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Chapter 4 - English in the Former German Democratic Republic

from I - The Status of English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2019

Raymond Hickey
Universität Duisburg–Essen
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One of the goals of this volume is to present an insight into the influence of English on the people and their language in Germany. In order to be true to the history of English in contemporary Germany, it is reasonable to allow for a chapter that looks at English and its role, if it had any, in the German Democratic Republic (henceforth abbreviated as GDR). Sharing the position that ‘the GDR was a real and complicated homeland [and] a difficult past that is over, but not gone’ (Harsch 2010: 25), the present author would like to apply this position to the presence of English in the GDR. In order to demonstrate and discuss the latter, the chapter will consider various aspects. In the first of the topical sections, the role of English is examined, i.e. the role of English in the educational system and the role that English was given within the ideological boundaries of the political system in the GDR. Moving towards language-related issues, a further section reports on the influence of English on the German language in the GDR. That section reassesses English loans and English-based words that appear in the lexicon of GDR German. More importantly, it will be discussed whether these words and phrases are exclusive to GDR German. The third section of this contribution is devoted to the English language as it was taught to and spoken by GDR citizens. This part is an attempt to give an answer to questions such as the following. Was there a specific East-German foreign language variety of English? And, if so, where can GDR English – given that this nomenclature is permitted – be witnessed? What are perceivable features of that foreign-language variety? The various sections are tied together by a conclusion calling for further research. To begin with, a brief section is offered which clarifies underlying concepts and terminology.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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