Publication details [#54691]

Selting, Margret. 2011. Prosody and unit-construction in an ethnic style. The case of Turkish German and its use and function in conversation. In Selting, Margret and Friederike Kern, eds. Ethnic Styles of Speaking in European Metropolitan Areas. (Studies in Language Variation 8). John Benjamins. pp. 131–159.
Publication type
Article in book
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins


This paper presents some results of the projects on Turkish German that we have carried out at the University of Potsdam, Germany, starting from 2004. Our empirical data from telephone conversations between young people of Turkish-German background from Berlin show that prosody plays an important role in the constitution of their ethnic style. In particular, prosodic phrasing is used for the construction of short turn-constructional units (TCUs) and/or the separation of longer syntactic-semantic units into several short prosodic units. The latter is achieved both by pre- and post-positioning syntactic constituents in relation to their host syntactic clauses as well as by juxtapositioning short clauses and phrases. In many cases, information that in colloquial German would be phrased in one single turn-constructional unit, with co-occurring syntactic and prosodic units, is split up into several short prosodic units in Turkish German. While the phonetic and prosodic cues that make the beginning of new units recognizable for the recipient seem to be identical for colloquial and Turkish German, prosodic units in Turkish German have a relation to syntactic and semantic units or domains that is different from colloquial German. The analyses that are presented in this paper have been attained on the basis of natural data that have been subjected to a combination of research methods: auditory and acoustic phonetic analysis as well as conversation analysis and interactional-linguistic description. The paper will present both a structural and a functional analysis of selected utterances and data extracts. The features that will be describe are some of the most important ones to constitute Turkish German as a style of speaking. This style, however, is not displayed throughout the conversations, but only realized in particular sequential environments. It is used as a discourse-pragmatic focussing strategy and, in particular, for the contextualization of the dramatization and the high points/climaxes in story tellings.