Haasmann p10

Languages and the First World War began with a ground-breaking conference at the University of Antwerp and the British Library, 18 & 20 June 2014.

In this centenary period the study of change within languages and how languages influenced each other is a subject that provides scope for discussing commonality of experience as well as the effects of the conflict on individual languages. Trench slang, censorship, interpreting, the role of the press, the role of swearing to both include and exclude, and the silence after the war; the study of the war through language is an innovative approach, and one which will give rise to new ways of looking at the conflict.
Specific papers examined the censorship of letters home in Indian languages and Welsh, the collecting of language change in wartime, the development of a soldier identity through the use of dialect in an Italian trench-journal, the use of German in occupied France, tri-lingual reportage in Malta, and linguistic commonality across no man’s land. The papers have been collected, with the addition of others, to make two volumes, Representation and Memory, and Communicating in a Transnational War, published by Palgrave Macmillan in Summer 2016 (see books page).

These books make a significant addition to the range of ways in which we study the First World War and language behaviour under the stress of international conflict. While the conference currently being planned for 2018 significantly moves the subject on from the Western Front, there remains work to be done on topics such as the language of the Versailles Treaty, the wording of commemorative scultpture and battlefield pilgrimages, the revival (or not) of war slang in 1939/41, the effect of the war on Turkish, Russian, Portuguese, Czech, Chinese and Portuguese, the effects of the war on the language of science, and the language of the resettlement of refugees and post-war occupation.

The blog offers a space for continued studies and discussion. Contributions, images, guest blogs and comments to posted blogs are invited – please contact: julian.c.walker@ucl.ac.uk or Languages.FWW@outlook.com

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