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Nations and Nationalism 7 (2), 2001, 235±251.

# ASEN 2001

Language as an instrument of
nationalism in Central Europe*
IFW, Opole University, Oleska 48, 45-052 Opole, Poland

ABSTRACT. This article presents a brief survey and analysis of the most intimate
coupling of culture and national projects that occurred in Central Europe following
the success of the Italian and German nation-states established in this manner during
the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Language is the very `stuff' of culture as
well as the instrument of communicating and reaffirming cultural difference vis-aÁ-vis
other cultures. As such, language became central to the processes of nation- and
nation-state-building in Central Europe, leading to politicisation of language and also
of linguistics and philology, which were expected to fortify the nations and their
nation-states than rather to lend themselves to objective research. It is proposed that
this specific Central European interweaving of language and national projects may be
better comprehended through the application of Einar Haugen's model of language
standardisation and Miroslav Hroch's model of nation-building. These two models in
the Central European case seem to be closely corresponding to each other. The short
catalogue of language elements used to produce national differentiation closes this

Na SÂwieËtej Helenie Napoleon lubiø od czasu do czasu kartkowac gramatykeË . . . W ten bodaj
sposoÂb dowodziø, zÇ-e jest Francuzem.
At St Helen, Napoleon sometimes liked to browse the [French] grammar . . . In this
manner, perhaps, he proved he was a Frenchman.
(Cioran 1995: 85, author's translation).
[Language] uses us as much as we use language.
(Lakoff 1975: 3)
A `language' is the interplay and struggle of regional dialects, professional jargons,
generic commonplaces, the speech of different age groups, individuals, and so forth.
(Clifford 1988: 46)
[T]he mediaeval peasant spoke, but the modern person cannot merely speak; we have
to speak something ± a language
(Billig 1995: 31)

* An earlier version of this article was presented in Polish at the international conference on
Modern Nationalism and National Identi®cation in Central and Eastern Europe organised at
Gliwice, Poland in October 1999 by the Haus der Deutsch-Polnischen Zusammenarbeit (Gliwice),
the Instytut SÂlaËski (Opole, Poland) and the Herder-Institut (Marburg, Germany). I wish to thank
the anonymous referees for their valuable comments.
236 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

From the relations of separate languages, or groups of languages, to one another, we

may discover the original and more or less intimate af®nity of the nations themselves . . .
(Lepsius 1863: 24)
[N]ationalist ethnography was concerned not merely with codifying peasant custom,
linguistic and other, so as to use it as the base for a new national culture which was in
the process of construction, but also to establish that a given dialect really was a
version of Ruritanian, and not, as was shamefully and meretriciously claimed by
jealous and unscrupulous Braggadocian politicians and intellectuals (whose opportu-
nist scholarship was matched only by their lack of political conscience), a dialect of
Middle Braggadocian.
(Gellner 1998: 131)
Language is the basic instrument of communication among human beings
and is the indispensable basis for the existence of cultures, civilisations and
religions, and for social reality in general. This is borne out by the key role
that language plays in social cohesion both in tiny communities and extensive
societies organised in the form of nations or large confessing religions. Thus,
if one assumes that language is the instrument by which it is possible to bond
groups with a theoretically unlimited number of individuals, control over
language or its use provides the most far-ranging possibilities of moulding
and manipulating large groups of humans (see Tollefson 1991). From a social
and geographical viewpoint, language is a continuous phenomenon. The
most apt description of language at the exclusively oral stage when there was
no script in use can be summarised as a continuum of subdialects shading
into one another, which corresponded to singular population concentrations
usually actualised as villages and towns (Crystal 1987: 25). The qualitative
change came with the invention of script and the spread of writing ± or of
literacy and numeracy if one analyses the social effects of writing. Before the
invention of writing, small polities had already come into being, but their
rapid growth and preservation proved to be possible only through the use of
Regarding the European experience of the written word, in feudal states
and empires literacy was the field dominated by specialists belonging to the
estates.1 The then-used written languages had no relation to the local dialects
or were considerably removed from them, as was the case of Latin in Western
Christianity, Greek and Old Church Slavonic in Orthodox Christianity,
Arabic in Islam, and Osmanlica in the Ottoman administration. But the
intensification of commercial and political contacts at the onset of modernity
in Western Christian Europe required the emergence of written languages
grounded in the contemporary subdialects of the centres of secular power/
administration (usually capitals) so as to make it possible for most members
of the estates to participate fully in the political, social and economic life of
their states. Hence, literacy gradually spread in the estates. First, the written
vernaculars were codified as chancellery languages2 (for instance, Czech,
beginning in the fourteenth century), then some of them evolved into literary
languages3 (for example, Polish since the sixteenth century) or disappeared
Language as an instrument of nationalism 237

as written languages (for instance, Czech in the eighteenth century) (see

Siatkowska 1992: 350).

