Sociolinguistic Histories and the Footprint of German in Eastern Central Europe

Patrick Stevenson and Jenny Carl

in Language and Social Change in Central Europe

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780748635986
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671472 | DOI:
Sociolinguistic Histories and the Footprint of German in Eastern Central Europe

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This chapter constructs a historical context for the study of language(s) in central Europe, emphasising its multilingual and multiethnic nature and the tension between the emergence of ‘national’ languages and the persistence of linguistic minorities. The main argument is that by focusing on the changing position of, and experiences with, one language – German – across the region it is possible to explore the complex ways in which language is implicated in social change at local, national, and transnational levels. At the same time, the authors emphasize that ‘context’ is understood as a dynamic and continuous process, not a static backdrop. The study concentrates on the relationship between policies and experiences with language in Hungary and the Czech Republic (as multi- and as monolingual spaces), and so this chapter provides historical profiles of language use, language contact, language learning, language spread and language decline in these two countries, drawing on documentary and secondary sources. It also includes an account of the master narratives / dominant discourses on ‘Germans’ or ‘German-speakers’, against which the personal narratives in Chapters 5 and 6 can be pitched.

Keywords: Multilingualism; National languages; Linguistic nationalism; Linguistic minorities; Hungary; Czech Republic; German language

Chapter.  17949 words. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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