Metalinguistic Discourses on Low German in the Nineteenth Century

N Langer, Robert Langhanke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


After decades and centuries of discrimination and invisibilisation, many minority and regional languages have seen a resurgence in acceptability and social status in the last two or three decades. Political measures such as the signing and ratification of the European Council's Charter for the Protection of Regional or Minority Languages are often seen as rubberstamping, rather than initiating changes in the perception of non-dominant languages. However, despite an overall much more positive perception of minority and regional languages as cultural treasures, elements of community identity, and something worth holding on to, actual usage continues to decline for most of these languages. This is certainly the case for the protected languages of northern Germany; Frisian, South Jutish, and Low German. This curious tension between emotional and cultural support for smaller or non-dominant languages and a failure to do what might actually help them, i. e. speaking these languages, is nothing new. A glance at their recent sociolinguistic history may show us that this tension did not only emerge in the late twentieth century but has, in fact, been part of the sociolinguistic landscape at least since the Age of Romanticism. In particular we show how literary scholars, representing language theoreticians, and school teachers, representing language practitioners, were simultaneously engaged in very similar debates on the status and usefulness of non-dominant languages, albeit with very different results.
Translated title of the contributionMetalinguistic Discourses on Low German in the Nineteenth Century
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-97
JournalLinguistik Online
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2013


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