Language and nationalism

Modernisation brought the largely parallel, mutually reinforcing and depend-

ent processes of industrialisation, urbanisation, the phasing out of the estates
and serfdom, and power concentration. Together, these produced the terri-
torial state in Western Europe with its highly centralised administration
controlling and serving the needs of the increasingly mobile population,
gradually overhauled into citizenry with the same political rights and duties
(see Giddens 1985: 83±102). The position of the territorial state as the only
actor of international relations emerged with the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
In the view of international law, states were separate polities enshrined with
absolute sovereignty. Moreover, the state was ideally to coincide with the
confessionally homogeneous population in accordance with the principle of
cujus regio, ejus religio that gave birth to the rule that the state should be
inhabited by people of `the same kind' (Knutsen 1997: 135±7; Oommen 1997:
Over time in the West, the required homogeneity of populations with
this or that religion ceased to be of significance as nation-state- and nation-
building projects commenced. It was either the already existing states (such
as England or France) that turned into nation-states through making their
populations into nations largely on the civic basis (jus soli), or the educated/
literate elites (e.g. BildungsbuÈrgertum4 in the German case) speaking
chancellery/literary languages who built nations and their nation-states on
the ethno-linguistic grounds (jus sanguini) (Brubaker 1992; Gellner 1997:
50±4). These two basic models available for the national project produced two
different kinds of nationalism: the civic and ethnic ones. In the former,
citizenship and nationality are synonymous, while in the latter only nation-
ality makes one eligible for obtaining citizenship (Radevich-Vinnitskiy 1997:
45±55; Smith 1998: 125±7).
Before language, construed as the national language, could be used for the
sake of nation- and nation-state-building, chancellery/literary languages had
had to replace Latin, and, thus, to become the basis from which national
languages would spring up in due course. Initially, chancellery/literary lan-
guages did not obliterate other languages and dialects used in the territorial
state. Actually, the speakers of the official language5 remained a minority in
comparison to the rest of the usually illiterate population excluded from
participation in the political life through the estate system. In 1789 only 12
to 13 per cent of the French population concentrated in the IÃle de France
spoke standard French.6 At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
turies, the membership of the BildungsbuÈrgertum who perused prints in
standard German numbered between 300,000 and 500,000, and only the
238 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

educated few (accounting for 2.5 per cent of the inhabitants) of the Italian
nation-state in 1860 used standard Italian for everyday purposes (Hobsbawm
1990: 60±1).
The French Revolution, which standardised the model of the nation and
its nation-state, did not officially elevate standard French as one of the
binding elements of the French nation, but it was deemed worthwhile to
proscribe all other languages extant in France in 1794 (Edwards 1994: 154).
On the basis of this growing use of language for political ends, Jean-Jacques
Rousseau's (1712±78) German disciple, Johann Gottlieb Herder (1744±1803)
developed his theory of the Volksgeist (spirit of a people/nation) drawing on
the thought of Giambattista Vico (1668±1744). Herder believed that every
nation/ethnic group7 was a manifestation of the Divine, and, therefore,
something sacred that should not be destroyed but cultivated. On the other
hand, spirits of nations could be most fully expressed only through mother
tongues. Thus, understandably, he opposed the Germanisation projects of
other (especially Slavic) language-speakers in the Holy Roman Empire and in
Prussia commenced by Joseph II and Friedrich II the Great, respectively. His
opinions were based on the assumption of the equality of all languages as
coming from God (Kohn 1946: 523 and 1965: 30±2). By 1806, the French
onslaught had done away with the Holy Roman Empire, limiting the realm of
the emperor to his hereditary lands overhauled as the Austrian Empire (1804),
and seriously endangered the survival of Prussia. German nationalism origin-
ated from this sudden and frightful encounter with the `Other' (i.e. the French
troops). Moreover, after the demise of the Holy Roman Empire there was no
polity left which could be overhauled into a German nation-state and serve as
the shaper and container of the German nation.
Drawing on the thought of Herder, standard German was put forward as
the binding element of the German nation, the territorial spread of which
would demarcate the border of the German nation-state. In his Addresses to
the German Nation (1807), Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762±1814) lauded the
mother tongue passed to descendants by their fathers as the most precious
thing one has, and he immediately identified standard German as superior to
all other languages (Crystal 1987: 7). Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768±1834)
added that only one language could be firmly implemented in the individual
(Kedourie 1993: 57), which Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769±1860) readily trans-
lated into political action stating that the German nation-state was there
wherever standard German could be heard (Fishman 1973: 127±8). Later
national movements of Central and Eastern Europe also followed this dictum
in full agreement.
Although the Congress of Vienna (1815) produced a semblance of the old
order, which meant suppression of nationalism as vulgar and inappropriate
because it sought the replacement of the divine legitimisation of rule with the
will of the people (i.e. the nation), this new political force did not get uprooted
from Central Europe. It was beefed up with constant ideological reinforce-
ment flowing from Western Europe and the United States where numerous
Language as an instrument of nationalism 239

