Germanistik in der Schweiz. Online-Zeitschrift der SAGG 3/2006

Literale Praxis - Mehrsprachigkeit - Sprachkonzeptualisierung

Ingo Thonhauser (Genf/Fribourg)



It is the main aim of this paper to outline possible connections between literacy practices and conceptualisations of language and language use, starting with the basic assumption that these conceptualisations are either shaped by literacy practices or, more radically, are a result of these practices themselves. In the first part I present and discuss the controversies characterising the current literacy debate and conclude with three hypotheses on literacy and perceptions of language. They all have in common that great importance is attributed to L1 or first literacy. In the second part I try to demonstrate the plausibility of these hypotheses using data drawn from a varied corpus that I assembled over the past years and continue to add to. The way literacy shapes conceptualisations of what language is and what we do with language, can be observed in different areas, starting with the process of acquiring a writing system but also comprising instances of metalinguistic attention and awareness with resulting perceptions of the pragmatics of language use. This holds true for monolingual contexts, but becomes especially salient in multilingual settings.

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