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ERIC Number: EJ1169143
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Pages: 18
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0143-4632
Gravestones Speak--but in Which Language? Epitaphs as Mirrors of Language Shifts and Identities in Alsace
Vajta, Katharina
Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, v39 n2 p137-154 2018
This study examines how language choice in epitaphs in Alsatian cemeteries mirrors language shifts in Alsace, a region in Eastern France that changed nationalities between France and Germany four times between 1870 and 1945. Language choice on tombstones was expected to be made according to the language of the ruling power, but the results show that it could also be made in opposition to the prescribed norm, thus becoming both legally and ideologically transgressive. This was especially the case when one opted for French under German rule. Historically, epitaphs in High German, the written norm of the Alsatian variety, can be considered as corollary to the traditional Germanic cultural tradition. In the linguistic landscape of Alsatian cemeteries, epitaphs can harbour both an informational function (name of the deceased, dates, etc.) and an ideological one conveying beliefs and convictions. So the epitaphs can reflect an allegiance to France or to a Germanic cultural tradition and also assert different identities. The general language shift to French since the Second World War in recent years has entailed that French has become the non-transgressive choice, while German has become an exception. Also, other languages like, for example, Arabic can increasingly be observed among sampled tombstones, reflecting a society becoming linguistically more heterogeneous.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: France; Germany
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A