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FRAN MIKLOŠIČ, AN EARLY VISIONARY OF
EUROPEAN INTEGRATION IN PHILOLOGICAL STUDIES
THE DIFFICULT PATH TOWARDS THE ACCEPTANCE
OF THE CONCEPT OF DIVERSITY AND PLURALITY
► Franz Miklosich – Fran Miklošič: Key dates of his career
► Early paths of social engagement
► "Litterarum slavicarum professor princeps"
► The socio-political function of the Comparative Grammar of Slavic Languages
► Linguistic interferences and mutual influences
► Languages of excluded ethnic groups
► Contributions to the European cultural debate
The European discourse on diversity and plurality of cultures and languages is as old as the search for a culture of peace, mutual respect and tolerance. In the same way, the understanding that a successful competitive development of Europe has to use all intellectual and cultural resources and heritage, is a more modern, but also constantly developing issue. And it might appear as positive that the concept of diversity as such became even a common denominator of the European collective conscience. However, its definition varies largely from dominant to dominated nations, has a multitude of varieties (making a division into good and bad impossible) and finally is a part of the individual patterns and mindsets, which orients our vision and analysis of our world. In a growing European Union, such considerations have a concrete impact on whether one is satisfied with a definition of diversity based on four or five 'big' languages or if it takes into consideration the cultural power that made for instance Vienna, Paris or Berlin in 1900 only possible: the contribution of so called 'small' languages and cultures that were often not so small at all.
For instance, the Slovenian contribution to the European crown is, amongst so many others, one of these glittering mosaic stones of the European cultures and contributes with its experience and knowledge to the overall European civilisation and is as such vital for all European nations. Exemplary of the importance of the variety of backgrounds and experiences, even cultural, is the scientifically and socio-politically important oeuvre of Franz Miklosich.
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Franz Miklosich – Fran Miklošič: key dates of his career
Fran Miklošič (in Slovene) – Franz von Miklosich (in German) was one of the most important Slovenian and European Scientists of its time. He was born in 1813 in Radomerščak near Ljutomer in Southern Styria, today in Slovenia, and died in 1891 in Vienna.
Fran Miklošič stands on the transition threshold between the humanist universal scholar (French 'savant') and the modern positivistic scientists (French 'chercheur') and is devoted to both. Miklosich also symbolises the traditionally strong presence of Slovenian students, teachers and scientists from Slovenian Habsburg regions at the University of Vienna - Alma Mater Rudolfina - since its foundation in 1366.
His visionary and modern concepts and methods in the area of philology remain socially and scientifically relevant , even today with regard to the issues of European integration.
Fran Miklošič went to the secondary school in Varaždin (today in the Republic of Croatia) and later in Maribor (today in the Republic of Slovenia). He studied law in Graz and Innsbruck (today in the Republic of Austria), took his PhD in 1838 and Doctor in Law (Dr. iur) in 1840. In 1844 he became 'scriptor' at the Vienna 'Hofbibliothek' (Court Library). From November 1848 until March 1849 he was Member of Parliament ('Reichstagsabgeordneter') for the region of Lower Styria (Untersteiermark/Spodnja Štajerska). In 1848-1849 he was the translator of the Official Journal of the Empire ('Reichsgesetzblatt), in 1849 he became the first professor of the newly established chair for Slavic Studies at the University of Vienna (Romanic studies will only follow in 1860, English Studies in 1872), in 1848 he became a correspondent member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, and in 1852 a full member. He is a member of the Austrian House of Lords ('Herrenhaus') and member of almost all European scientific Academies and Societies as well as honorary doctor of all Russian Universities.
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Early paths of social engagement
In his early years, Miklosich participated actively in social and political life and also wrote poetry. In 1848 he was one of the founders of the most important association 'Slovenija' in Vienna, its president and author of the manifest called 'Zedinjena Slovenija' that pleaded for the unification of the Slovenes in an administratively united Slovenia.
