubauer, Helmut, Eisfeld, Alfred (Hrsgg.:) Die Rußlanddeutschen - Gestern und heute. Köln: Markus: 217-238.

Rosenberg, Peter, Weydt, Harald (1994): "Sprachen und Sprachgemeinschaft der Wolgadeutschen". In: Schramm, Gottfried, Dahlmann, Dieter (Hrsgg.): Beiträge der Konferenz über die Geschichte und Kultur der Wolgadeutschen von den Großen Reformen bis zum Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges, Freiburg 1992.

Rosenberg, Peter, Weydt, Harald (1995): "The Language of the Soviet Germans - Language Loss, Diglossia and Emigration" In: Press, Ian et al. (1994): Proceedings of the V. Con gress for Soviet and Eastern European Studies, Harrogate, 1990 (Arbeitstitel) (ersch. demn.)

Rosenberg, Peter, Weydt, Harald (1995a): Deutsch in der ehemaligen Sowjetunion. Tagungsband der Ersten Internationalen Konferenz "Deutsch in der Sowjetunion", Berlin 1990. Tübingen: Niemeyer (ersch. demn.).

Rosenberg, Peter, Weydt, Harald (1995b): Deutsche Sprache in den Ländern der ehemaligen So wjetunion. tagungsband der Zweiten Internationalen Konferenz "Deutsche Sprache in den Ländern der ehemaligen Sowjetunion", St. Petersburg 1993. Tübingen: Niemeyer (in Vorber.).

Weydt, Harald (1992a): "La situation linguistique des Russo-Allemands". In: Société Interna tionale de Linguistique Fonctionelle. Actes du XVIIe Colloque International, Prague 1991. Prag: 180-184.

Weydt, Harald (1992b): "Kurzrezension von Berend, Nina, Jedig, Hugo (1991): Deutsche Mundarten in der Sowjetunion. Geschichte der Forschung und Bibliographie. Marburg: Elwert". In: Germanistik 33, H.3/4: 716.

Recent Publications

Nyman, Lennart (1972): Zur Heimatbestimmung sowjetdeutscher Mundarten. (Phil. cand.-Examens arbeit, Universität Lund). Lund.

Nyman, Lennart (1977): "Eine Mennonitin von der Wolga erzählt". In: Riemann, Erhard (Hrsg.): Jahrbuch für ostdeutsche Volkskunde 20. Marburg: 99-127.

Nyman, Lennart (1978): "Die niederdeutschen Mundarten der Rußland-Mennoniten". In: Hyldegaard- Jensen, Karl (Hrsg.): Beiträge zur historischen grammatik und zur Dialektologie. (= Kopenhagener Beiträge zur germanistischen Linguistik 10). Kopenhagen: 43-56.

Nyman, Lennart (1979): "Weltsprache Niederdeutsch". In: Michelsen, Friedrich W. (Hrsg.): Fest schrift. Niederdeutsche tage in Hamburg 1979 - 75 Jahre Vereinigung Quickborn. Hamburg: 10-24.

Nyman, Lennart (1980): "Studien zur niederdeutschen Mundart des Dorfes Paulsheim in der Ukraine". (Lic.phil.-Dissertation, Universität Kopenhagen). Kopenhagen.

Nyman, Lennart (1980): Die Voraussetzungen für die Erforschung der niederdeutschen Mundart der Rußland-Mennoniten - eine kritische Stellungnahme. (Lic.phil.-Examensarbeit, Universität Kopenhagen). Kopenhagen.

Nyman, Lennart (1982): "Eine Stimme aus dem Volke der Wanderschaft". In: Tolksdorf, Ulrich (Hrsg.): Jahrbuch für ostdeutsche Volkskunde 25. Marburg: 238-257.

Nyman, Lennart (1982): "Zum Niederdeutsch der rußlanddeutschen Mennoniten".In: Bericht über die Erste Internationale Kulturtagung der Deutschen aus Rußland vom 3. bis 5. September 1982 in Stuttgart. Stuttgart: 21-37.

Nyman, Lennart (1983): "Bibliographie zur rußlanndeutschen Mundartforschung". In: Tolksdorf, Ulrich (Hrsg.): Jahrbuch für ostdeutsche Volkskunde 26. Marburg: 423-443.