Jürgen Spitzmüller (Zürich)
Since the early days of printing, blackletter and roman typefaces, both commonly used in printed texts, have been ascribed to specific social meanings in Germany. They have not only been used for different “languages” (e.g., Latin vs. the vernacular) but also to mark cultural territories ascribed to these languages: “foreignness” vs. “ownness”, “goodness” vs. “badness”, “Protestantism” vs. “Papism”, “Germanness” vs. “Un-Germanness”, etc. Over the centuries, the ascriptions and hence the social values changed constantly. Blackletter/roman typeface variation was subject to permanent discursive negotiation and re-semiotization; the so-called “Fraktur-Antiqua debate” in the political arena is just the most prominent manifestation of this process.
This paper sketches the general lines of blackletter/roman typeface variation as a social practice in Germany over the course of 6 centuries and goes into more depth at some exemplary points in time. It does not, as many surveys do, stop at the so called “Fraktur ban” of 1941 but also takes a look at the vivid use of blackletter/roman typeface variation as a social practice today (particularly in political discourse and pop culture).
The central aim of the paper is to show how typeface variation can be described sociolinguistically as an ideological practice that constitutes the social order.
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