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Languages and Communities in Early Modern Europe


  • Page extent: 226 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.47 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 306.44/094
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: P40.45.E85 B87 2004
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Sociolinguistics--Europe--History

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521828963 | ISBN-10: 0521828961)

In this magisterial study, Peter Burke explores the social and cultural history of the languages spoken or written in Europe between the invention of printing and the French Revolution, arguing that, from a linguistic point of view, 1450 to 1789 should be regarded as a distinct period. One major theme of the book is the relation between languages and communities (regions, churches, occupations and genders as well as nations) and the place of language as a way of identifying others as well as a symbol of one's own identity. A second, linked theme is that of competition: between Latin and the vernaculars, between different vernaculars, dominant and subordinate, and finally between different varieties of the same vernacular, such as standard languages and dialects. Written by one of Europe's leading cultural historians, this book restores the history of the many languages of Europe in a large variety of contexts.

• Places the history of the many languages of Europe in their cultural, social and political contexts • Examines the relationship between languages and communities • Written by a renowned historian of international repute


Prologue: communities and domains; 1. 'Speak, that I may see thee': the discovery of language in early modern Europe; 2. Latin: a language in search of a community; 3. Vernaculars in competition; 4. Standardizing languages; 5. Mixing languages; 6. Purifying languages; Epilogue: languages and nations; Appendix.


'… a historian of the first rank, a prolific pioneer of the study of 'cultural history'. This typically brilliant survey of European languages between the invention of printing and the French Revolution began as a series of lectures at Queen's University Belfast … This is serious history deserving of a wide readership.' BBC History

'Peter Burke paints a broad canvas with assurance and virtuosity …' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'This is a rich and illuminating book, full of insight and often surprising detail. Its strengths lie above all in its diversity - in Burke's ability to offer a close-up of, say, the colonial presence of Portuguese or the decline of Catalan, while also moving happily among a whole range of different languages and writers. … rewarding and insightful …' Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development

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