Analysing historical handwriting
Markus Schiegg (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg)
Handwritten texts such as letters, diaries, and other ego-documents are important sources for historical sociolinguistics. While traditional language history has predominantly focused on printed texts, language history ‘from below’ examines as broad a range of written sources as possible, encompassing texts in all available varieties and registers by authors of all social classes writing at any point in time. By taking this latter approach, we are able to fill in the gaps left by traditional historical linguistics as a result of its teleological perspective and its focus higher-register literary and formal texts (Elspaß 2012: 156).
In this hands-on workshop, we will work with ‘marginal’ and ‘marginalised’ historical handwritten texts from two different eras: the early medieval period and the 19th century. The first part of the workshop will focus on monastic manuscripts and the different vernacular text types that appear therein, predominantly in the margins: short magic spells, prayers, personal notes, and glosses. In particular, glosses that were scratched or impressed into the parchment reflect linguistic characteristics of orality, which will allow us to explore whether medieval glossators can be considered agents of language change (Schiegg 2013). In the second part of the workshop, we will read personal letters written by individuals who had been marginalized from the rest of society: lower-class patients in 19th century German and English psychiatric hospitals (Schiegg 2015). These letters are part of the Corpus of Patient Documents (see http://copadocs.de) that is currently being complied as part of the new research project ‘Flexible Writers in Language History’ at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.
Participants in this workshop will learn to read different historical scripts (e.g. Carolingian Minuscle and German Kurrentschrift) and will gain insights into the importance of handwritten sources both for language history ‘from below’ and for historical sociolinguistics more broadly.
Elspaß, Stephan (2012): The Use of Private Letters and Diaries in Sociolinguistic Investigation. In: Hernández-Campoy, Juan M. & Juan C. Conde-Silvestre (eds.): The Handbook of Historical Sociolinguistics. Malden, 156–169.
Schiegg, Markus (2013): Medieval Glossators as Agents of Language Change. In: Esther-Miriam Wagner, Ben Outhwaite & Bettina Beinhoff (eds.): Scribes as Agents of Language Change (Studies in Language Change 10). Berlin, 39–69.
Schiegg, Markus (2015): The Invisible Language of Patients from Psychiatric Hospital. In: Anna Havinga & Nils Langer (eds.): Invisible Languages in the 19th Century (Historical Sociolinguistics 2). Oxford, 71–94.