Nederlandse taalkunde Evenementen aan de afdeling Nederlandse Taalkunde

Monolingual Multilingualism? Standard languages and their impact on multilingual policies and practices in Europe: a historical perspective

Workshop on October 5th and 6th, 2009, Freie Universität Berlin

Organized by:


  • Ulrike Vogl & Matthias Hüning (FU Berlin): Introduction
  • Georges Lüdi (University of Basel): Traces of monolingual and plurilingual ideologies in the history of language policies in France
  • K. Anipa (University of St. Andrews): Centrifugal and centripetal forces in the sociolinguistic history of Spain
  • Alexander Haselow (Universität Hamburg): From the history of language planning and standardization in Iceland, Wales and Ireland
  • Mirja Saari (University of Helsinki): The development of Finland into a bilingual state
  • Johan De Caluwe (Universiteit Gent): Standardization in Flanders: a history of conflict and coexistence with French
  • Winifred Davies (Aberystwyth University): The role of (lay)linguistic myths in the production of sociolinguistic norms in the German context
  • Yael Peled (Nuffield College, University of Oxford): Marching Forward into the Past: Monolingual Multilingualism in Contemporary Political Theory
  • Matthew Ciscel (Central Connecticut State University): Multilingualism and Identity in the Margins: Post-Communist nation-building and language standardization in Macedonia and Moldova
  • JW Unger (Universität Wien): The thistle and the rose revisited: The impact of past language policies on ideologies towards Scots and English
  • John Ole Askedal (University of Oslo): Ideological Controversies and Practical Consequences of Norwegian Language Planning since 1800




One of the most fundamental changes to Europe's linguistic landscape during the past five centuries was the emergence and consolidation of standard languages. From the late Middle Ages onwards, an increasing economic, political and cultural integration of Europe fostered the need for uniform written languages which could be used across dialect boundaries. In the 16th and 17th centuries, apart from practical reasons to use a common form of a certain vernacular language there were also ideological reasons. There came a growing interest, among writers, scientists and politicians, in shaping the vernacular language according to the model of an 'ideal language'. This search for the 'ideal language form' went hand in hand with the need for uniformity, for strict language rules and for the strict adherence to these rules. Over the centuries, the knowledge of such uniform, normed and codified languages ('standard languages') became increasingly important for social mobility. In the 19th century, standard languages additionally became closely linked to the emerging nation-states and as a consequence, knowledge of the respective standard language of a nation-state ('national language') became an important symbol of political loyalty. All over Europe, the growing importance of standard languages meant a fundamental change to the multilingual repertoires of the regions in question.

Aim of the workshop:

The workshop aims at highlighting common developments as well as differences across Europe concerning the historical relationship between standard varieties and 'other' varieties. It seeks to identify sets of extralinguistic factors which favoured the rise in status of some languages while marginalizing others.

It focusses specifically on the rise of a standard language ideology which postulates one language as the best variety for a certain language community. It is one main aim of this workshop to find out to what extent this standard language ideology has influenced – and still influences – language policy and language practices in Europe and in what way it contributes to a 'monolingual' view on multilingualism. One question might be whether – and if so, to what extent – standard language ideology constitutes an obstacle to European individual and societal multilingualism.

The questions below might serve as guidelines for contributions to this workshop:

  • Which social, political, ideological or economic changes taking place from the Middle Ages onwards were relevant to the selection of one or more varieties as 'standard' (and the 'rejection' of others)? (e.g. demographic factors (for example urbanization), protestant reformation movements, the founding of non-clerical educational institutions (universities))?
  • Is there evidence as to how the growing importance of standard languages had a bearing on multilingual practices?
  • Are there examples, in European language history, of efforts to preserve diversity in the face of the increasing hegemony of standard languages?
  • How can the relationship between nation building and standard and other varieties be characterized?
  • What were the social implications of the emergence and spread of standard language norms?
  • To what extent were standard varieties presented/viewed as instruments of economic promotion and as a key to innovation? To what extent was (individual) multilingualism presented/viewed as instrument of economic promotion and as a key to innovation?
  • What is the role of standard languages in present-day debates on multilingualism (e.g. in educational contexts)?

The workshop invites contributions which focus on one or more of these questions in relation to one specific language area or which compare different language areas with regard to one or more of these questions.


The workshop took place in a conference center within walking distance from the Free University of Berlin:

Seminaris CampusHotel Berlin
Science & Conference Center
Takustraße 39
14195 Berlin
Tel.: ++49-30-55 77 97-0