The Sprachmeister as “foreign language maker” in early modern Europe: the making of French and Dutch for German-speaking learners
2022-04-13, 09:00–09:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

Modern foreign languages only became an integral part of the curriculum of schools and universities in the 19th century. Before that, foreign languages were learned while travelling (‘Grand Tour’), through self study (e.g. dialogue books such as the ‘Colloquia, et dictionariolum’) and with the help of a private tutor, a so-called “Sprachmeister” (Magister Linguarum). Some of those Sprachmeisters were, at the same time, authors of grammars, dictionaries and/or textbooks designed for learners of modern foreign languages.
In this presentation, we compare two of them with respect to their conceptions of language(s):

(1) Matthias Kramer (1640-1729), born in Cologne, who later moved to Nuremberg to teach French, Spanish and Italian and authored about 100 lexicographic and didactic publications for these languages, and who also, at the age of 75, wrote the first grammar (1716) and dictionary (1719) of Dutch for German learners

(2) Gerard de Vivre, a native speaker of Dutch/Flemish, born around 1540 in Ghent, who fled to Cologne around 1563 where he established himself as a Sprachmeister of French and where he published, between 1566 and 1589, a large oeuvre of grammars, dictionaries and textbooks meant for German speakers.

Both Sprachmeisters can be seen as pioneers in their fields: Matthias Kramer as the first to make an effort to introduce Dutch as a foreign language to speakers of German (Hüning 2019; to appear), Gerard de Vivre as one of the first authors of a learners‘ grammar of French for German speakers (Weißhaar 2015; Van Selm 1977). In this presentation, we compare their strategies to “sell” their language(s) to potential clients. We analyze the introductions (dedications) of their grammars and dictionaries to find out how they contribute to what we call “language making” (Krämer et al in preparation), more specifically the “making” of a language or variety they deem worth learning.

Contrasting and comparing Kramer’s and De Vivre’s discourses on (foreign) languages and their language ideologies will enable us to learn more about changes in the perception of foreign languages in general, about the changing prestige and popularity of specific languages (due to political and social changes), about processes of norm selection and more specifically, about the decreasing role of language variation in language education, with the increasing importance of standard languages in Europe.


Bouzouita, Miriam & Ulrike Vogl. 2020. Meertaligheid en onderwijs van moderne talen in de 16de eeuw: het gebruik van het partikel hola als voorbeeld voor taalcontact in de Colloquia, et dictionariolum. Monolingual histories, multilingual practices: Multilingualism in language history. Taal en Tongval 71 (2), 105–135.

Hüning, Matthias. 2019. Matthias Kramer und seine Holländische Grammatica (1716). Nachbarsprache Niederländisch 34, 94–120.

Hüning, Matthias. (to appear). Matthias Kramer und die Anerkennung des Niederländischen als Fremdsprache im frühen 18. Jahrhundert. In: Julia Hübner & Horst Simon (eds.): Fremdsprachenlehrwerke in der Frühen Neuzeit. Perspektiven – Potentiale – Herausforderungen (Episteme in Bewegung). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Krämer, Philipp, Ulrike Vogl, Leena Kolehmainen & Angela Bartens. (in preparation). What is Language Making? To appear in Language Making [Thematic Issue of International Journal of the Sociology of Language]. Co-edited by Philipp Krämer, Ulrike Vogl, Angela Bartens & Leena Kolehmainen.

Van Selm, Bert. 1977. The schoolmaster Gerard de Vivre: some bio-bibliographical observations, with particular reference to the dialogue 'Vande Druckerije'. Quærendo 7 (3). 209-242.

Weißhaaar, Angela. 2015. Die religiöse Komödie Abraham et Agar Gérard Du Viviers – Ein Blick auf Grammatikographie und Fremdsprachenunterricht im Deutschland des 16. Jahrhunderts. In: Thomas Tinnefeld (ed.): Grammatikographie und didaktische Grammatik. Gestern, heute, morgen: Gedenkschrift für Hartmut Kleineidam anlässlich seines 75. Geburtstages. Unter Mitarbeit von Hartmut Kleineidam. Saarbrücken: htw saar (Saarbrücker Schriften zu Linguistik und Fremdsprachendidaktik A, Sammelbände, Bd. 3), 235–264. Online

Panel affiliation

On "foreign language making": selecting language varieties for educational purposes

Matthias Hüning is a full professor for Dutch linguistics at Freie Universität Berlin. More information can be found on his website.