Historical Social Research

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Konrad H. Jarausch, Historische Texte der DDR aus der Perspektive des linguistic turn [1998] [Abstract]

Though the second German state existed only four decades, it was well on its way to developing an odd language of its own, not immediately understandable to a Western audience. Inspired by the linguistic turn, this article attempted to analyze the effect of this separation of speech on historical research. To begin with, GDR publications used a different vocabulary which was characterized by a kind of double-speak, a noticeable difference between official declarations and personal communications. There was a clear hierarchy with political pronouncements in the lead, ideological transmission texts in the middle and actual daily usage following behind. The SED version of Marxism-Leninism created a new master narrative of German history, led by the working class and culminating in the creation of the GDR which had the effect of creating a public norm. This mixture of ideology, Soviet phrases and party-speak constrained methodological innovation and also led to the swift disappearance of this style after 1989.