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Exploring Social Science at the British Library

30 September 2013

Reminder - Call for Papers: Languages and the First World War

Languages and the First World War

The British Library & University of Antwerp

International Conference, 18-19-20 June 2014

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War coincides with the fading of direct memory of the period. Few can remember the linguistic experience of wartime in the speech of those directly or indirectly involved, but the linguistic traces of combat and civilian life, in and out of war zones, remain.

The term ‘no man’s land’, for instance, came into general use in English during the First World War, referring to inhabitable areas that saw the fiercest of the fighting between the two sides of the conflict; the use of the term, many centuries earlier referring to an isolated patch of land outside the City of London, is indicative of a pattern of language-change produced by the war – by 1920 ‘Niemandsland’ was a widely used term in German. In the varied theatres of war, the home fronts, training camps, war offices, hospitals and supply trains, language shifts happened, in which the dialects and languages of the various parties involved influenced one another, and in which new language and new language use emerged through new technologies of destruction and communication.

The idea for a conference on the linguistic experience and legacy of the war arose from research into the sociolinguistics of the war (especially the Western Front) and the immediate post-war period in the UK, particularly with reference to how terms had crossed linguistic boundaries, including between hostile linguistic groups.  The conference aims to be truly international and interdisciplinary.

The conference will take place on 18, 19 & 20 June 2014.

The University of Antwerp will host the first day, and the British Library will host the third. The interim day will be for travel between the two sites, with a possible visit to In Flanders Fields Museum at Ypres arranged for the morning of 19 June. There will be a book launch and public lecture at the British Library on the evening of 19 June. Eurostar travel between the two Brussels and London only takes two hours.

Abstracts of 300 words need to be sent to [email protected] by 1 December 2013, 4pm.

Notification of acceptance will be sent on 20 th January 2014.

Papers may be given in languages other than English, with synopses available in English.

Call for Papers PDF


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