Stereotyping in the Classroom: The Aargau and the Zürich Swiss Dialects

Jessica Rohr, Purdue University, the U.S.A;     Abstract: This paper investigates speakers’ attitudes towards two Swiss German dialects and the stereotypes that arise thereof in the classroom. Stereotyping is linked to peer interactions in the classroom (Wolfe & Spencer, 1996). There is evidence for negative attitudes between dialects, contributing to negative identity constructions between speakers in Switzerland (Schön & Ritzman, 2006). These identity constructions are implicit and not plainly expressed, but speakers of Swiss German are aware of them (Ammon, 1995). Participants (N = 71) responded to a qualitative survey addressing language attitudes based on work by Preston (2013). Quantitative analysis addressing attitude subcomponents on rating scales complement the qualitative results and aid in examining whether dialect stereotypes arise.

This paper finds that both the Aargau and Zürich dialect speakers ascribe stereotypes to each other’s dialect, which has implications towards classroom practices. I posit solutions towards developing an equitable learning environment through the use of intercultural competence and communication, in order to develop a pedagogical framework to combat implicit dialect bias in the classroom.   


Keywords: Dialect, Intercultural Competence, Swiss German, Language Attitudes, Stereotypes



Ammon, U. (1995). Die Deutsche Sprache in Deutschland, Österreich, und der Schweiz: Das     Problem der Nationalitäten. Berlin, DE: Walter de Gruyter.

Preston, D.R. (2013). Language with an attitude. In J. Chambers & N, Shilling-Estes (Eds.), The      handbook of language variation and change (2nd ed., pp. 157-182). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Schön, S. & Ritzman., A. (2006). Wääh, Ostschwiizer!“ oder arrogante Zürcher?    Spracheinstellungen zu sechs Schweizer Dialekten und ihren Sprechenden. Zürich,    Switzerland: University of Zürich seminar paper in Von der Theorie zur Empirie with             Prof. Dr. Christa Dürscheid.  

Wolfe, C. T., & Spencer, S. J. (1996). Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their Overt and Subtle          Influence in the Classroom. American Behavioral Scientist40(2), 176–185.



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