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Metalinguistic Perspectives on Germanic Languages

European Case Studies from Past to Present


Gijsbert Rutten and Kristine Horner

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.
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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 ) 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...

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