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24. Juli 2018

So Much in Common and Yet so Different: The Linguistic Boundaries of Modern Europe

Ein Vortrag von Matthias Meyer-Schwarzenberger (Bundesverband Deutscher Volks- und Betriebswirte [bdvb] and Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences [BIGSSS]) im Rahmen der Seminarreihe des AB Ökonomie am IOS.
Datum: 24. Juli 2018
Zeit: 13.30 Uhr
Ort: Leibniz-Institut für Ost-und Südosteuropaforschung (IOS), Landshuter Str. 4 (Raum 109)

Based on my doctoral thesis and subsequent unpublished research, I argue that the boundaries of Modern Europe (across space and time) must be drawn primarily in terms of language. Just prior to the period usually associated with Renaissance humanism, the evolution of many European languages resulted in a unique, unprecedented kind of grammar in which every sentence is organised around an actor-like topic (the so-called subject of a so-called phrase). Interestingly, this arbitrary grammar has no semantic meaning or function in language. According to my analysis, however, it has been vested with a socio-cultural disciplining function instead. Children acquiring a Modern European language implicitly acquire certain beliefs, habits, and rules of conduct with it. This explains why modern social institutions – including both the best and the worst regimes ever known in human history – have been so incredibly efficient in North-Western Europe over the past 300 years. With regard to Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, my analysis raises the question which languages (to what degree) qualify as Modern European and how cultures ‘with’ and ‘without’ modern grammar can be integrated within a common structure such as the European Union.