nationalists, republicans and liberals from Central Europe had found a safe
haven. In the first North American nation-state, Noah Webster (1758±1843)
strove to differentiate the United States from the United Kingdom at the
linguistic level, and in 1827 he published his American Dictionary of the
English Language with which he founded the distinctive American standard
of English (Edwards 1994: 161). In time, other national varieties of English
emerged in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand and South
Africa (to name the most significant ones), while, even earlier, varieties of
Spanish developed in the Latin American nation-states, as well as Portuguese
in Brazil. Similar developments took place in the French- and German-
speaking nation-states outside the borders of France and Germany, and one
can also observe the very tangible and separate existence of these national
varieties in the language tools section of Word for Windows.
In 1830 religion (i.e. Catholicism), not language, played the much more
important role in the creation of Belgium with its bilingual situation;
however, in 1848 Prussian troops occupied bilingual Schleswig-Holstein in
response to appeals of the provincial assemblies dominated by German-
speakers (Davies 1996: 930). After the revolutionary year of 1848, dubbed the
VoÈlkerfruÈhling (Spring of the Nations) in the nationalist vocabulary, language
became the main rallying point for the emergent national movements who
could not base their nationalisms either on the established tradition of state-
hood or on a chancellery/literary language. This was especially true of the
Slavic ethnic groups in the Austrian empire, who were represented by
national activists at the Pan-Slav Congress (1848), convened in Prague by
FrantisÏ ek Palacky (1798±1876), where, ironically, the delegates deliberated
in German. Palacky started to write in Czech only after this event, later
contributing to the codification of standard Czech and to Czech national
history with his five-volume Geschichte von BoÈhmen (1834±67), which was
also published in Czech (1848±76).
Hence, in the second half of the nineteenth century, the notion of the
national language8 became well established, while the foundation of the
Italian and German nation-states in 1860 and 1871 respectively, reaffirmed
language as the basis for national projects in Central Europe. The equation
became language=nation=state, unlike Western Europe and the Americas
where it was state=nation. On this basis, while the Western-dominated world
was standardised through various international agreements (for example,
putting the 08 meridian through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, divid-
ing the world into time zones in 1884, the domination of the metric system,
guaranteed global transportation, communication and exchange of mail),
the development of a `scientific' approach to the national question became
urgent, too.
The problem of how to `measure' nations appeared at the first and second
International Statistical Congresses in 1853 and 1860. In his influential works
brought out in the 1860s, the German philologist Richard BoÈckh argued that
language was the only adequate indicator of nationality. On this basis it was
240 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

recommended at the third International Statistical Congress at St Petersburg

in 1872 that the question about language should be included in all censuses
(Hobsbawm 1990: 22±3, 97). But it soon proved to be the case the censuses
that asked this question measured not only the numerical and territorial
extent of nations but also created nations (by forcing respondents to choose
one language only) and provided nationalists with statistical arguments.
These circumstances fostered the growth of the so-called `non-historical'
national movements mainly based on the philological endeavors of the early
nineteenth-century pioneers who created and standardised such languages as
Czech, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Romanian, Finnish and many others
(Johnson 1996: 140±2; Pynsent and Kanikova 1993: 507±56).9

Theoretical considerations

Einar Haugen (1966) provides the clearest and most accepted model of how
these new languages emerged. First, an agreed-upon piece of dialect contin-
uum had to be chosen as the starting point for developing the standard lan-
guage (`selection of a norm'). Secondly, this piece was standardised through
grammars, dictionaries and translations of the Bible and world literature
(`codi®cation of form'). Thirdly, the newly standardised language was used in
an increasing number of social contexts (`elaboration of function'). Lastly,
most of the population who identi®ed or were identi®ed with the nation for
whom the standard language was developed had to accept it (`acceptance by
the community').10 Obviously, despite the straightforward character of this
model, it should be borne in mind that the usual way to a new standard
language is protracted and marked with failed and aborted attempts as can be
illustrated by the history of the Slovak language (see Brock 1976).
Standard languages created in this manner in Central and Eastern Europe
during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were fashioned as national
languages of postulated nations and their nation-states, which the respective
national movement vowed to actualise. Miroslav Hroch (1985: 23±4) aptly
described the rise and growth of such movements, which take place in the
manner described below:
. In the period of scholarly interest (Phase A), antiquarians and folklorists
delimit the ethnic group's extent through collecting its oral literature and
identifying its material culture.
. In the period of patriotic agitation (Phase B), a handful of members of the
ethnic group set out on the project of making it into a nation under the
influence of similar national projects. At that time they usually fight it out
to decide what dialect(s)/creole(s) to use as the basis for the standard
national language and how its codified form should look.
. Phase C marks the rise of the mass national movement spearheaded by the
hard-core activists of Phase B; the ethnic group becomes a nation and the
Language as an instrument of nationalism 241

national language gains widespread acceptance among the members of

the nation and it is gradually elaborated.
. To this scheme I tend to add Phase D when the nation establishes its
own nation-state in fulfilment of the equation of ethnic nationalism:
language=nation=state (Kamusella 1999a).

