Language and Social Change in Central Europe: Discourses on Policy, Identity and the German Language

Synopsis

This book explores the dynamics of language and social change in contemporary central Europe. Many scholars recognize that the impact of global economic and cultural processes are not confined to the development of so-called world or global languages. These high-level sociolinguistic changes inevitably reconfigure the "linguascape" of particular regions, states, and localities.

Few parts of the world have witnessed such profound social transformation over the past twenty years as central Europe, with the end of the Cold War and the eastern expansion of the EU. One of the outcomes of this process has been the reshaping of the linguistic environment and the relationship between particular languages and linguistic varieties, especially newly assertive "national" languages and regional or ethnic minority languages. A number of studies have investigated these new relationships from the macro perspective of language policies, while others have taken an ethnographic approach to individual experience.

This book joins these two perspectives together for the first time, focusing primarily on the German language, which has a complex and problematic history. An influential lingua franca across central Europe for centuries, German became the language of fascist oppression during World War II, only to be rehabilitated as the language that bridged the east-west fault line. Today German is the "national" language of two EU member states, and in these states' eastern neighbors, it has become both a "heritage language" of dwindling minority communities and a language of wider communication" with renewed currency in industry, commerce, and tourism. By drawing on a range of theoretical, conceptual, and analytical approaches& -principally language ideologies, language policy, positioning theory, discourse analysis, and linguistic ethnography& -the authors show the necessity of combining these different perspectives in order to attain an understanding of the complex constellation of language politics in central Europe.