Banknoten als sprachenpolitisches Instrument

Simon Proell


For modern states, multilingualism is not an exception, but the norm. Most states explicitly
deal with the status of their languages through their (often rather sparse) legislation, while
implicitly reflecting their policy through language use on official documents. Banknotes
provide a link between the official policy and its common application, as they are both a
document of the state as well as an object of daily use. Here, the state is responsible for
bridging the gap between legislature, national identity and the (sometimes conflicting) selfconceptions
of its citizens. Thus, banknotes ideally provide evidence on a state’s factual
(rather than nominal) language policy. In addition, the textual and pragmatic functions of
banknotes are not prone to change over time, which qualifies them as excellent sources for
diachronic questions.
This article exemplarily illustrates the language policies of Norway, the Faroe Islands,
Belgium and Luxembourg, as seen from a sociohistorical perspective, with their respective
note emissions during their newer language history (19th and 20th centuries). It closes with a
proposal for a typology of different language policies.