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The Birth of Monolingualism from Multilingualism (2022-)

Questions of literary multilingualism have received increased attention in recent years. This is especially true of the research on globalisation and the translation of literature, which has shown that even modern national literatures are bound to temporal interconnections and historical conjunctures of transmission. The concept of post-monolingualism, introduced to describe contemporary global developments, clearly emphasizes this temporal dimension. Against this background, the comparative project centers on pre-monolingualism, and therefore focusses on the beginnings of modern monolingualism and its impact on the development of a linguistic norm and national standard language.

In order to take the global perspective of linguistically determined temporal communities into account, the project not only exceeds the framework of European national languages, but at the same time questions their model function. Using the examples of German in the 18th century and Turkish in the 20th century, the project will examine the historical development of the distinction between monolingualism and multilingualism. The relatively young standard Turkish in particular allows the emergence of monolingualism to be analysed in statu nascendi.

The emergence of standardised languages, which at the same time have the status of a national language and are recognised as literary languages, have been described in detail in (historical) sociolinguistics under the keyword 'standard language ideology'. The consequences of this ideologically entrenched conception of language in literature have been analysed to a far lesser degree. The enforcement of the monolingual norm in the German-speaking area is accompanied for instance by the discourse about the mother tongue and the literary original, and develops in parallel with the strengthening of the literary book market, and with the consolidation of the modern novel.

Against this background, the project inquires into these linguistic and literary perceptions and their adoption in Turkey. The rigorous language reforms implemented by Atatürk in the 1920s can be interpreted as the adaptation of European standard language ideology to Turkish conditions. It can be assumed that the language views committed to the "monolingual paradigm" (Yıldız) and characterised by linguistic purism have also had an impact on Turkish literature.

The focus is on the comparison between pre- and post-monolingualism. By means of case studies in two exemplary historical phases, the first aim of the project is to show that and how literature differs from the basic assumption of strongly standardised monolingualism before the enforcement of the standard monolingual language ideology as a norm. Since this assumption is increasingly being called into question by social change, globalisation and migration, the second aim is to examine with a view to contemporary Turkish-German literature, how the distinction between monolingualism and multilingualism is reflected and processed in literature and to what extent there are continuities between pre- and post-monolingual situations.


Student Assistant

Questions of Literary Multilingualism in Turkish-German Literature (2022-)

Doctoral Research Project
Zita Balogh-Auer