(Plan)sprachen und wissen(-sordnungen) um 1900

Translated title of the contribution: (Planned) languages and (orders of) knowledge around 1900

Bernhard Struck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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Today, English is widely considered as a global language. While the reach of English is in fact limited to native speakers and those who acquire it as a second language, English certainly dominates in the realm of science, academia, and knowledge exchange globally. This chapter, first, sets out to frame English as an accepted yet also dominant language as a historical and recent phenomenon given its rise over the past few decades. By tracing the rise of (global) English back historically to the period around 1900, questions emerge around the use of English as (one among other) Lingua Franca but also around questions of fairness and linguistic justice.

Second, the chapter zooms into the period between c. 1880s to the 1910s. The period was characterised by novel technologies, communication, and mobility. It was also a period of intensified academic and scientific networks as well as cooperation around congresses and world fairs. At the time, there was no linguistic dominance yet. Science and knowledge production were primarily conducted by the linguistic trias of English, German, and French. Coinciding with this period was a wave of different planned auxiliary languages including Volapük, Esperanto, and Ido. Between 1901 and 1907 the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language, chaired by the German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald, discussed these various projects with the view to establish a planned language as a means of communication.

In the final part, the chapter focuses on a number of science journals published in Esperanto before 1914. Analysing some of the programmatic statements of these journals, their structure, as well as the context of some editors the chapter concludes that the use of Esperanto at the time was primarily targeted to overcome the linguistic fragmentation of knowledge in national languages and thus to facilitate access to knowledge.

Translated title of the contribution(Planned) languages and (orders of) knowledge around 1900
Original languageGerman
Title of host publicationWissen ordnen und entgrenzen – vom analogen zum digitalen Europa?
EditorsJoachim Berger, Thorsten Wübbena
Place of PublicationGöttingen
PublisherVandenhoek & Ruprecht
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783666302312
ISBN (Print)9783525302316
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

Publication series

NameVeröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte Mainz Beihefte


  • Europe
  • Knowledge
  • 20th century
  • Languages
  • Esperanto
  • Science


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