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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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3 The Making of the Scandinavian Languages


1 Introduction

The Scandinavian languages of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible, and have been so throughout their existence.1 In the terminology of Heinz Kloss they are not recognized as separate languages because of linguistic distance (Abstand), but because they are Ausbau languages that function as official and administrative languages of the respective national states (Kloss 1978: 207). This shows the truth in the quip popularized by Max Weinrich that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy.2 However, the Scandinavian languages have diverged from a single parent language, and in the oldest medieval sources no distinction is made between them. This is an attempt to trace their development towards recognition as separate languages.

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