24 June 2009

Studies of mixed-language literature

I am not the first to advocate the study of mixed-language literature, but as far as I know, I am the first to suggest that texts written in languages other than the writer's mother tongue should be read as mixed-language texts.

Here is an account of the criticism so far of mixed-language literature:

"Though there was some interest in ‘macaronic poetry’ before the 20th century, serious research only began with Wehrle’s study on medieval macaronic hymns and lyrics (1933). Wehrle establishes a typology of macaronic poetry from the 13th to the 15th centuries and classifies patterns of Latin insertions from a formal literary perspective, viewing them as a ‘genre of versification’ (1933: vii). The second half of the 20th century saw quite a number of literary studies on the aesthetic and poetic functions of language-mixing in macaronic poems, such as Zumthor (1960, 1963) in a European perspective, Harvey (1978) for Anglo-Norman lyrics, or Archibald (1992) for the poems of Dunbar and Skelton. These more recent studies emphasise the often highly artistic stylistic functions of poetic language-mixing." (p. 57 of “Mixed-language texts as data and evidence in English historical linguistics,” by Herbert Schendl, in Studies in the History of the English Language, edited by Donka Minkova and Robert P. Stockwell, 2002).

Multilingual literary critics can use the findings of such studies to illuminate aspects of non-mother-tongue texts.

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