As in the case of language standardisation, during which relatively few

parts of dialect/creole continua are selected as prospective standard/national
languages, few prospective ethnic groups are selected for overhauling into
nations. Even fewer ethnic groups make it to Phase C, let alone D, as is also
the case with most written languages, which are neither elaborated fully nor
wholly accepted by the community.
In Central Europe, where the rise of national movements is so closely
pegged onto language, one can justifiably argue that Hroch's social model
corresponds with Haugen's socio-linguistic one. Thus, the antiquarians and
folklorists of Phase A tend to write down oral literature of an ethnic group
formalising its boundary with ethno-linguistic markers. As a result, a certain
`swathe' of the dialect/creole continuum is correlated with an ethnic group
believed to consist of the speakers of the subdialects belonging to this swathe,
as well as with a territory inhabited by these speakers. In this manner, the
selection range of the norm is conveniently narrowed, focusing the attention
of the nationalist activists of Phase B on a not too broad piece of the dialect/
creole continuum. They strive to standardise this piece as the would-be
national language (codification of form). The solidification of the national
movement in Phase C leads to an ever-increasing acceptance of the stand-
ardised language as the national language on the basis of the dominant ethnic
group.11 This acceptance brings about ever-widening use of this newly stand-
ardised language and its application to an increasingly exhaustive array of
social situations and a growth in the number of its speakers (elaboration of
function). The maximal elaboration and acceptance are possible when the
nation achieves its own nation-state in Phase D, and the national language
is elevated to the status of `official language' for the nation-state or even to
`state language'.12
The Upper Silesians (Szlonzoks) belong to the category of ethnic groups
that, today, linger in Phase A without a specific piece of dialect/creole con-
tinuum selected as its language (see Kamusella 1999a). The groups in Phase B,
having a preselected piece of this continuum that now needs standardisation
(codification), include the Rusyns/Lemkos (see Magocsi 1978). Being dis-
persed and divided by several state borders as well as by the Atlantic (as many
Rusyn activists live in Canada), the standardisation of their language has
hardly progressed, unlike the Kashubs concentrated around GdanÂsk
(Danzig). Their language got standardised (codified) through grammars,
dictionaries and the two rival translations of the New Testament. The
Kashubian movement progresses into Phase C as standard Kashubian gains
wider acceptance and is used in a growing number of social contexts
242 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

(elaboration) (Majewicz 1995: 10ff.). The Kashubian leaders are careful to

emphasise that the Kashubs are an ethnic group of the Polish nation but the
Sorbs of Lusatia in Germany have no such qualms and are widely recognised
as a nation with their own quite well-accepted and elaborated national
language with two literary varieties (standards) of Upper and Lower Sorbian.
They are in Phase C, but having not been granted their own nation-state,
unlike the Poles in 1918 or the Slovaks in 1993 (who thanks to this fact
entered Phase D), the use of Sorbian and identification with the Sorbian
nation declines as it competes with the social, economic and political attrac-
tion of the German nation-state (see Rzetelska-Fleszko 1993).
Obviously, the correlation between the standardisation of the national
language and the development of the national movement is not absolute even
in Central Europe where nationalism is overwhelmingly pegged on language.
For instance, the Ukrainian nation is in Phase D after having secured its own
nation-state in 1991 but the Ukrainian language is not spoken or even
accepted by the whole nation, especially in the eastern half of the country
(see Ivanishin and Radevich-Vinnitskiy 1994: 21±70). The territorially dis-
persed Cossacks hover between Phases B and C, and some of their leaders
even proclaimed their own nation-states, which would put them into Phase D.
In 1992 they gained recognition as a nation in Russia, but Cossack nation-
alism is not tied to their national language, as they have none and usually
speak Russian (Kwas niewski 1993). The Montenegrins, with their own
nation-state of long standing but sharing their national language with the
Serbs, are a similar case. On the other hand, O Â ndra èysohorsky (the nom de
plume of Ervin Goj (1905±89)) single-handedly selected from the Northern
Slavic dialect continuum and the Slavic-Germanic creole continuum the
fragment associated with Czech Silesia and northern Moravia and codified it
into the Lachian language which he elaborated through his poetry and
writings. But no national movement of the proposed Lachs came into being
as there was no group who would accept this language as their national one
and the basis of their nationalism (see Dokoupil 1994: 80±2).
In 1918, when such `non-historical' nations as the Slovaks, the Estonians,
the Latvians or the Finns became nation-states, US President Woodrow
Wilson not only put the seal of approval on (ethnic) nationalism but also
elevated the national principle to be the very basis of the political organ-
isation of the world (Kohn 1965: 81±91). In Central Europe it meant that,
more often than elsewhere, language was used to set borders of nation-
states, taking precedence over historically established borders, which was
the model during European decolonisation when new nation-states were
founded on the basis of colonial borders (see Ottaway 1999: 13±14). Accord-
ingly, Slovak-speaking Upper Hungary13 was given to Czechoslovakia, Silesia
was split among Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and predominantly
Romanian-speaking Transylvania, despite the over one-million-strong group
of Hungarian-speakers in the province's centre, was, in its entirety, transferred
to Romania.
Language as an instrument of nationalism 243

