Dissertation: National Socialist language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Apr 23 19:38:01 UTC 2007

Author: Christian Alexander Braun

Dissertation Title: National Socialist language use - A Reappraisal

Subject Language(s): German, Standard (deu)

Dissertation Director(s):  Elke Frhlich Elisabeth Leiss Wolfgang Schindler
Hans Woller

Dissertation Abstract:

Drawing on modern analytical methods from both pragmatics and textual
linguistics this dissertation aims at a reappraisal of National Socialist
language use and - as far as this is possible - a reevaluation of its
effects. The first part of this doctoral thesis focuses on developing the
necessary theoretical basis for the description of language use in a
political and ideological context. In the second part this theoretical
basis will be applied to the indepth study and analysis of National
Socialist texts. The development of a concept of style that goes further
than the simple observation of rhetorical devices in texts and focuses on
the relationship between ideology and language is fundamental to the
theoretical conception. This doctoral thesis claims that National
Socialist language use manifests itself in diverse argumentative routines
based on the National Socialist ideology, many of which correspond to the
specific characteristics commonly attributed to National Socialist
language use.

Racism, anti-Semitism as well as elements of social Darwinism deeply
ingrained in national socialist ideology manifest themselves in biologist
metaphors (biologisms) i.e. in expressions related to the vocabulary of
fighting and war. Taking into account modern theories of metaphor which
postulate that language and thinking are structured in a homologous way,
these metaphors can be seen as important parts of the process of reasoning
in texts. An indepth analysis of argumentation is thus overwhelmingly
important for a reappraisal of National Socialist language use. The
diverse stylistic elements of National Socialist language use may by this
means be reevaluated by focusing on their uses in argumentation and

The historical background constitutes another important aspect of the
theoretical conception. The reconstruction of communicative
infrastructures helps formulate the hypothesis that different people can
be seen as central models whose language use greatly influenced the
development of a National Socialist style. The analysis of the
communicative and institutional framework shows that a limited number of
people - first and foremost Hitler, and Goebbels as well as Rosenberg,
became models whose individual styles were copied by many others. The
concept of different degrees of diffusion concerning a typically National
Socialist language style is closely connected to the aforementioned ideas.

The practical analyses substantiate the different hypotheses. E.g.: It can
be shown that Goebbels drew heavily (ideologically as well as
stylistically) on the 'Handbuch der Judenfrage,' for example in his 1941
editorial 'Die Juden sind schuld!'. Specific stylistic elements (mainly
argumentative routines) from this book are furthermore disseminated
throughout the National Socialist party by instructional handbooks for the
partys orators which often present texts by Goebbels as paragons to model
oneself on. Taking this into account it is possible to reconstruct parts
of National Socialism's stylistic history and its history of ideas. Thus
it is possible to circumstantiate how Goebbels ties up to earlier
anti-Semitic and folkish ideologues linguistically and ideologically and
how anti-Semitic argumentative routines are diffused.

The doctoral thesis shows that our understanding of National Socialism may
still be deepened by taking into account its language use - even after 60
years of research.



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