Metalinguistic Perspectives on Germanic Languages

European Case Studies from Past to Present

by Gijsbert Rutten (Volume editor) Kristine Horner (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection XII, 286 Pages
Series: Historical Sociolinguistics, Volume 4


In what ways has language been central to constructing, challenging and reconfiguring social and political boundaries? This volume traverses space and time to explore the construction of such boundaries. Focusing on the ways that language functions as an inclusive and divisive marker of identity, the volume includes case studies on Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. It also explores the northern and southern borderlands of present-day Germany as well as the city of Cologne and the surrounding Ruhr area. The chapters critically engage with focused accounts of past and present language situations, practices and policies. Taken as a whole, the volume stresses the importance of studying metalinguistic perspectives as a means of enabling detailed analyses and challenging generalizations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1 Metalanguage: Social and Historical Perspectives on Germanic Languages in Europe
  • 1 Introduction: Language in society from past to present
  • 2 Contemporary and historical metalinguistic perspectives
  • 3 Metalinguistic perspectives on Germanic languages: European case studies
  • Bibliography
  • 2 The ‘Golden Age Myth’: The Construction of Dutch as a National Language
  • 1 The ‘Golden Age Myth’ and the standard language ideology
  • 2 Political overview
  • 3 Metalinguistic discourse
  • 3.1 From planning to policy
  • 3.2 The rise of the SLI
  • 4 Tracing back the ‘Golden Age Myth’
  • 4.1 The ‘Golden Age Myth’ in the present
  • 4.2 The ‘Golden Age Myth’ in the past
  • 5 Final remarks
  • Bibliography
  • 3 The Making of the Scandinavian Languages
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 From dǫnsk tunga to separate languages
  • 2.1 A common tongue
  • 2.2 Danish and Swedish emerge
  • 2.3 Norwegian
  • 3 National languages in national states
  • 3.1 Swedish as anti-Danish
  • 3.2 The language that never became
  • 3.3 A national value of Norwegian?
  • 4 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 4 Ideologies of National and Regional Languages: Metalinguistic Discourses on Low German in the Nineteenth Century
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Low German in nineteenth-century Schleswig-Holstein
  • 3 Klaus Groth
  • 4 The Schleswig-Holsteinische Schulzeitung
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources
  • 5 Beliefs and Ideas about Second-Language Acquisition in Newspaper Articles of the German-Speaking Community of Belgium (1919–1963)
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Language-in-education policy and language ideologies in Eupen-Malmedy
  • 3 Theoretical and methodological issues: Corpus-building and discourse analysis of topoi
  • 4 Results
  • 4.1 Results of the first timeframe (1919–1940)
  • 4.2 Results of the second timeframe (1940–1945)
  • 4.3 Results of the third timeframe (1945–1963)
  • 5 Concluding discussion
  • Abbreviations
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Reconsidering Purism: The Case of Flanders
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Purism and modernity
  • 3 Patterns of imagery: Linguistic gardening in nineteenth-century Flanders
  • 3.1 Weeds in the standard language garden
  • 3.2 Conditional love for dialects
  • 3.3 Total aversion to hybrid entities
  • 4 The end of purism?
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 7 Knowing the Ins and Outs of Linguistic Standardization: Enregisterment of Standard Dutch and Dialect in Late 1970s Flemish TV Fiction
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Linguistic standardization in Flanders
  • 3 The Colleagues (1978–1981)
  • 4 A sociolinguistic analysis of The Colleagues
  • 4.1 The portrayal of dialect and its speakers
  • 4.2 The portrayal of Standard Dutch and its speakers
  • 4.3 Perpetuating and reworking the ABN propaganda
  • 4.4 The portrayal of tussentaal and its speakers
  • 5 Discussion and conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix: Transcription conventions
  • 8 Dialect and Identity: The Folk Linguistic Construction of Local Dialect Areas in the ‘Alemannic Border Triangle’
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Research area and design
  • 3 Analysis and results
  • 3.1 Extra-linguistic and linguistic factors
  • 3.2 Socio-demographic parameters
  • 3.2.1 Number of hand-drawn dialect areas
  • 3.2.2 Number of mentioned dialect features
  • 3.2.3 Area sizes of ‘own’ local dialect and of ‘very different’ dialects
  • 3.2.4 References to historical factors
  • 3.2.5 Evaluations of ‘stereotypical’ dialect areas
  • 4 Discussion
  • Bibliography
  • 9 Discussing Ruhrdeutsch: Attitudes Towards Spoken German in the Ruhr Region
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Background: Brief overview of Ruhrdeutsch
  • 3 Methodology
  • 4 Analysis
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 10 ‘Sprache der Heimat’: Discourses of Dialect and Identity in Modern-Day Cologne
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Dialect, Heimat and local identity
  • 3 The role and status of Kölsch in modern-day Cologne
  • 4 Dialect courses at the Akademie för uns kölsche Sproch
  • 5 Methodological considerations
  • 6 Results
  • 7 Dialect identity, performance and discourse: Concluding remarks
  • Bibliography
  • 11 Contesting Ideologies of Linguistic Authority: Perspectives ‘from below’ on Language, Nation and Citizenship in Luxembourg
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Language politics and ideologies of linguistic authority
  • 3 Language and nation in Luxembourg
  • 4 Language and the law on Luxembourgish nationality
  • 5 Bottom-up perspectives on the authority of Luxembourgish
  • 6 Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • 12 Commentary: Metalinguistic Perspectives on Germanic Languages in Europe
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Philipp Stoeckle, ‘Dialect and Identity: The Folk Linguistic Construction of Local Dialect Areas in the “Alemannic Border Triangle”’