When in 1849, the chair for Slavic Studies was founded at the University of Vienna, it was also due to Miklosich's personal persuasive power during his mandate as Member of the Parliament in Kremsier/Kroměříč ('Reichstagsabgeordneter'), where he had already had bargained for Slovenian reading books for secondary schools with the Minister Leo Thun Hohenstein . Miklosich's authority also became evident in their correspondence and in the fact that the decree appointing Miklosich as University professor is stipulated in the same decree as the establishment of the chair for Slavic Studies in Vienna.
From then on, Miklosich devoted all his energies to socially relevant research. As teacher and mentor his merits lay in supporting the development of a Pleiade of young scholars, whom he stimulated and orientated into specific research areas.
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"Litterarum slavicarum professor princeps"
Fran Miklošič also performed an essential qualitative step in the development of philology, which made him the acknowledged Litterarum slavicarum professor princeps. He introduced an international and interdisciplinary discourse, the methodological exchange between different scientific branches and the orientation of the philology into a socio-political relevant science , which was, according to his conviction, not only a right of every language but also a tool for fostering its social position. His amplitude and modernity becomes evident in his first scientific work, a book review of Franz Bopp's Sanskrit grammar, where he writes: … dass wir ferner unsere abweichenden Ansichten im Interesse der Sprachwissenschaft und aus Liebe zu unserer Muttersprache hier namentlich ausgesprochen haben, wird uns der Verfasser sicherlich nicht verargen … ["… the author will certainly not blame us for having presented clearly our diverting points of views in the interest of linguistics and because of being in love with our mother tongue …"].
An essential role in this context played the understanding of a necessity of integrating the mother tongue in the process of socialisation as a basis of an integrated personality in the wider sense. This reflects Miklosich's personal history and experience as a son of Slovenian parents, who had access to education only via another language. Miklosich addressed this issue concretely even as late as 1881.
Miklosich sublimated this expérience (in the sense used by Julia Kristeva – as an experience, which is stored in the subconscious ) in his personal credo he wrote in his first application as a young graduated philosopher in 1838: Apart from German and Latin, the same speaks Italian, French, English, Slovenian, Polish, understands the other Slavic Dialects and Ancient and Modern Greek.
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The socio-political function of the 'Comparative Grammar of Slavic Languages'
It is with this background that Miklosich began to work on his masterpiece, the comparative grammar of Slavic languages (Vergleichende Grammatik der slavischen Sprachen), based on a strictly rational and positivistic method and on his specific national and political experiences as a Slovene. On the basis of a vast collection of linguistic material, Miklosich provides analyses of the different Slavic languages and structures, their grammatical categories in the different scientific paradigms. All the languages under consideration, irrespective of their population figure and national or State history, are considered factually equal.
For those Slavic nations which did not have their own State and which were fighting for their national recognition and political equality in rights, their languages had a specific value; the recognition as an official or even only as a scientifically relevant language or as a teaching language in schools, had a specific political relevance. This was especially true for the Slavic nations within the Habsburg Empire (the Slovenes, Slovaks and Ukrainians), in Prussian Germany (the Polish and the Upper and the Lower Sorbs) as well as in the Great Russian Empire (Ukrainians and Byelorussians). It is because Miklosich took these various languages out of political contention and analysed them exclusively on linguistic criteria and on the basis of their linguistic features, that his comparative grammar became politically relevant for the different Slavic nations, and indeed a justification for the corroboration of their social and political claims.
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Linguistic interferences and mutual influences
Another scientific area that Miklosich opened to research thanks to his personal background and experience has been the interference's between the different languages. Using the same method by departing from concrete linguistic material, Miklosich was able to prove that all languages on the Balkan Peninsula are characterised by interferences, mutual influences, mixtures: Slavic elements in Hungarian, Rumanian, Albanian, Turkish or for instance Turkish elements in the Southeast- and East-Slavic languages, etc. Miklosich published 17 theses on this subject and simply by this, he struck a blow at the root of linguistic chauvinism.
His works and compiled linguistic materials remain an interesting and important corpus for further research, even today. Stored as they are (like so many other historic materials) in the Viennese archives, they make Vienna an important centre for Slavic and especially Slovenian research and studies.