However, the tradition of ethnic nationalism struck a deep chord in

Central Europe. Thus, it is unusual for scholars to distinguish ethnic groups/
nations that do not differ from their neighbours in tongue (as it is the case
of the Cossacks and the Montenegrins). This attitude is even reflected in the
terminology. Since the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, author-
ities have spoken of `ethnolingustic groups' not of ethnic groups (see Magocsi
1993: 97±9; Naumienko et al. 1962: 80; Scobel 1909: 31). The dominance of
the totalitarian ideologies of national socialism and communism in Europe
during the period 1933 to 1989 did not suppress ethnic nationalism specific to
Central Europe, but rather reaffirmed it when between 1937 and 1945 Hitler
managed to build the true German nation-state14 comprising all the German-
speakers (not including those in Switzerland), as well as the pan-German
empire. In turn, at the close of World War II, Stalin actualised the pan-Slavic
idea in service of Russian imperialism having secured the Soviet bloc ± the
first true pan-Slavic empire (minus `maverick' Yugoslavia, that is) (Kohn
1965: 70±2).
Within the pan-Slavic empire of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc,
nationalism seemed to have been put into a deep-freeze, but, with the
privilege of hindsight, one can quite clearly see that rhetoric of proletariat
internationalism was not translated into practice. However, for the sake of
reinforcing and consolidating the hold of Moscow over these vast territories,
in accordance with the principle of divide et impera, nationalisms were
tolerated and encouraged in so far as they contributed to the fortification
of the `ethno-cum-lingustic-cum-political' borders of the nation-states in
this bloc. Thus, maintained ethnic hatreds kept the satellites isolated, pre-
venting them from uniting against the `Big Brother'. Moscow used the
matryoshka system within the Soviet Union, where ethno-linguistically
defined territorial-cum-political units were included in one another, to
achieve the same goals as in the Soviet bloc (Nodia 1998: 20±1). Looking up
to Stalin, Tito also reconstructed Yugoslavia as a union of six ethno-linguistic
units, with two more within Serbia itself, keeping in line with the matryoshka
When the centripetal forces of totalitarianism waned after death of Tito,
and as the economic decline of the Soviet bloc relative to the US and NATO
was intensified by the `Star Wars' driven armament race, nationalisms were
able to come to the political fore, but they now had the traditional ethno-
linguistic goals in mind which precipitated the break-up of Yugoslavia, the
Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia along ethno-linguistic lines. Interestingly,
the matryoshka system created the ground for emergence of nations complete
with their national languages and nation-states that had never existed before
(for example the Azeris, Kazaks, Uzbeks or Tajiks). At present they are as
busy building and reaffirming their newly gained statehood and nationhood
(see Dudoignon 1998) as the new Central European nation-states did in the
interwar period. The same is true of the post-Yugoslav nation-states,
especially of Macedonia.
244 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

The revival of international politics subjected to ethnically construed

nationalisms rooted in languages came distinctly to the fore when Skopje
declared independence. Sofia was first to recognise the state of Macedonia in
1991, but not as a nation-state, because, according to the Bulgarian stance,
standard Macedonian is just a literary variety of standard Bulgarian, ergo
the Macedonian nation does not exist as it is part of the Bulgarian nation
(Mahon 1998: 401±2).


The nature of the modern state requires intensi®cation of communication

among the citizenry. This contributes to the disappearance of estate differ-
ences in favour of politically and legally guaranteed equality, because the
aforementioned intensi®cation is only possible in the context of popular
literacy and numeracy. Thus, literacy and numeracy must stop functioning as
a marker of social status. The basis for this qualitative change lies in the
creation of the standard language whose use covers all the spheres of human
life and does not differ signi®cantly in any of the state's regions.
At present the world's landmass (except the uninhabited Antarctica) is
divided among the nation-states. Although these states are the product of
nationalist ideology, which entails the establishment of nation-states through
the creation of corresponding nations by homogenisation, highly variegated
elements of social, cultural and political life may serve as the basic pattern for
such actions.
As mentioned above, this is the pattern when citizenship in a nation-state is
based on civic nationalism. In nation-states employing ethnic nationalism, it
may be religion, language, tradition, history, or other ethnic factors, or a
mixture of these. However, in the Central European strain of ethnic nation-
alism, the ideal nation-state does not mean only a full overlapping of the
nation with the state but also with the territorial spread of the national
Having said this, I need to remark that in the processes of nation- and
nation-state-building grounded in ethnic nationalism, language has usually
served as:
. the main binding factor for the nation, especially in the situation when no
common state existed (e.g. the Germans before 1871 or the Poles prior to
. the instrument for excluding from the nation/nation-state persons with no
or insufficient knowledge of the national/state/official language (e.g. in
Estonia or Latvia after 1991);
. justification/the instrument of enlarging the territory of the nation-state
(e.g. Berlin's Anschluû of Austria in 1938 or granting Poland and
Czechoslovakia parts of Prussian and Austrian Silesia in 1918±22);
Language as an instrument of nationalism 245

. justification/the instrument of enlarging the numerical membership of

the nation (e.g. retaining most Upper Silesians (Szlonzoks) in post-1945
Poland as Poles and the Hultschiners16 as Czechs in Czechoslovakia after
Moreover, in today's world, which consists almost exclusively of nation-
states, the semantics of the national problematic and the practice of long-
established national behaviour patterns fortify the existence of nations and
nation-states, which in everyday discourse become reified as absolute and
eternal entities (Potter 1962: 924). As such, they appear as obvious as stones,
houses and cars, hence, the `everyman' does not need to reflect on them. This
makes nations and nation-states into the (normally) unperceived transparent
categories that have governed/determined almost every aspect of human life
in modern states during the last two centuries (Billig 1995; Kamusella 1999b).

