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Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century


Edited By Anna Havinga and Nils Langer

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.


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Most of the chapters in this volume were presented at a Humboldtkolleg in Clifton Hill House at the University of Bristol in September 2013. We are very grateful to the generous financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Bonn), as well as the Institute of Advanced Study (Bristol) and the School of Modern Languages (Bristol). In addition, we are delighted to acknowledge the significant logistical support from Kim Pätzold, Sina Stuhlert, Katrin Schreinemachers and Juliane Schulze (all Bristol), as well as the insightful intellectual contributions by Gesine Argent, Julie Blake, Derek Offord and Tim Shortis, and other members of the Historical Sociolinguistics Network ().

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