Medical knowledge and the improvement of vernacular languages in the Habsburg Monarchy: A case study from Transylvania (1770–1830) [Book Review]

In all European countries, the eighteenth century was characterised by efforts to improve the vernaculars. The Transylvanian case study shows how both codified medical language and ordinary language were constructed and enriched by a large number of medical books and brochures. The publication of medical literature in Central European vernacular languages in order to popularise new medical knowledge was a comprehensive programme, designed on the one hand by intellectual, political and religious elites who urged the improvement of the fatherland and the promotion of the common good by perfecting the arts and sciences. On the other hand, the imperial administration’s initiatives affected local forms of medical knowledge and the construction of vernacular languages. In the eighteenth century, the construction of vernacular languages in the Habsburg Monarchy took on a significant political character. However, in the process of building of the scientific and medical vocabulary, the main preoccupation was precision, clarity and accessibility of the neologisms being invented to encompass the medical phenomena being described. In spite of political conflicts among the ‘nations’ living in Transylvania, physicians borrowed words from German, Hungarian and Romanian. Thus they elevated several words used in everyday language to the upper social stratum of language use, leading to the invention of new terms to describe particular medical practices or phenomena
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2012.02.004
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