Sprache, Unterricht und Macht
: Eine historisch-soziolinguistische Diskursanalyse von Zeitungsberichten über die Sprachunterrichtspolitik in der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft Belgiens (1919-1989)

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Languages, Letters and Translation


My PhD thesis falls within the scope of historical sociolinguistics and aims at identifying the different public opinions about the language-in-education policy in the German-speaking Community of Belgium, through a discourse analysis of articles from various German-speaking newspapers. Until now, this question had not been systematically investigated.
The analysis was carried out based on the identification of a certain number of topoi, which can be defined as argumentation structures. Recently, this approach has been used succesfully in studies of linguistic minorities such as Canada and Switzerland.
As far as the language-in-education policy is concerned, my thesis only covers the analysis of the different opinions on language maintenance and second language acquisition (SLA). French is indeed currently considered as the second language in the German-speaking Community, which has not always been the case in this region that underwent some linguistic, political and geographical changes throughout its history.
The study is divided into four periods: the Treaty of Versailles, when the Cantons of Eupen, St. Vith and Malmedy were annexed to Belgium, until the beginning of the Second World War (1919-1940); the Second World War period (1940-1945); the period of the reintegration in Belgium until the new language legislation introducing the territorial principle in Belgium (1945-1963); and, finally, the period following the introduction of these laws until the transfer of educational matters from the federal to the community level (1963-1989). The aim was not to statistically quantify these opinions, but rather to measure the influence of history on the opinions of the different actors and groups, and to identify them with a more qualitative approach.
Therefore I compiled a corpus myself, which includes 318 newspaper articles about language-in-education policy, and I checked whether the different topoi

(a) were used in an article or not
(b) if so, were they used in a positive or a negative way
(c) were used with other topoi

Moreover, I identified the use of conceptual metaphors in the topoi from different articles in order to analyse how topoi were realized from a linguistic perspective.
If public opinions were quite rare during the first periods, an increase and a diversification of the number of actors (readers, parents committees, students/pupils…) are observed during the third and especially fourth time frame. Regional differences are noticeable as well: while bilingual education is encouraged in the North of the Community (Eupen), the South (Saint-Vith) prefers introducing the second language (French) as late as possible and not using it as a teaching language.
One of the main conclusions is undoubtedly that public opinions didn’t directly influence the language policy on a central level. However, we see that some future politicians were among the actors identified in the analysis of the last time frame (1963-1989). They are the politicians who, among others, built the prevailing language-in-education policy after the competency transfer of language use in teaching in 1997.
Date of Award19 Apr 2016
Original languageGerman
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SupervisorJeroen Darquennes (Supervisor), Laurence Mettewie (President), Wim Vandenbussche (Jury), Mélanie Wagner (Jury) & Eva Vetter (Jury)


  • Contact linguistics
  • Historical Sociolinguistics
  • Language-in-education policy
  • language policy
  • discourse analysis
  • language maintenance
  • SLA (second language acquisition)
  • topos
  • CDA
  • German-speaking Community of Belgium

Attachment to an Research Institute in UNAMUR


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