German in media and language arts outside the German-language territory

Authored by: Ulrich Ammon , David Charlston

The Position of the German Language in the World

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138717657
eBook ISBN: 9781315157870
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, “media” are understood not in the broadest sense, as all components necessary for the transmission of information between senders and receivers (light rays, paper, soundwaves etc.), but in the narrower sense of “medial forms of communication” defined by Ulrich Schmitz (2004: 58). Indeed, subdividing the chapter into two sections “media” and “language arts” only makes sense with this narrower definition. The section on media is the more dynamic of the two. Electronic media and the opportunities for communication opened by them have developed rapidly in recent history, and a slackening of pace is unlikely. According to one assessment, the most important electronic media include telegraphy, telephony, broadcasting, with radio and TV, Internet, intranet, CD-ROM, e-book, electronic newspaper and mobile phone ( In the list, I have italicised the media to be discussed in the present chapter. The computer is an obvious prerequisite for many of these examples. Internet-based media (Ch. I.1.4), and among them the rapidly developing social media (Ch. I.1.4.2), are of special significance. These Internet-based media are often grouped together under the heading of “new media”. But more traditional media continue to exist alongside them, especially the print media, such as newspapers, magazines and books, as well as photography, especially film. Schmitz (2004: 58) names the following medial forms of communication: books, the press, radio, TV, video/DVD, cinema – telephone, fax, SMS, computer (with hypermedia, chat, email). He also mentions “incidental media”, such as billboards and product labelling (ibid: 60) to which recipients or consumers are exposed randomly, without actively selecting them. Based on more recent developments, smart phones and tablets must be added to this list, creating overlaps with other forms of communication, such as the telephone. I shall not attempt a systematic classification here, especially in view of the pace of current developments. However, one important distinction must be made between unilateral and bilateral directions of communication, which I have separated with a hyphen in the list of medial forms of communication above. Most of the “new media”, or more explicitly, new medial forms of communication, belong in the latter group. The group comprising different options for bilateral communication includes the various forms of social media. The rapid development of these social media is evident, e.g. from the fact that successful platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were founded only in 2004 and 2006 respectively (Ch. I.1.4.2).

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