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Handbook of Language & Ethnicity Chapter 19: Germany By James R. Dow.

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1 Handbook of Language & Ethnicity Chapter 19: Germany By James R. Dow

2 Who are the Germans? German identity has mythic associations with antiquity, purity, uniqueness and superiority, “inheriting” the characteristics described by Tacitus in 98 AD (despite the spurious assocations) These romantic notions yielded brutal results in Linguistic work on German identity continues to be haunted by irrational elements

3 18 th c Herder – language bears the spirit of a nation, represents a link to the (mythological) past Fichte – Germans are the only original people, the only people with an “unmixed” language; connection of language, nation, and state

4 19 th c Brothers Grimm (esp. Jacob, cf. “Grimm’s Law”) undertook philological research on the history of languages, but combined this with a desire to prove that Germans are the true descendants of the Indo- Europeans (“Indo-Germans”) Germany was mostly divided, personal allegiances to feudal lords gradually were overcome to create a German nation The notion of a German folk soul reflected in language helped to bring nation together

5 Aryan theory Research that established genetic relationships among Indo-European languages, along with Darwin’s Origin of the Species, was recruited to serve a theory of racial superiority Late 19 th c saw focus on eliminating linguistic mixing in German – removing and preventing the penetration of foreign words

6 20 th c Scholarship continued to be tainted by ideology, and scholars who do not support the ideology were persecuted The trends that were so apparent during WWII began long before that and continued long after the war ended too Linguistic research on toponyms in Belgium and France was used to justify Third Reich occupation

7 The 12 years of Hitler’s 1000 Year Reich: What role did language play? Race was the primary identifier because it (unlike language) could not be acquired Linguistic “research” (sometimes undertaken by otherwise reputable scholars) was used to support racial theories The fact that Jews spoke German did not make them part of the “folk” German linguistic nationalism continued through the 1970s

8 Post-war German language was divided across what countries? (Hint: There were 8 of them) –Two Germanies –Austria –Switzerland –Italy (South Tyrol) –France (Alsace) –Belgium –Luxembourg But Federal Republic of German claimed prominence for determining shape of language

9 Minorities among the Germans East Germany paid some attention to the Sorbs, but they have since been largely ignored by the combined Germany Austria has devoted research to the Slovenes

10 Germany becomes multiethnic 1960s onward – millions of Gastarbeiter 1980s hundreds of 1000s of East Bloc asylum-seekers K peoples of German heritage from many countries immigrated to Germany (Russia, Romania, Hungary, Poland…Sri Lanka) All this has created interethnic strains…

11 German speakers become aware of their dialects Since 1970s resurgence of awareness of dialects Dialects other than High German are asserting a status in the media (esp in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France) Now Germany finds “itself in the midst of a new multicultural and multiracial existence”


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