Language standardization in diversity: The case of German in Luxembourg (1795-1920)


CALL: 2012

DOMAIN: SC - Identities, Diversity and Interaction





HOST INSTITUTION: University of Luxembourg

KEYWORDS: Language standardization, multilingualism, German, French, Luxembourgish, Luxembourg 19th century

START: 2013-09-01

END: 2016-08-31


Submitted Abstract

At the intersection of historical linguistics and sociolinguistics, this project focuses on the dynamics of the standardization of the German language in Luxembourg. With a long history of multilingualism, Luxembourg constitutes a prime example to study language standardization in linguistic diversity. Standardization, roughly understood as the selection, codification, implementation and elaboration of language norms, has been mostly investigated in a monolingual or comparative perspective, but hardly at all from the point of view of language contact and multilingualism. Although there is no doubt that language contact and multilingualism figure prominently for language history in general, its specific impact on language standardization has hardly been studied or theoretically acknowledged to date. To fill this gap, the proposed project is devoted to the role of language contact between Germanic varieties (i.e. Moselle-Franconian/emerging Luxembourgish, colloquial German) and language contact between German and French. Grounded in up-to-date theory on language standardization, language contact, multilingualism and text linguistics, the project will be empirically based on an online database providing an extensive corpus of a hitherto largely neglected genre in studies on language history, i.e. historical bilingual public notices of the city of Luxembourg. Particularly focused on the so called ‘”long 19th century” from the French Revolution to the Great War, the contact scenario to be investigated is framed by processes of political annexation, national emancipation and societal modernization (e.g. development of administration structures, emergence of urban spaces as an arena for public communication). Set in this context, a language management approach on language standardization will be adopted and the effects of and interplay between internal (linguistic) and external (social) factors will be studied. An excellent setting for these research purposes is provided in the domain of administration as it represents a socially significant type of language use. Within this domain the investigation will focus on municipal ‘”top-down communication”, i.e. public notices. Paying equal attention to systemic and functional aspects the reconstruction of the process of the standardization of German will address structural processes concerning language variation and replication and discuss relevant language management activities (e.g. regulations, decrees, laws) along with data relating to municipal comments on the public notices and language attitudes expressed in sources such as newspapers. In doing so, the project will provide a detailed picture of how German has entered into the domain of administration (= status standardization), how it structurally developed over time (= corpus standardization) and how technical and lexical professionalization of the genre public notice progressed over time (= functional elaboration). In an overall perspective, the interaction of language and society will be discussed and a standardization theory generated that takes account of the factor linguistic diversity.

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