Appendix: Catalogue of language elements used to produce national


It does not seem right to wrap up this article without presenting the basic
techniques used by ethnic nationalists to construct and/or differentiate their
national languages from one another. Because language as an instrument of
nationalism is connected to the broader phenomenon of literacy, the differ-
entiation that is to take hold must usually be re¯ected ®rst at the level of graphic
realisation. Paradoxically, though language is primarily an oral phenomenon,
in standard languages oral realisation is secondary in social signi®cance to the
written one. Actually, when one is socialised into a society that has a written
language, there is ®rst a period when one, as a child, uses the language in the
oral manner only. Next, there comes a lengthy period of formal schooling,
which, in effect, reverses the order of importance, attaching more value to the
written word as the standard with which the oral realisation should conform.
To write down an utterance in a language newly selected from a dialect/
creole continuum, one has to devise a new script or adopt an already existing
one. Before the spread of literacy, new scripts tended to be developed for a
language, as they were with Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew and Thai,
all of which to this day preserve their own specific scripts. Later, newly
written languages adopted scripts belonging to a dominant neighbour (for
example, Chinese script was used to write down Japanese and Korean), or
those connected to the holy books of a widespread religion (for instance,
Turkish used to be written down in the Arabic script, whereas Farsi and
Kurdish still are) (Campbell 1997: 3, 77, 87). Moreover, in multiconfessional
communities of the same language, different confessional groups used the
scripts of their holy books to write down the same language, as was the case in
the Middle East where Arabic was written in Hebrew characters by Jews, in
the Syriac alphabet by Christians and in Arabic by Muslims. Also, until the
246 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

1920s the Turkish-speaking Orthodox populace of Asia Minor wrote their

language in Greek characters (Clogg 1999: 33; Lewis 1995: 91). In modern
times the cultural pressure exerted by the European colonial powers brought
about the decisive spread of the Latin alphabet17 with the exception of
Russian which used the Cyrillic alphabet. Accordingly, the Cyrillic script was
imposed on all the newly established written languages in the Soviet Union. 18
With the coming of nationalism, scripts also came to be used in the
national projects. For instance, after Turkey became a nation-state (in 1923)
not only did the call to prayer have to be in Turkish (1923±38) instead of
classical Arabic of the Qur'an (Kuran 1997: 331) and Osmanlica interlaced
with Arabic and Persian borrowings were replaced with the `plain Turkish of
the streets', but in 1928 it was also decided to replace the Arabic alphabet
with the Latin one (Majewicz 1989: 49). Similarly, after the emergence of the
Romanian nation-state (in 1862) the last traces of employing the Cyrillic
script disappeared in favour of writing Romanian consistently in Latin
characters.19 After the mid-nineteenth century, Serbo-Croatian was devel-
oped as the common standard language for the Serbs and the Croats, but the
former, who were of the Orthodox persuasion, wrote it in the Cyrillic while
the latter, of the Roman Catholic confession, used Latin characters which,
nevertheless, reinforced the emerging national difference on the basis of the
confessional cleavage (Johnson 1996: 140).20 Also, Jews writing in Yiddish
(developed from Middle High German interlaced with Hebrew and Aramaic
linguistic borrowings (Geller 1994: 34±40)) used Hebrew characters and wrote
from right to left, which made this language less Germanic, which was helpful
for Zionism when it unfolded before the Holocaust.21 After the division of the
British Raj, the largely common language and lingua franca22 of the
subcontinent, Hindustani, got differentiated as Hindi and Urdu. The latter ±
written in a form of the Persian Arabic script with a growing number of
Persian linguistic borrowings ± became the state language of Pakistan,
whereas the former ± thoroughly Sanskritised and written in the Devangari
script ± was elevated to the position of the main language of intergroup
communication in India. Obviously, Hindi is closely related to Hinduism and
Urdu to Islam as well as to the nationalisms of these two nation-states23
(Crystal 1994: 406; Majewicz 1989: 24±5).
Before the mid-twentieth century, national/ethnic differentiation was also
affected by the use of a specific type. For instance, after German nationalism
grew at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Gothic type (Black
Letter) came to be most widely used for writing and printing in German to
differentiate the language at the level of graphic realisation, especially from
French which was represented in the regular Roman type. But midway
through World War II, Berlin gradually switched to the Roman type in order
to make printed German more readily accessible to the inhabitants of Hitler's
pan-German empire.24 Similarly, the specific Irish type was used to write and
print in Irish until the 1950s. This practice made Irish different from English
at the graphic level, which was of significance for early Irish nationalism
Language as an instrument of nationalism 247

