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This paper investigates the anthology of Volkslieder collected and published by Johann Gottfried Herder, variously considered a cultural nationalist, a relativist, and a universalist. He is credited as having introduced the idea that a Muttersprache was an anthropological necessity, key to the identity of the Volk. I examine how he deployed hierarchies structuring cultural and linguistic diversity in order to refine a Muttersprache that could be transmitted to German poets. Per Herder, each Muttersprache had its own untranslatable, originary "vital tone," which he attempted to translate in his Volkslieder, a collection of poems from a diverse array of linguistic cultures.