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The First World War continues to inspire academic research, professional and amateur historians alike. The first global conflict still attracts front tourism and produces a wealth of language use or cultural references in current affairs, not least the pandemic of the Spanish flu towards the end of the war and the coronavirus counterpart a century later.

The centenary period of the First World War saw a growth of scholarship in the field of the linguistic and verbal discourse of the conflict. In this global war involving journalism, a huge amount of forces’ correspondence, propaganda, and the movement of people across different regions and social classes, often from countries and empires with many languages themselves, language was an essential aspect of managing, mediating the experience and, in the aftermath, trying to make sense of the conflict.

The third Languages and First World conference aims to extend the reach of the current narratives on the language landscapes of the First World War.

For the third Languages and First World War conference, 20-minute papers will seek to expand First World War scholarship in relation to its languages and immense linguistic diversity beyond the more traditional narratives.

A book proposal for a fourth volume will be finalised following the conference.

Background to the Languages and the First World War Project

Following the publication of Trench Talk (2012) – a study of British wartime slang and new terminology – the Languages and the First World War project (LFWW) developed from meetings between a military historian, a sociolinguist and a translation scholar (Peter Doyle, Julian Walker, Christophe Declercq resp.). In developing connections and comparative models of the changes affecting language in a period of sustained international conflict, the project brought a new way of looking at societies in that conflict, and a model for looking at society in conflict in a century that was to a large extent shaped by the Great War. The project undoubtedly benefited from the increased academic and general focus brought by the centenary, and added to the depth and breadth of thinking about the ways that the twentieth century was shaped by the national, familial and personal stories of the war. Currently the project is managed by Dr Hillary Briffa, Dr Christophe Declercq, and Julian Walker.

About the speakers

Chair: Hillary Briffa

Julian Walker – On Languages and the First World War

Alexander Maxwell - Czechoslovak or Bohemian? Contesting Languages and Dialects in 1919

Amanda Laugesen - Remaking the Language of War and Trauma in Postwar Australian Veteran Culture

Iaroslav Golubinov - Speaking like tourist? Russians in occupied Galicia 1914–1917

Christophe Declercq - James Bryce, early forms of performative activism, and absent testimony translations

Wim Coudenys - Representing the (forgotten) ‘other’: V.P. Shelgunov between Russia and the Low Countries

Vladislava Warditz - The First World War as a Case of Language Contacts: On the Origins of Abbreviations in Russian

Sérgio Neto - ‘Not understood.’ Brief analysis of Portuguese Languages of the First World War

Paul Miller-Melamed - “Fanatical Slav Nationalists”: Blaming Serbs for World War I

Jane Potter – Language and Propaganda (Keynote)

Event details