because, since the seventeenth century, most Irish have spoken English only
(Crystal 1994: 196).
One also finds the employment of different types in Central Europe. For
instance, when books in German were published in the Gothic type, the
Roman type was still preserved for Catholic prints in standard Polish directed
to the Szlonzoks, which reinforced the ethnic border between them and the
German-speaking Protestant Silesians. On the other hand, religious publica-
tions in standard Polish and the Moravian language25 were rendered in the
Gothic type, which allowed the Slavic-speaking Protestant Lower Silesians to
differentiate themselves from the Poles and the Szlonzoks and to position
themselves closer with the Germans/Prussians. Meanwhile, the Catholic
Morawecs26 used this practice to differentiate themselves from the Szlonzoks
and to align themselves with the inhabitants of Austrian Silesia. When Czech
nationalism started to penetrate the areas inhabited by the Morawecs, the
Gothic type also made their language look more different from standard
Czech, which was rendered in the Roman type (Kamusella 1999a).
Within one script printed and written in the same type, different languages
are made graphically dissimilar through the use of various diacritics and special
characters, which mostly adapt the script to the phonemic nature of these
languages, but sometimes also emphasise their distinctiveness. Such practices
developed most extensively on the basis of the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets
(Campbell 1997: 43±4, 102±5). For instance, the Czech system of diacritics was
adopted for standard Lithuanian in 1861 in order to make this language more
different from Polish. Spelling also easily lends itself as an instrument of
differentiation. For instance in the Moravian language the graphemes [g] and
[w] have the same phonetic values as [j] and [v] in Czech. Moreover, spelling of
some words differ between Czech and Moravian, for instance, the city of
Olomouc (OlmuÈtz) is spelt as `Ohlomouc' in Moravian; and quite a few words
are completely different in Czech and Moravian (cf. Lelek 1846).


1 They constituted the nationes (`political nations') of the European states, i.e. narrow mobile
and privileged strata as opposed to the majoritarian populus of peasants (excluded from the estate
structure and subjected to the estates) who spent their lives in insulated localities, rarely venturing
outside their parishes (Gellner 1983: 9; Zientara 1996: 22±6). More often than not they did not
understand (or only barely understood) the literary and chancellery languages even when the
languages were based on the dialects spoken by populus in the vicinity of the capital. These written
languages were tacked on the of®cial register used only by members of the estates, and with time
became formalised with all kinds of borrowings from Latin and earlier established chancellery/
literary languages (see nn. 2 and 3 below), i.e. usually from Italian, French and German (cf.
Crystal 1987: 38±47). Similarly, the Osmanlõca-speakers (i.e. the professional Ottomans) formed
the `natio' of the Ottoman empire (Lewis 1995: 95±7; Sugar 1977: 31±42, 272).
2 i.e. languages used for the purpose of administration and correspondence (usually with the
estates within a single state) by monarchs and their chancelleries.
248 Tomasz D. I. Kamusella

3 i.e. written languages in which original writings were created, usually after their graphic form
had stabilised with the vernacular translation and publication/popularisation of the Bible or parts
of it (see Pynsent and Kanikova 1993: 462±75).
4 i.e. `educated city-dwellers' comprising the German-speaking section of the natio of the Holy
Roman Empire as well as the emerging bourgeoisie of the same tongue (Greenfeld 1992: 293±308).
5 An of®cial language is the language of state administration, the army and education.
6 The standard language is the chancellery/literary/of®cial language whose form became
standardised through grammars and dictionaries and was stabilised through widespread use in all
the contexts of life by a considerable number of people imbued with this standard through the
increasingly popular educational system.
7 Volk is a broad German term, which can mean people, folk, nation or ethnic group. In this
article, I distinguish between the nation, which is a self-conscious group somehow different from
the others, from the ethnic group, which, apart from being different, does not possess the self-
consciousness of the nation (Connor 1994: 103).
8 A national language is the language of the nation.
9 Languages come into being through political decisions. It is of no import that Czech and
Slovak are mutually intelligible, or that Flemish and Dutch are not more different from each
other than American English and the English spoken in England. Dialects of Chinese are
mutually unintelligible and uni®ed only by the same script, while Serbian and Croatian differ
from each other only through the use of the Cyrillic alphabet for the former and the Latin one for
the latter. Nevertheless, they are each the national languages of different nations, i.e. the
languages of the Czech and Slovak nations, not the Czecho-Slovak one; of the Flemings and the
Dutch, not the Netherlandish nation; the Chinese nation, not nations; and the Serb and Croatian
nations and not the Serbo-Croatian (Yugoslav) one. Those national languages, dialects and other
types of language (cf. Stewart in Edwards 1994: 141±2) that function as markers of ethnic
distinctiveness and of ethnic groups/nations, are dubbed `ethnolects' (Majewicz 1989: 12±13).
10 Through selection and codi®cation, the form of the standard language is decided upon, and its
function is determined through acceptance and elaboration. Selection and acceptance depends on
social and political forces while codi®cation and elaboration are carried out mainly by trained
linguists/philologists, usually in accordance with the wishes of or in consultation with these forces
(Haugen 1966: 933).
11 Nations are rarely built on the basis of one ethnic group only. Usually, several ethnic groups
are clustered together in an effort to transform them into a nation (as happened in France) or, in
the process of modernisation, small ethnic groups fused/were fused into a bigger one that was
numerous enough to spawn a nation (see the case of the Zulus (Ottaway 1999: 17)).
12 A `state language' is the only language of the nation-state. The status of `of®cial language'
makes the national language into the sole medium of formal transactions in the nation-state but
still allows informal use of other languages, unlike a national language made into the state
13 i.e. today's Slovakia.
14 The German nation-state of 1871 was Kleindeutschland (Little Germany) because it did not
include the German-speaking areas of Austria-Hungary, with which it would form Groûdeutsch-
land (Great Germany) ± the very `Holy Grail' of German nationalists in the last decades of the
nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.
15 Interestingly, in the middle of the Cold War, the Vatican II Council elbowed the Catholic
Church into an agreement with the modern world created by the Enlightenment and the French
Revolution. It also meant acceptance of the nation-state as the basic unit of political division and
the corresponding nation as the basic unit of social division. For the Holy See located in the
Italian nation-state, amidst all the nation-states of Central and Eastern Europe that emerged only
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such an acceptance of nationalism as a legitimate force
led to the replacement of Latin with national languages, which became effective at the turn of the
1960s and 1970s. This brought about further reinforcement of national-cum-political borders,
especially in the Soviet bloc as this phenomenon was somewhat offset by the process of European
integration in Western Europe (see Hervieu-LeÂger 1993).
Language as an instrument of nationalism 249

