Linguistik online  29, 4/06

Cultural concepts of parenting. A linguistic analysis

Elke Hentschel (Bern)/Heidi Keller (Osnabrück)



This study is part of a larger cross cultural research project on "parenting ethnotheories", where mothers of three months old infants were interviewed about their ideas on good parental care for small babies. They were confronted with picture cards, displaying different parenting behaviours from their own cultural community and were asked to comment on the appropriateness and inappropriateness of such behaviour. This paper addresses 40 of the German language interviews with a total 78,484 words. The central focus of this analysis is the frequency and distribution of modal particles as used in these interviews and as compared to two other corpora with a total of 60,000 words. The results indicate substantial differences with respect to the most frequently used particles, which can be explained by the attitudes of these women towards the particular topic being addressed in the interviews. The particle halt was used 17 times more often, whereas the usually very frequent doch was used 16 times less than usual. Based on the meaning of these particles in the German language, conclusions can be drawn concerning the more or less conscious representation of parenting ideas. The women interviewed regarded their ideas as unchangeable (as expressed in halt) and are convinced that others share their worldview (as expressed in the low incidence of doch).

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