The Golden Mean of Languages

Forging Dutch and French in the Early Modern Low Countries (1540–1620)


In The Golden Mean of Languages, Alisa van de Haar sheds new light on the debates regarding the form and status of the vernacular in the early modern Low Countries, where both Dutch and French were local tongues. The fascination with the history, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary of Dutch and French has been studied mainly from monolingual perspectives tracing the development towards modern Dutch or French. Van de Haar shows that the discussions on these languages were rooted in multilingual environments, in particular in French schools, Calvinist churches, printing houses, and chambers of rhetoric. The proposals that were formulated there to forge Dutch and French into useful forms were not directed solely at uniformization but were much more diverse.

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Alisa van de Haar (Ph.D. Groningen 2018) is Assistant Professor of French Literature and Culture at Leiden University.
“Van de Haar's thorough analysis of a variety of texts, ranging from educational writings to psalm translations, and her illustrative excursions to other (northern) language debaters leads to fruitful findings that contribute to our understanding of the literary culture in the sixteenth-century Low Countries.”
Cora van de Poppe, Universiteit Utrecht. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 74, No. 2 (Summer 2021), pp. 631–633.

List of Illustrations
Note to the Reader

1 Introduction: Fascinating Multilingualism
 1 Introduction
 2 Scope and Definitions
 3 Methods and Sources
 4 Outline

2 The Multilingual Low Countries
 1 Introduction
 2 Ruling Languages
 3 The Languages of the Muses
 4 International Communication
 5 Conclusions

3 Trending Topics in European Language Reflection
 1 Introduction
 2 Latin and the Vernacular
 3 Collecting, Comparing, Competing
 4 Building the Vernacular
 5 Purity and Eloquence
 6 Conclusions

4 French Schools
 1 Introduction
 2 Defending Language Learning
 3 Making and Teaching the Rules
 4 Teaching Purity and Eloquence
 5 Conclusions

5 Calvinist Churches
 1 Introduction
 2 Translating Psalms, Building Communities
 3 Undoing Babel in Marnix’s Psalms
 4 Dangerous Mixtures
 5 Conclusions

6 Printing Houses
 1 Introduction
 2 Printing for the Patria
 3 Orthography: A Storm in a Teacup?
 4 Engaging the Public
 5 Conclusions

7 Chambers of Rhetoric
 1 Introduction
 2 The Perks of Plurilingualism
 3 Studying the Vernacular
 4 The Rules of Dutch Poetry
 5 Conclusions

8 Conclusions
All interested in the early modern discussions on the vernacular, especially scholars working on early modern Dutch and French literature and historical sociolinguists interested in early modern language debates. Keywords are vernacular, language fascination, language question, language debates, French schools, Calvinism, chambers of rhetoric, printing houses, grammar, spelling, orthography, loanwords, purism, and standardization .
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