Edited By Nils Langer, Steffan Davies and Wim Vandenbussche
2 Standardization and Authenticity 127
Part 2 Standardization and Authenticity Robert Evans Of ficial Languages: A Brief Prehistory1 Abstract Historians of politics and administration have largely remained distant from the con- cerns of historical sociolinguistics, whereas practitioners of the latter have tended either to neglect the politics of language or to use vague and sweeping terms like ‘national’ and above all ‘of ficial’ language. This article examines some cases of how languages came to be formally recognized and regulated by dif ferent states or governments. It argues that the process was much slower than has often been assumed, precisely because languages which were dominant in social and cultural terms long needed no of ficial mandate, especially when mechanisms of authority were comparatively little developed. Historians always have to do with language; but they have made slow progress towards any real interdisciplinary dialogue with linguists. So far it has been mainly social and literary aspects of their common territory which have attracted attention (Burke, 2004). Nowadays the worlds of (shifting) semantics and discourse are also coming into play more fully – as the present collection will confirm. Yet traditional ‘mainstream’ history, especially of the political-administrative kind, has remained distant. And this distance seems to be mutual, shared by historical sociolinguistics, which either neglects the politics of language or is given to vague and sweeping usage of terms like ‘national’ and above all ‘of ficial’ language (cf. Haarmann 1975: 92–119, a useful compendium for its day, but superficial). That ref lects an underlying incongruity. Languages nowadays rep-...
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