Public Keynote: Theo Hermans (UCL), ‘Worlding the Low Countries’: Translation and the Multiple Languages of the Early Modern Low Countries

You are kindly invited to a public keynote, part of the 13th international conference of the Association for Low Countries Studies

‘Worlding the Low Countries’, organised by UCL Dutch as part of the centenary celebrations of Dutch Studies in the UK:

Image previewFriday, 8 November 2019, 3:30pm–4:30pm
UCL Institute for Advanced Studies, Common Ground

At least eight languages were directly relevant to the Early Modern Low Countries. Dutch, showing much more dialectal variation than today and sometimes requiring rewriting from one area to another, was gradually being standardized, a process that had more impact in the northern than in the southern part of the territory. Latin remained the intellectual and international language throughout the period but towards the middle of the seventeenth century it lost ground to both Dutch and French.

Some domains, like engineering and practical medicine, had made room for Dutch several decades earlier. French, too, was a constant presence, first as a commercial vehicle and later as the language of preference for the fashionable elite. Few people in the Low Countries spoke English and yet, surprisingly, it was the third source language for translations into Dutch, on the heels of Latin and French. Spanish, the language of the Habsburg overlords for most of the sixteenth century, retained a limited presence in the seventeenth-century Spanish Netherlands and became popular as a source language for fiction and theatre translations in the Dutch Republic. Germans made up for the Republic’s demographic shortfall, supplying much needed labour. Italian, the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean, served for Dutch contacts with the Barbary Coast and the Ottoman court. Finally, as East India Company (VOC) and then the West India Company (WIC) struck out overseas, they relied on Portuguese as a means of communication in Brazil, along the African coast and in the Far East. The paper seeks to sketch the distribution of these languages and the occurrence of multilingualism at the level of society, individuals and texts.

Theo Hermans is Professor emeritus of UCL Dutch and former Director of the UCL Centre for Translation Studies (CenTras).

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Date(s) - 08/11/2019
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm