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Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century

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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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How a Minority Lost its Vernacular: Language Shift in Written Sources from the German–Danish Borderlands (Elin Fredsted)

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Elin Fredsted How a Minority Lost its Vernacular: Language Shift in Written Sources from the German–Danish Borderlands abstract This paper provides evidence for language-contact phenomena in semi-formal writing from the German–Danish borderlands, where North Germanic (South Jutish, also Standard Danish) and West Germanic (Low German, High German, and also Frisian) languages have co-existed for many centuries. The primary data for this chapter consist of the minutes of meetings of a cultural society whose members belong to the Danish minority on the German side of the political border, established in 1920. The data cover the period from 1924 to 1934 and will be discussed with the aim to identify patterns of language use with the help of the following questions: 1) Which are the characteristic linguistic features used by individual secretaries record- ing the minutes? Can we detect correlations which allow us to suggest patterns connecting language biography and oral variety? 2) Is it possible to visibilise the language used during the meetings from the language used to record the meetings? 3) When, how and why did Standard Danish start to replace the vernacular of South Jutish as the oral variety of the Danish minority? The linguistic situation Since at least the Middle Ages the historical Duchy of Schleswig has been a region with a shared culture, a common history and an area of direct language contact between North Germanic and West Germanic varieties, namely South Jutish, Low German, and Frisian. The city of Flensburg was 96 Elin Fredsted...

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