The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

Introduction: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Germanic-Speaking Societies

CAROL AISHA BLACKSHIRE-BELAY

Language and culture have long played important roles in the definition of a people's national identity and sense of self-worth. As societies grew and were organized into more complex units as nations, they became increasingly dependent upon linguistic and cultural definitions as identity markers. Originally, it was just one of the ways that a smaller or, rather, different group used to be set apart from the larger population, but recently having an identity, both linguistically and culturally distinct from the majority population, is seen as a mark of one's fundamental right to distinguish oneself and one's group from all others. This is especially true for those who have not had the privilege of governing themselves. What has emerged in contemporary societies with the expansion of travel, transcultural families, and economic and political migration is a new mosaic of cultural and linguistic diversity. In Germanic-speaking societies, as in others, the mosaic is identified by major and minor ethnic and cultural groups. The dominant motifs and themes of the Germanic-speaking people have been impacted by the social, political, and cultural views of the minorities who have entered those societies. Thus a new, more dynamic mosaic has appeared on the scene.

In the past there has been a constant effort to focus on the majority population, and consequently the minority groups would either be left completely out of the discussion or discussed in a very negative fashion. This volume, however, is devoted to this long ignored, but now extremely significant, topic of the relationship between minority and majority groups.

The chapters presented in this volume are original manuscripts by many of the outstanding leaders in the field of linguistic and cultural diversity. Although a few of these chapters were the result of an International Symposium held in Columbus, Ohio, from March 14 to 16, 1991, they have all been edited to complement the theme of this volume. Since the symposium attracted scholars from a wide range of literary and linguistic fields, the

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