Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century

by Anna Havinga (Volume editor) Nils Langer (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection X, 310 Pages
Series: Historical Sociolinguistics, Volume 2


The great linguistic diversity of spoken languages contrasts greatly with the much smaller number of languages used in written discourse. Many linguistic varieties – in particular, regional and minority languages – are not deemed suitable for writing because they do not possess the necessary lexical wealth or grammatical complexity. Such prejudices are commonplace amongst non-linguists and they have their origin in the sociolinguistic history of their speaker communities.
This book focuses on the nineteenth century as the time when language became an important part of the cultural identity of speakers, communities and nations. It comprises fourteen chapters on a variety of languages and countries and seeks to explore why and how certain linguistic varieties were excluded from written discourse – in other words, why they remain invisible to contemporary readers and modern historians. The case studies in this book illustrate the factors involved in the invisibilisation of languages in the nineteenth century; the metalinguistic debates about the suppression or promotion of regional, minority and non-standard languages; and the ways in which a careful study of informal writing can visibilise the linguistic diversity of spoken languages.


X, 310
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (November)
sociolinguistics minority languages invisible languages stigmatization language ideologies historical linguistics
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. X, 308 pp., 6 coloured ill., 11 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Anna Havinga (Volume editor) Nils Langer (Volume editor)

Anna Havinga is a doctoral student in historical sociolinguistics at the University of Bristol. Her PhD thesis investigates the standardisation process of German in eighteenth-century Austria, with a particular focus on the role of education. Further research interests include folk linguistics, language attitudes and language contact phenomena. Nils Langer is Professor of Germanic Linguistics at the University of Bristol. Born and raised in Schleswig-Holstein, he studied German and English linguistics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where he completed his PhD on the effectiveness of seventeenth-century German grammarians. He researches a broad range of topics in historical sociolinguistics and currently works on language contact phenomena and language politics in the German–Danish borderlands.


Title: Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century