The multilingual minister: languages and code-switching in the life-writing of Scottish Highland scholar and traveller, Rev. James Fraser (1634-1709)

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Abstract

This article widens the focus of the debate around multilingualism in early modern Europe. Using the life-writing of a scholar, traveller and Protestant minister from the Scottish Highlands, Rev. James Fraser (1634-1709), it provides a North Sea perspective on the theme. The article sheds light on how Fraser, and his locale (the ‘firthlands’ of northern mainland Scotland) produced a dynamic scholarly contribution in local, regional, national and transnational terms, one that was defined by a culture of code-switching and polyglossia. Employing, in particular, his history of the Fraser family to 1674 and his three-volume memoir of his travels in Europe, it finds a common thread in Fraser’s presentation of his life in its multilingual nature. Focusing first on the spoken word, and, subsequently, on reading and writing, the article shows how Fraser’s evidence from the seventeenth-century Scottish Highlands provides a vital insight into how the English language rose in the Highlands and across the Atlantic archipelago, and, conversely, how early modern northern Europeans, speakers of minority languages in particular, experienced and sustained multilingual cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalRenaissance Studies
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2022

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