Schnëssen – Crowdsourcing variation and change in spoken Luxembourgish

Luxembourgish is a young and growing language with a high amount of sociolinguistic variation that is currently undergoing a process of standardisation. The aim of the Schnëssen project is to survey this variation using crowdsourced data from a mobile research application.

An evolving language

Luxembourgish is a relatively young and highly dynamic language. Due to its close relationship with the German dialect Moselle Franconian, a large amount of borrowed items from French and German, and the fact that it is embedded in complex societal multilingualism, it is characterised by ample variation, including regional, social and demographic factors.
At the same time, Luxembourgish is currently undergoing a process of standardisation and social re-evaluation, changing from a primarily spoken form to a fully-fledged standard written language. Furthermore, speaker numbers are increasing along with public use due to its role as a language of integration.

A corpus of spoken Luxembourgish

Until now, there has been no comprehensive corpus documenting the richness and diversity of present-day Luxembourgish. Given its current dynamic (and against the backdrop of the national language regime), documenting and analysing language use and variation in Luxembourgish is crucial for a better understanding of:
 a) the current development of the language;
 b) the societal implications of an emerging new standard language;
 c) the impact of this on the practical organisation of multilingualism in everyday life.

Crowdsourcing language use with a mobile app

The Schnëssen project is the first to comprehensively document and analyse variation in present-day Luxembourgish. It uses a free mobile research app for Android and iOS to collect recordings of spoken Luxembourgish covering more than 500 different topics. Participants can take part in different tasks such as translating German/French sentences into Luxembourgish, picture naming or answering sociolinguistic questionnaires to document their personal language use and attitudes. Until now, data from more than 1,000 speakers have been collected, providing 240,000 single recordings.
Initial analyses demonstrate the potential of crowdsourcing for linguistic research. For example, analysis reveals the way the distribution of traditional regional terms (e.g., regional variants of the word “butterfly”) changes over time, and the evolution of the Luxembourgish sound system (e.g., the fact that the distinction between /ch/ and /sch/ has been lost over the last 50 years). Using this rich dataset will enable the creation of a comprehensive language atlas of present-day Luxembourgish. Moreover, it enables researchers to trace language dynamics in close collaboration with its speakers.

More on the Schnëssen app :

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