Figure 8.1 Map of research area depicting some of the most important traditional isoglosses.

Figure 8.2 Overview of the most salient folk dialect areas and borders in the survey area at an agreement level of at least 50% of the respective hand-drawn maps.

Figure 8.3 Folk linguistic localization of the e-lowering (‘Messer’ [knife]) (total number of hand-drawn areas: 40; isogloss taken from the SSA, map II/3.50).

Figure 8.4 Aggregate map of the areas classified as ‘very different’ by the German older female informants (n = 29; subgroup average percentage value = 42.0%).

Figure 8.5 Aggregate map of the areas classified as ‘very different’ by the German younger male informants (n = 28; subgroup average percentage value = 69.2%).

Figure 8.6 Mental maps from Efringen-Kirchen respondents and traditional religious affiliation structuring (SSA map I/2.2).

Figure 8.7 Numbers of positive and negative evaluations of ‘stereotypical’ dialect areas, distinguished by age group*profession.

Geraldine Horan, ‘“Sprache der Heimat”: Discourses of Dialect and Identity in Modern-Day Cologne’

Figure 10.1 Gender.

Figure 10.2 Age of participants. ← vii | viii →

Figure 10.3 Born in Cologne/Moved to Cologne.

Figure 10.4 Born in Cologne: Year groups.

Figure 10.5 Moved to Cologne: Year groups.

Figure 10.6 Year of arrival in Cologne.

| ix →


Magali Boemer, ‘Beliefs and Ideas about Second-Language Acquisition in Newspaper Articles of the German-Speaking Community of Belgium (1919–1963)’

Table 5.1 Representation of pre-selected and new topoi used in the discussion on SLA (1919–1940), n = 44

Table 5.2 Representation of pre-selected and new topoi used in the discussion on SLA (1940–1945), n = 13

Table 5.3 Representation of pre-selected and new topoi used in the discussion on SLA (1945–1963), n = 46

Philipp Stoeckle, ‘Dialect and Identity: The Folk Linguistic Construction of Local Dialect Areas in the “Alemannic Border Triangle”’

Table 8.1 Classification of informants at each survey location

Table 8.2 Mean size of respondents’ ‘own’ dialect area and percentage of survey map classified as ‘very different’, distinguished by the social parameters (values with significant differences in italics)

| xi →


We would like to thank the Historical Sociolinguistics series editors as well as Laurel Plapp and the Peter Lang staff for their helpful editorial support and expertise. We are also grateful to the anonymous referees who provided invaluable comments on the draft chapters. Last but not least, we are especially thankful to Hielke Vriesendorp (Leiden) who carefully and efficiently prepared the formatting of the manuscript.

