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Learning Languages in Early Modern England$
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John Gallagher

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198837909

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198837909.001.0001

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To Be ‘Languaged’

To Be ‘Languaged’

Early Modern Linguistic Competences

(p.101) 3 To Be ‘Languaged’
Learning Languages in Early Modern England

John Gallagher

Oxford University Press

What did it mean to be able to speak another language in early modern England? Linguistic competence was more complicated than a simple binary between fluent and not. Just as historians have argued for the existence of multiple literacies in early modern England, so too were there multiple linguistic competences, depending on the speaker’s status, age, gender, origin, and occupation. Male and female language-learners had to master different ways of expressing superiority or deference and of managing ritualised interactions. Immigrants to England had to learn a new vernacular while accommodating themselves to new customs and rules of conversation. Reading the corpus of conversation manuals alongside broader discourses of gender, civility, speech, and behaviour, this chapter uncovers the dynamics of multilingual speech and silence in an age of encounter. More broadly, it offers a new framework for thinking historically about linguistic competence.

Keywords:   phrasebook, conversation manual, early modern, linguistic competence, historical sociolinguistics, social history of language, ritual, gender, immigration, drinking, civility, behaviour, manners

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