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Languages of excluded ethnic groups
A third area for which Miklosich had a specific interest and empathy was the issue of the languages of ethnic groups and nations that were unrecognised and/or unaccepted as a cultural community. To these, and to Roma/Sinti especially. Miklosich devoted the same attention and scientific accuracy and method as to the other languages. Moreover, Miklosich introduced socio-linguistic and anthropological concepts: Apart of the study of the structure of the language and the grammar, he also analysed these nations' migrations, collected and published their oral artistic heritage and published a compendium of 16 relevant treatises, which still contain interesting material for further research.
Aromuns / Valachs / Čiči
Likewise, a disregarded ethnic and linguistic group that attracted Miklosich's scientific attention were the Aromuns, also called Valachs or regionally Čiči , which he studied with regard to their language and migrations. Miklosich published six theses on Macedo- and Istro-Romunian linguistic documents. The latter were elaborated in the context of a regional and transcultural economic and cultural initiative, mainly assembled around the Società Agraria Istriana, which recognised, emphasised and promoted the linguistic diversity of Trieste/Trst/Triest, the so called Küstenland/Primorska and Istria as such: As a reaction and an activity of resistance against the Viennese centralism and the Triestinian variant of the Italian Irrendentism, which both oppressed the Istrian diversity. Scholars like Pietro Kandler, Graziado Isaia Ascoli, Carlo Combi, Attilo Hortis and Miklosich himself all together supported an initiative in the 1850s and '60s to collect data and information on the different languages and dialects as well as to undertake demographic research of the region on a scientific basis. Here too, the published studies and papers, the information collected in their correspondence are still today an extremely valuable source of historic information, not be found elsewhere.
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Contributions to the European cultural debate
Miklosich is amongst those scholars whose works do not have only a relevance in their time but which remain important in the third millennium, also thanks to the meticulously compiled material, which remains at the disposal of the science and research.
Franz Miklosich / Fran Miklošič belongs to the long chain of Slovenian scientists and artists that contributed and shaped the overall European cultural discourse through the centuries (naturally with emphasis on the countries where they lived as majority or as autochthonous minority ). Their culturally creative oeuvre on all levels benefited the European cultural community as such and to its elements even in times, when the Slovenians had no statehood of their own, and who now are certainly willing to take over the new challenges in the framework of institutionalised possibilities.
The European discourse on integration and the search for a culture of peace and tolerance is as old as States rule i.e. inter-ethnic relations. In philology, the work of Franz Miklosich / Fran Miklošič (1813-1891), belongs to the founding insights for the respect of cultural diversity in Europe.
Born as a son of Slovenian parents, his education had necessarily to go through a 'foreign' language, which strongly influenced his understanding of any linguistic question. In his early years, his socio-political engagement in the Association 'Slovenija' in Vienna and as a Member of Parliament in Kremsier in 1848/49 characterise him as a personality with clear positions (the reunification of all Slovenians in one administrative entity, the endeavours for Slovenian school books) and visions of a common future. In 1849 he became the founding professor of the chair for Slavic Studies at the University of Vienna where he pursued a vast, innovative and still scientifically relevant interdisciplinary and transcultural programme, and where he educated a Pleiade of young scholars. His 'Comparative Grammar of the Slavic Languages' is the first of such kind and gives at that time to all non-recognised Slavic nations a scholarly basis. Moreover, Miklošič transcended the tight borders of power-subordinated, State-centred and ethnocentric sciences. His research on linguistic interferences between the Balkan languages still furnishes the most interesting material for research and are a most valuable contribution to an integrative vision of cultural exchange. His targeted research on excluded ethnic groups (Roma/Sinti and Aromuns/Valachs) integrated already modern socio-linguistic and anthropological concepts and is considered as a scientific contribution to the respect of the European diversity in micro-regions (i.e. Istria) and to the integration of all ethnic groups.
Miklosich's works remain important also in the twenty-first century, owing to his modern concepts as well as the still-relevant, rich material he compiled. His contributions to the European cultural discourse not only reflect a long tradition of Slovenian presence in Vienna but confirm that European future competitiveness, its cultural creativity and vitally related to the vast understanding and promotion of cultural diversity.
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