Kristine Horner and Gijsbert Rutten

Sheffield and Leiden, April 2016

| 1 →


1 Metalanguage: Social and Historical Perspectives on Germanic Languages in Europe

1 Introduction: Language in society from past to present

With its origins in collaborative endeavours amongst a group of scholars working predominantly in the field of Germanic linguistics, the Historical Sociolinguistics Network (HiSoN, see <http://hison.sbg.ac.at/>) was founded in Bristol in 2005 at a conference focused on the theme of language histories ‘from below’ (Elspaß et al. 2007), which followed from a conference on linguistic purism two years prior (Langer and Davies 2005). Over the course of the past decade, HiSoN has grown to include hundreds of researchers who are engaged in a wide range of projects in many parts of the world, although the European focus remains prominent. Research in the field of historical sociolinguistics has been informed in large part by work in historical linguistics and sociolinguistics, with one of the key aims of the network being to build bridges between the fields of (socio)linguistics and (social) history (Langer, Davies and Vandenbussche 2012). Much of this research has focused on challenging various aspects of language historiographies, which sometimes present a ‘tunnel vision version’ of the role of language in history (Elspaß 2007: 3, citing Trudgill and Watts 2002: 1). Therefore, the importance of extending the scope of research to represent larger segments of populations has been stressed (Elspaß 2007) and, as a result, valuable research on the analysis of ego documents has proliferated in recent years (e.g. van der Wal and Rutten 2013). In this way, scholars have broken new ground in investigating language practices and policies in the past by placing the emphasis on perspectives ‘from below’ as a means of challenging mythological aspects of language history that have masked aspects of language variation and diversity. ← 1 | 2 →

Exploring the ways that language issues are portrayed in the narration of language histories and the analysis of these metalinguistic discourses constitutes a further means of engaging with the construction of myths and challenging generalizations; yet, this dimension has received comparatively less attention in the larger body of HiSoN research. As a means of broadening the agenda, the 2014 HiSoN conference in Sheffield focused on discourses on language, identity and power. Two key questions framed the panels and presentations: (1) in what ways has language been central to constructing, challenging and reconfiguring boundaries? and (2) in what ways do contemporary discourses on language, identity and power draw on historical events to justify or contest social practices? Overarched by these broad questions, one of the panels focused on the interplay between language ideologies and standardization in language histories and in contemporary social contexts. The papers examined metalinguistic discourses as a means of exploring identity and power relations at the level of individuals and groups, as well as the role of language ideologies in relation to actual language use. With a similar metalinguistic emphasis, a parallel panel was organized at the biannual Forum for Germanic Linguistics (FGLS) conference in Cambridge in 2014. Critical engagement with ‘tunnel vision’ accounts of contemporary language practices and policies informed this panel, which consisted of papers that focused on metalinguistic discourses on language in regions and borderland zones. In this vein, approaches ‘from below’ are being advocated by a growing number of scholars working in contemporary sociolinguistics as well as historical sociolinguistics because alternative representations of the present are as much needed as those of the past.

Whether the focus is on the past or the present, sociolinguistics is concerned primarily with what people do with language, how people evaluate language, and how specific linguistic forms, language practices and policies are part and parcel of the dynamics of social life. Due to its inherent indexical properties, language plays a key role in shaping the construction of insiders and outsiders in relation to extra-linguistic factors such as ethnicity, social class, gender, religion and so on. The negotiation of social and linguistic boundaries plays a central role in historical and contemporary sociolinguistics. Scholars engage with the construction of boundaries in ← 2 | 3 → different ways, depending on the kinds of research questions that they formulate, the theories that shape these questions and the data that is selected for analysis. As a means of exploring perspectives on the interface between language, identity and power, the analysis of metalinguistic discourses is particularly fruitful and the following chapters provide analyses that focus on the ways that language functions as a unifying and dividing marker of identity and group membership. Before providing an overview of the chapters that comprise this volume, with a Germanic focus and stemming from the two aforementioned conferences, the following section will discuss the key concept of metalanguage, as well as deeply entrenched language ideologies that inform the specific European case studies presented in this volume.

2 Contemporary and historical metalinguistic perspectives

Engagement with the ‘meta’ dimensions of language, or the indexical meanings inherent to discourse, has come to be regarded as increasingly crucial in the field of sociolinguistics (Jaworski, Coupland and Galasiński 2004; Hyland 2005). Despite the augmented interest in metalanguage, Coupland and Jaworski (2004: 16) describe contemporary sociolinguistics as characterized by a ‘state of tension between more and less metalinguistically oriented perspectives.’ Although linguists are aware of the fact that discourse is inherently bound up with the ‘meta’ dimensions of language, the acknowledgement that there is no ‘view from nowhere’, as discussed by Irvine and Gal (2000: 79), remains a controversial point, even in the field of sociolinguistics. Some of these very same issues concerning contemporary research are equally relevant in relation to historical sociolinguistic research. As such, there exists scope to foster dialogue between historical and contemporary sociolinguistics, in particular work that deals with the language ideologies that underpin specific metalinguistic discourses.

