Multilingualism Research Forum/Flerspråklighetsforum: Personal names in historical contexts: Sociolinguistic approaches

Michelle Waldispühl (Associate Professor, University of Gothenburg; Guest Researcher, University of Oslo) will discuss the historical use of personal names in multilingual contexts.

Please note this is a closed event for MultiLing and ILN members only.


Michelle Waldispühl photographed in black and white smiling on a hiking trail

Michelle Waldispühl


I will present on-going research within my project “Variation and contact in medieval personal names” (funded by the Swedish Research Council) and address social and situational variation of personal names in historical multilingual contexts.

The usage of personal names in multilingual contexts is in general an under-investigated area of research and historical material in particular is unexplored. A recent volume titled Names and Naming: Multicultural Aspects (edited by Oliviu Felecan and Alina Bugheșiu, Springer 2021) provides a rich and important contribution to the filling of that gap with case studies from a wide range of different geographic areas. However, many studies are lexically descriptive and only few include sociolinguistic considerations about, for example, the connection between personal names and identity or its role for social affiliation or segregation in multilingual contexts. Moreover, historical perspectives are utterly scarce.

In my presentation, I will focus on historical personal names mainly from the Liber vitae of the Reichenau Abbey in Southern Germany, a medieval confraternity book containing more than 38 000 names in lists written down between the 800s-1300s. I will discuss different examples of language and writing system encounters in the names taking a sociolinguistic perspective.


Michelle Waldispühl is Associate Professor of German Linguistics and Language Education at the University of Gothenburg and guest researcher at ILOS at the University of Oslo at present. Her current research interests include historical sociolinguistics and multilingualism with a particular focus on historical writing, onomastics and cryptography.


Published Nov. 23, 2021 1:37 PM - Last modified Feb. 4, 2022 10:45 AM