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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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Ways of Seeing Language in Nineteenth-Century Galicia, Spain (José del Valle)

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José del Valle Ways of Seeing Language in Nineteenth-Century Galicia, Spain abstract This article discusses a polemical encounter between two Spanish intellec tuals – one Andalusian, Juan Valera, and one Galician, Manuel Murguía – who clashed on the desir- ability of cultivating Galician as a literary language. This encounter is framed as a language ideological debate and interpreted in the context of Spain’s late nineteenth-century poli- tics of regional and national identity. The proposed reading does not so much attempt to assess the accuracy of Valera’s and Murguía’s views of Galician as to understand the terms in which they struggled to impose their particular way of seeing the region’s sociolinguis- tic configuration. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight. (Berger 1972: 7) We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. (ibid. 8) Soon after we can see, we are aware that we can also be seen. The eye of the other combines with our own eye to make it fully credible that we are part of the visible world. (ibid. 9) On invisibility We have been challenged to place our musings on language inside a frame built with two pieces: a formal chronological constraint – the nineteenth century – and a provocatively suggestive trope – invisibility. With respect to the former, if asked to...

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