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deanne cantrell, germany, 2014-2015
Fulbright Scholar Deanne Cantrell

Fulbright Year: 2014-2015
Country: Germany
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Undergraduate Major: German
Graduation Date: Spring 2014
Hometown: Douglasville, Georgia

DeAnne Cantrell’s Fulbright year will be unforgettable as it will encompass her passions – she loves Germany and she loves language.

“I am a linguist to the bone with an almost unhealthy enjoyment of historical linguistics,” DeAnne says. “Sociolinguistics is my candy. Dialectology is my drug.”

After spending 11 months in the Bavarian town of Bamberg in an academic exchange program, DeAnne discovered several years ago that German is much like English – there’s a standard, accepted form of the language, but it has little to do with how people speak on an everyday basis.

During her previous residency overseas, DeAnne learned about linguistic variations like Eastern Franconian, Middle Bavarian, and Swabian, and realized that the “standard” German language – Hochdeutsch – isn’t “real” German, but is instead a construct.

“People would speak Hochdeutsch with me, sure, but it marked me as a foreigner and was much less linguistically prestigious… than dialect,” she says.

Niedersachsen – where Saxon dialects are utilized – will serve as the locale for DeAnne’s Fulbright year, and she looks forward to learning just as much as teaching.

“In a best-case, perfect-world scenario, I’ll be placed in a small, backwoods town somewhere, or maybe a fishing town to the far north – somewhere where the dialect will be thick, difficult to understand, and, to a linguist, utterly entrancing,” she said.

“On the flip side, while I’m there I fully intend to expose German students to as many varieties of English as I possibly can, and I’m going to do my best not to filter out the Southern flavor in my own language. I’ve started collecting Southern phrases so I don’t have to fumble explaining them. I’m currently working through how to explain what it means when one says something will ‘make you want to slap your mama.’”

Armed with examples of Southern English, African-American Vernacular English, and Cajun speaking styles, among others, DeAnne plans to explore way beyond the English and German reflected in typical textbooks.

“I really think it’s a crime against students everywhere to only teach them one flavor of a language,” she says. “Ignoring linguistic variations makes language seem cold and hollow, and since languages are one of the primary transmitters of culture, I think a great portion of that culture gets cut out as well.

“The entire point of Fulbright is the further understanding between cultures, right? A really good way to do that is the start recognizing languages as a whole, with all of the ‘ugliness’ of their dialects and varieties intact, instead of only representing the construct of standardized language.”

At the conclusion of her Fulbright year, DeAnne – who is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society – says she hopes to remain in Germany to continue studying the area’s dialect. Further on up the road, DeAnne plans to earn her master’s degree in German linguistics and teach dialectology at an American university.

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