Language use is a principal means by which we distinguish ourselves and our
group from others. In the modern age, language use often divides ethnic
groups and nations: Germans are Germans because they speak German;
French citizens must accept that Standard French is a central part of their
national identity. Sociologists of language consider this equation of personal
language use and national identity to be a product of the nationalism which
developed in Europe from the eighteenth century on.
Authority and Identity: A Sociolinguistic History of Europe before the Modern
Age is the first attempt to take the theoretical and methodological insights of
macrosociolinguistics and apply them to the history of Europe before 1500. It
analyses the recurrent tensions felt since writing technology first began to be
used in Europe some 3,500 years ago between centrifugal and centripetal
forces, demonstrating how similar linguistic ecologies can produce different
kinds of linguistic authority and identity in individuals and groups due to
differing sociolinguistic conditions.