16 A 40,000-strong group who, after their separation from Germany and the incorporation into
Czechoslovakia in 1919, evolved from the Morawec ethnic identity, becoming an ethnic group on
their own whose distinctiveness was grounded in bilingualism (German and the Moravian
language/Czech) and a stronger attachment to German culture than the Czech one.
17 Recently the spread of the Latin alphabet was reinforced by the internet, as the basic language
of communication in this medium is English, and the users of languages with other scripts have to
resort to English or to impromptu Latinisation of messages transmitted via the internet in their
languages unless supported by an economically powerful state that may effect an introduction
and promotion of a different script, as it is the case of Japan and Russia championing the
Japanese and Cyrillic scripts respectively in cyberspace (Crystal 1998: 107).
18 A short reversal of this policy took place at the close of the 1920s when the Latin alphabet was
applied to the languages of the Islamic ethnic groups of Central Asia and the Caucasus (which
had been written in Arabic script prior to that time) before Cyrillic was reintroduced soon after
(Campbell 1997: 44; Swerdlow 1999: 126).
19 When Moscow seized Bessarabia and incorporated it into the USSR as the Socialist Republic
of Moldavia, the Romanian of this province was modelled into a separate Moldavian language
with the help of the Cyrillic alphabet (Majewicz 1989: 13). After the break-up of the USSR (1991),
independent Moldova emerged, and since then Moldavian has been written in Latin characters
again, making it virtually identical with standard Romanian.
20 After the break-up of Yugoslavia, the authorities of Croatia and Serbia split Serbo-Croatian
into Croatian and Serbian by introducing differing vocabulary and other linguistic elements as
well as nationally differentiated socio-linguistic practices (Gogala 1999).
21 After 1945, and especially after the establishment of the Zionist nation-state of Israel (1948),
(re)standardised Hebrew decisively replaced Yiddish as the national language of the Zionist
nation, though efforts to standardise Yiddish continued in the US, where this language also tends
to be written in Latin characters.
22 The lingua franca (vehicular language) is an auxilliary language used to permit routine
communication among groups of people who speak different languages.
23 The ruling strata of the Moghul empire (established in the sixteenth century) spoke Persian
and their subjects Hindustani. In order to communicate with the subjects the rulers began to use
Hindustani too, and soon the latter began to speak it among themselves interlacing it with Persian
and Arabic linguistic expressions and writing it down in the Persian form of the Arabic script. So
the Hindustani of the Moghul administration was as different from the Hindustani of the subjects
as Osmanlõca from Turkish. Hence, before the close of the British Raj, Urdu and Hindi, rather
than being separate languages, were `sociolects' of the rulers and the ruled, respectively (Temple
1908: 102).
24 At the beginning of the twentieth century, about half of the book production in Germany was
in the Gothic type (Anon. 1908).
25 This was the partially standardised language based on the Slavic dialects of Moravia and
Austrian Silesia, close to standard Czech and standard Slovak. After 1918 it became defunct in
Czechoslovakia, replaced by standard Czech. It survived in the southern part of Germany's
section of Upper Silesia until the end of World War II, when this area, together with other
German territory, was incorporated into the post-1945 Poland entailing the dispersal and
Polonisation of the few remaining Morawec communities.
26 The ethnic group that used to populate the OlmuÈtz (Olomouc) archdiocese's areas included in
northern Moravia, Austrian and Prussian Silesia.


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