Multilingualism in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age: The Literary-Historical Evidence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

While we tend to discuss multilingualism as a primarily modern phenomenon, that is, as the result of massive migrations all over the globe today, people in the European Middle Ages were already extensively on the move, either on crusades or pilgrimages, on business trips or attending major political or clerical meetings. Multilingualism was consequently not an unusual phenomenon. This article brings together evidence from history, the history of language, and from medieval literature at large to confirm how much the knowledge of at least one, if not two and more, foreign languages was quite common at that age. Significantly, however, a number of poets far into the seventeenth century voiced great concern about the consequences of poor foreign language skills, revealing the true extent to which multilingualism was an important matter. Generally, we can assume that the less courtly poets addressed the issue of multilingualism, the more that phenomenon must have been present already then.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-145
Number of pages15
JournalNeophilologus
Volume97
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Keywords

  • Foreign languages in the Middle Ages
  • Latin versus Vernacular
  • Linguistic communication
  • Multilingualism in the Middle Ages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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