As Cameron (2004) points out, the ideological potential of metalanguage is rooted in its predominantly evaluative nature, which in turn is anchored by the semiotic processes of categorization. As with all forms ← 3 | 4 → of ‘meta’ meaning, categories are constructed via the indexical properties of discourse. Some of these categories become so naturalized that they are taken for granted, the constructed boundaries appear fixed, and groups come to be viewed as homogeneous. Cameron (2004: 316) reminds us that it is especially crucial for linguists to ‘interrogate the origins, implications and status of our own metalanguages’ and this is why research on language ideology has a particularly formative role to play in our research. In a seminal article on language ideology by Irvine and Gal (2000), they underline the ways that semiotic processes shape the construction of ideological representations of linguistic difference: two of these specific processes are underlined here because they directly inform the analyses in the ensuing chapters. Firstly, Irvine and Gal (2000: 37) note the role of iconicity or the process in which ‘linguistic features that index social groups or activities appear to be iconic representations of them, as if a linguistic feature somehow depicted or displayed a social group’s inherent nature or essence.’ Secondly, they explain how the powerful process of erasure may be employed as a means to strategically ‘render some persons or activities invisible’ (2000: 38).

The aforementioned semiotic processes are central to the most fundamental form of categorization relating specifically to language, which is the demarcation of named languages themselves and is a process that has been closely bound up with European nationalisms that became prominent during the long nineteenth century. The construction of named languages functions similarly to that of other categories, such as ethnicities and nations, all of which can be interpreted and instrumentalized in various ways due to their potential malleability as well as their situatedness in given social and political contexts (cf. Jenkins 1997, May 2001, Smith 1995). In this way, ideologies of linguistic standardization and those equating one language with one nation have served to underpin nation-building strategies in Europe. Language ideological research has explored the construction of standardized national languages in relation to the widely entrenched belief that nation-states are required to have their own language to justify their autonomy (Gal and Woolard 2001; Wright 2000).

Historical sociolinguistic work has been particularly interested in analysing the standard language ideology, i.e. institutionalized, shared beliefs ← 4 | 5 → shaping the idea that there exists a fixed, unchangeable and homogeneous variety of a language, which also tends to be regarded as the most highly valued variety and is thus linked to Bourdieu’s (1991) discussion of legitimate language and symbolic power. In a related vein, ideologies of linguistic purism have been studied by HiSoN scholars too, including manifestations of the standard language ideology in tandem with discourses on linguistic purism (e.g. Horner 2005; Milroy 2005). There remains scope for historical sociolinguistic work to explicitly explore a wider range of language ideologies, such as mother tongue ideologies and those bound up with the hierarchization of language/s. At the same time, contemporary sociolinguistic work stands to benefit from engaging with further reflexivity concerning the historical trajectories that shape the present-day texts that constitute the focus of their analyses.

It is productive to explore the various ways in which contemporary and historical metalinguistically oriented research is characterized by similarities and differences. An obvious issue concerns reflections on the availability of texts as well as the factors shaping their production and reception. Johnson and Ensslin (2007: 4–5) point out that scholars conducting metalinguistic analyses with a focus on language ideologies tend to prioritize the study of media discourse, which Jaworski (2007: 271) attributes to ‘the ubiquity and influence of the media on contemporary societies.’ This is not to say that all research on metalanguage, even that focused on the contemporary period, has concentrated on media discourse. In addition to language ideological research, there exists a broad range of approaches to the study of metalanguage that draws on folk linguistics and language attitudes, just to name two additional paradigms (Jaworski, Coupland and Galasiński 2004). This work sometimes includes studies with participants who are asked to engage in ‘draw a map’ tasks (especially in folk linguistics) or take part in questionnaires (especially in language attitudes). The chapters in this volume are intentionally diverse in their range of data sources and methodological approaches in order to bring together insights that are otherwise not frequently linked up. Taken as a whole, they underline the wealth of approaches to the study of metalanguage and also join together studies on the past and present in one volume. ← 5 | 6 →

3 Metalinguistic perspectives on Germanic languages: European case studies


XII, 286
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (October)
modern and historical sociolinguistics variation and change in the Germanic languages metalanguage language ideology
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. XII, 286 pp., 6 b/w ill., 5 tables, 7 fig.

Biographical notes

Gijsbert Rutten (Volume editor) Kristine Horner (Volume editor)

Gijsbert Rutten is Senior Researcher in the Historical Sociolinguistics of Dutch and Assistant Professor in Dutch Historical Linguistics at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. He currently directs the research project ‘Going Dutch: The Construction of Dutch in Policy, Practice and Discourse, 1750–1850’, which analyses language policy, language ideologies and the impact of nation building on language use. Kristine Horner is Reader in Luxembourg Studies and Multilingualism at the University of Sheffield, where she is also Director of the Centre for Luxembourg Studies. She has published widely in the areas of language politics, language ideologies and multilingualism. She is currently leading research projects on language and citizenship as well as experiences of multilingualism in Luxembourg.


Title: Metalinguistic Perspectives on Germanic Languages
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