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Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century

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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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The Invisible Language of Patients from Psychiatric Hospital (Markus Schiegg)

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Markus Schiegg The Invisible Language of Patients from Psychiatric Hospital abstract A particular task involved in researching the historical sociolinguistics of invisible languages is the identification and publication of new primary data. This paper will contribute to the field by way of publishing a text type hitherto unattended to by sociolinguistics: the correspondence of patients from nineteenth- and early twentieth-century mental hospitals. It will present evidence from a new corpus of some 1,000 patient letters from two sanatoria in southern Germany, Irsee and Kaufbeuren, containing a range of lower-class sociolin- guistic practice so far unattested. I will illustrate this by analysing two letters by a female patient, which show striking register shifts and diaphasic variation in lower-class writing. Introduction The following is the beginning of a personal letter written by Balbina H.,1 a forty-six-year-old woman, to her daughter Anna. At the time of writing, Balbina H. was staying in the mental hospital Irsee in southern Germany: 1 Surnames have been abbreviated to protect the identity of the patients. This letter is stored in file No. 1996 (year: 1897) in the Archiv des Bezirkskrankenhauses Kaufbeuren. See the full transcription with a translation into English in the appendix of this paper (5.1). My transcription was checked by Erich Resch, the former administra- tive head of the mental hospital in Kaufbeuren. The survival of this archive today is largely due to his strenuous efforts to store the patients’ files which number in their thousands. Special thanks go to his helpful first-hand...

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