Heimat without Qualities: Sprachkritik in the “Miracle Years”

in German Politics and Society
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Heimat is commonly theorized as an entity both co-extensive with the nation and easily describable in terms of its regional peculiarities (Eigenart). To challenge this view, this article turns to sociolinguistic discussions in the press of Sudeten German expellees in the early 1950s. Rather than speaking as experts on local dialects or folklore, these newcomers resorted to Sprachkritik, a widespread postwar public form of sociolinguistic criticism, to fashion Heimat into a prescriptive, normative authority over the High German standard that they found missing in the Federal Republic. Their attacks on the West German parlance focused on inability of its consumerist diminutives to produce a coherent narrative of the period. By suggesting that Heimat's parameters superseded those of the nation, their interventions countered the widespread cliché of inarticulate, rural expellees at the same time as they put Sprachkritik on the map of West Germany's “miracle years.“