This paper investigates what role 18th-century newspapers played in the disappearance of e-apocope in Austria. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of this Upper German feature in two contexts (the e-apocope in plural nouns and singular dative forms) trace diachronic variation in the Wienerisches Diarium/Wiener Zeitung in order to evaluate the role that newspapers played in the selection and dissemination of language norms. The results show that this newspaper disseminated the final -e in plural forms before it was prescribed by contemporary 18th-century grammarians active in Austria, indicating that newspapers – among other texts written by the educated classes – contributed to the selection as well as dissemination of particular variants. The use of dative -e was, however, less consistent, with a qualitative analysis revealing preferences by individual correspondents. This challenges current scholarly assumptions on the homogeneity of language practice within the text type newspaper. Instead, this article argues that historical newspapers have to be seen as a compilation of texts, rather than homogeneous texts.
- language standardisation