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Konfession und Sprache in der Frühen Neuzeit. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven. Herausgegeben von Järgen Macha, Anna-Marie Balbach und Sarah Horstkamp. Münster: Waxmann, 2012. 245 Seiten + 16 s/w Abbildungen. €37,90.

This volume consists of eleven papers originally presented at an interdisciplinary conference held at the Westphalian Wilhelms-University in February 2011. The conference had two goals beyond discussion of the central question of language and confession in the Early Modern Period. The first was to bring together an international constellation of scholars and the second was to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries by including both historical linguists and historians. The resulting volume contains contributions by scholars from Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, seven written by linguists and four by historians. The articles are uniformly of high quality and maintain a tight focus on the central theme. What is more, the contributions suggest avenues for future research into this crucial period in the development of a written standard variety of German.

The volume presents an exemplary set of studies firmly grounded in analysis of extensive and diverse data sets. The first article by Anna-Marie Balbach, “Jakob, Johann oder Joseph?— Frühneuzeitliche Vornamen im Streit der Konfession” investigates the link between confession and the naming of children over a period of roughly three hundred years, 1500–1800. The contribution begins with an interesting overview arguing that there is a general tendency in Switzerland and southern Germany for Catholic parents to prefer names of saints for their children, while Protestant parents show a preference for Old Testament names or Germanic names. Balbach then deepens her analysis with a study of names inscribed on gravestones in biconfessional Augsburg over three centuries. This set of 3194 names on about 1000 gravestones allows Balbach to demonstrate that distinct naming patterns emerge precisely during periods of confessional conflict (e.g., 1521–1570 and 1618–1648) but then become decidedly less distinct during less turbulent periods.

In “Der Streit über die Frage, wo ist das beste Teutsch zu finden,” Dieter Breuer delves deeper than the common superficial citation of metalinguistic commentary on what is “the best German,” demonstrating that ideologies about which emerging regional written standard, East Central German (“Meißnisch”) or Upper German (“Das [End Page 293] gemeine Teutsch”) was “das beste Teutsch” were tightly bound to confessional choice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Only in the course of the eighteenth century is the preference for East Central German deconfessionalized. Contributing factors seem to have been the use of East Central German by converts to Catholicism such as the Silesian priest, pamphleteer, and poet Johannes Scheffler, who retained his East Central German written variety even after his conversion in 1653 and thus served as a conduit for the East Central German variety in the Catholic South.

Using a very small corpus Walter Haas investigates the linguistic situation in confessionally splintered Switzerland between the two Villmergen Wars (1656 and 1712) in “Das Deutsche und die Konfessionen in der Eidgenossenschaft um 1700.” Haas posits as a working hypothesis that a period between two politically and confessionally motivated wars might provide clear examples of confessionally motivated linguistic differences. Working with a corpus of two religious texts—one by the Catholic Franz Sutter and the second by the Protestant preacher Johann Grimm—a comparison of these texts leads Haas to conclude that there are quite limited differences between the two writers, that they had internalized a written variety based in large part on East Upper German traditions, and that this variety had become general for writers of both confessions as a result of centuries of “informal standardization.” Haas draws the main conclusion that by 1700, even in printed religious texts, writers of both confessions show a surprising degree of uniformity.

In “Leichenpredigten des 17. Jahrhunderts im konfessionellen Kontext” Mechthild Habermann examines linguistic features of two funeral sermons, one in the Reformed city of Nuremberg and the other in Catholic Würzburg in the seventeenth century. Detailed analysis of the two texts reveals that the Nuremberg sermon shows definite linguistic orientation toward East Central German norms and—aside from a tendency to apocopate final schwa—largely avoids features of the local urban...


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