Political Language in the Middle Ages: Semantical Approaches

By taking up an historical approach to discourse and focusing on the linguistic composition of texts, this Leibniz project aims to contribute to and broaden the insights gained from the history of political ideas. Computer-assisted methods of textual analysis will be developed and tested, with the Bielefeld tradition of historical semantics informing this development. The individual projects will examine central aspects of the use of political language, and will take up a diachronic perspective from Late Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages.

The project will bring together quantitative and qualitative semantic approaches in an effort to find new ways to understand and elucidate to what extent linguistic practice shaped medieval political culture.
(1) First, the hermeneutic research traditions of the history of political ideas will be reconsidered by applying quantifying corpus-linguistic techniques. The main aim of this component of the project is to test whether and how semantic enquiries drawing from corpus linguistics might enable new insights and innovation in medieval studies. The necessary applications for the project will be developed in close collaboration with the Leibniz project by The Text Technology Lab in Frankfurt.
(2) In addition, the project is concerned with a qualitative analysis of political speech through its sociopolitical contextualization of medieval semantic aesthetics and culture. From the North Sea down to the Mediterranean Sea, medieval political culture was eminently a culture of a socially precise mastery of words. In our examination of political contexts of usage, textual semantic analysis will be broadened to include aspects of social semantics. The objective of this Leibniz project is to re-evaluate the role of linguistic practice in the political culture of the Middle Ages.


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