By Common Weal’s Katie Gallogly-Swan
BEFORE the meteoric rise in printing technology, most European nations were a hodgepodge of dialects and linguistic variations. More of a flowing fabric of interwoven words across the continent, than our current situation of bounded nation-states.
With the popularity of print publications came the need to standardise written languages-translating every book into the hundreds of French dialects would have been an unwieldy and costly project, much more complicated than developing dictionaries for people to learn the standard.
Thusly, the new and increasingly ubiquitous print media at the time effected spoken variations, with institutions like L’Academie Francaise established with the sole role of linguistic arbiter; policing the nation’s speakers to communicate ‘properly’.
Benedict Anderson posited in his seminal work, Imagined Communities, that it was at this point-this momentous juncture of new technology and language in Europe-that the notion of nationalism was born.
At this period in history, we see for the first time the concept of the bounded, national community defined through a shared linguistic experience of the world. One that belied variations and stuck stringently to ‘standards’, which were unanimously the responsibility of society’s elite-language standards are inherently hierarchical and fundamentally political.
Scotland, however, is a bit more complicated.
Picture courtesy of duncan c