Edited by Peter Auer, Javier Caro Reina and Göz Kaufmann
[Studies in Language Variation 14] 2013
► pp. 281–294
The case of [nən]
a current change in colloquial standard German
In recent years a new form has emerged in the paradigm of the indefinite article, the so-called “extended short form” nen (Vogel 2006) as in: Ich hab’ nen Mann gesehen. As little is known about the origin of this form (when was it used first, by whom, and in what contexts?), this paper will trace the history of nen using several corpora of colloquial German that cover language use in the 1960s, 1970s and 2000s (Pfeffer-Corpus, Freiburger-Corpus, Dialogstrukturen-Corpus, Emergency-Call-Corpus). Quantitative analyses reveal distinct patterns of variation, which indicate a language change that originated among young speakers in the 1990s. Furthermore, the findings show that the norms of colloquial German have clearly changed during the last 50 years. Explicit forms, which dominated language use in the 1960s and 1970s have been replaced by short forms (including the “extended short form” nen). It can be concluded that standard norm awareness was high in the 1960s, whereas today speakers exhibit low norm awareness and evaluate colloquial, supra-regional variants positively, even in formal contexts.