Linguistic Authority, Language Ideology, and Metaphor: The Czech Orthography Wars

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Walter de Gruyter, Aug 22, 2008 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 381 pages

How does a country find itself 'at war' over spelling? This book focuses on a crucial juncture in the post-communist history of the Czech Republic, when an orthographic commission with a moderate reformist agenda found itself the focus of enormous public controversy.

Delving back into history, Bermel explores the Czech nation's long tradition of intervention and its association with the purity of the language, and how in the twentieth century an ascendant linguistic school - Prague Functionalism - developed into a progressive but centralizing ideology whose power base was inextricably linked to the communist regime. Bermel looks closely at the reforms of the 1990s and the heated public reaction to them. On the part of language regulators, he examines the ideology that underlay the reforms and the tactics employed on all sides to gain linguistic authority, while in dissecting the public reaction, he looks both at conscious arguments marshaled in favor of and against reform and at the use, conscious and subconscious, of metaphors about language.

Of interest to faculty and students working in the area of language, cultural studies, and history, especially that of transitional and post-communist states, this volume is also relevant for those with a more general interest in language planning and language reform.

The book is awarded with the "The George Blazyca Prize in East European Studies 2008".


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Chapter 1 Orthographic reform and language planning
Chapter 2 Standard Czech in its social and linguistic setting
Chapter 3 Spelling reform in Czech 14001900
Chapter 4 Spelling reform in Czech 19001980
Chapter 5 Czech orthographic reform 19801994
Issues and debates
Chapter 7 Debating linguistics authority and legitimacy
Chapter 8 Metaphors and the conceptualization of language
Chapter 9 Conclusions

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About the author (2008)

Neil Bermel, University of Sheffield, UK.

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