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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 Visible Church and ‘Invisible’ Polish: Protestant and Catholic Clergy in Prussian Poland (Róisín Healy)

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Róisín Healy The Visible Church and ‘Invisible’ Polish: Protestant and Catholic Clergy in Prussian Poland abstract This chapter suggests that the Polish language was at risk of becoming invisible as a result of the severe restrictions placed upon it by the partitioning powers – Russia, Prussia and Austria – from 1772 to 1918. Rejecting a simple correlation between coercion and decline, however, it is argued that the role of the ‘visible’ church, that is, the clergy, was key in determining the fortunes of Polish in the Prussian partition. While the Protestant clergy increasingly insisted on ministering to their small Polish-speaking flock through German, the Catholic clergy used the Polish language whenever possible. The result was a shift to German among Prussia’s Protestant community, most notably the Mazurians, and the flourishing of Polish among the Catholics of the Prussian partition. Introduction A discussion of Polish as an ‘invisible’ language is hard to conceive as some 40 million people speak it as their native language today. Modern discus- sions of minority languages in Poland centre on other languages, such as Kashubian or Silesian, which have far fewer speakers. Yet the threat to the Polish language in the nineteenth century was very real, and contempo- raries might be surprised to learn that the Polish language survived and thrived into the twenty-first century, given the government hostility it faced. The three partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian state, in 1772, 1793 and 1795 consigned Polish-speakers to empires run by non-Poles. These new rulers – Russia, Prussia and...

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