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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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Lithuanian Made ‘Visible’ through German Linguists: August Friedrich Pott and August Schleicher (Joan Leopold)

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Joan Leopold Lithuanian Made ‘Visible’ through German Linguists: August Friedrich Pott and August Schleicher abstract In this paper I will examine the role of two prominent German academic linguists in directing attention to the Lithuanian language, making it internationally visible as part of the so-called ‘Indo-Germanic’ linguistic taxonomy, and thus defining a potential ally for the German states in their attempt to stave off Russian influence. This paper deals with linguists of two different generations, A.F. Pott (1802–1887) and A. Schleicher (1821–1868), in part to see what factors influenced their development of pro-Lithuanian and anti-Pan Slavic views respectively. Apart from their own family backgrounds and edu- cational patrons, I point to their diverse attitudes to German nationalism, to repression of Lithuanian institutions and language, and to Pan-Slavism as a threat to Germany. Pott’s analogy of Lithuanian leading the choir of its Slavic-speaking sisters seems to point to the fuller differentiation of Lithuanian from its supposed sisters, the Slavic languages, while Schleicher’s analogy of Lithuanian being a (twin) sister of the Slavic languages of equal antiquity does not lead to a finding of need for independent development. The relation of this to Schleicher’s turn from Austrian to Russian funding, and increasing disenchant- ment with some Eastern European groups is brought out. Linguistic works The idea that languages were ‘mixed’ gave way to Franz Bopp’s (1791–1867) focus upon the primacy of grammar over lexicon. Much of the purpose of early comparative and historical linguistics, in Prussia at least, was...

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