zaterdag 16 september 2017


Monolingual histories – Multilingual practices
Issues in historical language contact

Taal & Tongval 2017 Colloquium

Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde, Gent
1 December 2017

Languages such as English, German and Dutch have traditionally been described in monolingual histories. Accounts of the history of these languages often focus on their gradual development through time with special attention being paid to the rise of the standard language. The areas in which these languages were used, however, were also home to a wide spectrum of other languages, including regional varieties of the dominant language, immigrant languages and ‘prestigious’ foreign languages such as Latin and French. This means that speech and writing communities in most of these areas have in fact been highly multilingual throughout history (Braunmüller & Ferraresi 2003, Stenroos et al. 2012). These multilingual practices, however, tend to be rendered invisible in monolingual histories, and even regional languages within larger language areas are not always represented, particularly when the developing standard language is prioritized (Hüning et al. 2012, Schrijver 2014, Havinga & Langer 2015). At the 2017 Taal & Tongval colloquium, we aim to revisit the place of language contact in historical settings, by focusing on historical multilingualism and multilingual practices in language history. 

In historical settings, reconstructability is a crucial issue. It is often difficult to find out who spoke which language(s) to whom. The written record typically prefers some languages over others, which only intensifies when standardization sets in. If we want to reconsider historical language contact, we also need to develop ways to reconstruct the sociolinguistic conditions determining the contact situation. 

We are looking for contributions in the fields of historical sociolinguistics and historical language contact, with a keen eye for the issues outlined above. Topics to be discussed include (but need not be limited to):

  • the multilingual experiences of migrating individuals and communities, and the linguistic consequences thereof;
  • domain-specific and socially conditioned language choice in situations of societal multilingualism;
  • contact-induced changes in traditional dialects and standard languages, beyond the domain of lexical loans;
  • standardization as koineization, and standard languages as contact varieties;
  • societal and individual multilingualism vs. metalinguistic discourse prototypically focusing on monolingualism;
  • the role of monolingual and standard language ideologies in language historiography.

Main organizers
Gijsbert Rutten, Universiteit Leiden
Rik Vosters, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Organizing and scientific committee

Reinhild Vandekerckhove, Universiteit Antwerpen
Dirk Geeraerts, KU Leuven
Ben Hermans, Meertens Instituut
Roeland van Hout, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Jacques Van Keymeulen, Universiteit Gent
Jan Nijen Twilhaar, Hogeschool Utrecht
Wim Vandenbussche, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Gunther De Vogelaer, Universität Münster

Braunmüller, Kurt & Gisella Ferraresi (eds.). 2003. Aspects of Multilingualism in European Language History. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Havinga, Anna & Nils Langer (eds.). 2015 Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century. Bern: Peter Lang.
Hüning, Matthias, Ulrike Vogl & Oliver Moliner (eds.). 2012. Standard Languages and Multilingualism in European History. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Peersman, Catharina, Gijsbert Rutten & Rik Vosters (eds.). 2015. Past, Present and Future of a Language Border. Germanic-Romance Encounters in the Low Countries. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Schrijver, Peter. 2014. Language Contact and the Origins of the Germanic Languages. New York: Routledge.
Stenroos, Merja, Martti Mäkinen & Inge Særheim (eds). 2012. Language Contact and Development Around the North Sea. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.