Script switching in nineteenth-century lower-class German handwriting

Journal article

Publication Details

Author(s): Schiegg M, Sowada L
Journal: Paedagogica Historica
Publication year: 2019
ISSN: 0030-9230


This paper examines intra-individual “script switching”, alternation between Kurrentschrift (“German script”) and “Latin script”, within nineteenth-century handwritten German texts. We attribute a semiotic value to the textual surface and assume that graphic variation conveys meaning and should therefore be considered a communicative practice. After an overview of the development of Kurrentschrift and of the functions and ideologies behind script switching with a particular focus on nineteenth-century German schools, our paper presents three case studies from different contexts of lower-class writing. First, we analyse the writings of a tailor in a southern German psychiatric hospital, who not only used script switching to comply with the relevant conventions, but also to make his texts appear “educated”. The second case study focuses on the French–German border region, which, especially Alsace-Lorraine, has historically been characterised by multilingualism and shifting national affiliations. Here, the use of different scripts and languages reflects both contemporary norms and the writers’ identity. Finally, we examine the letters of two Frisian sailors who had migrated to America and wrote home after adjusting to life in their new home country. Frequent switches between different scripts and languages index both cultural practices and their hybrid identity in a multilingual context.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Schiegg, Markus Dr.
Lehrstuhl für Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft

External institutions with authors

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

How to cite

Schiegg, M., & Sowada, L. (2019). Script switching in nineteenth-century lower-class German handwriting. Paedagogica Historica.

Schiegg, Markus, and Lena Sowada. "Script switching in nineteenth-century lower-class German handwriting." Paedagogica Historica (2019).


Last updated on 2019-04-07 at 08:08