Business writing in early sixteenth-century Norway
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This article discusses the linguistic make-up of business writing in late medieval / early modern Norway and addresses questions of language choice and language mixing. The most important foreign language was Low German, and the written culture also depended on Latin; these multilingual influences are evident in business records and accounting manuscripts from the early sixteenth century. A case study of language choice in international communication sheds light on the status of Latin as opposed to the vernaculars, as well as the relationship between the various vernaculars. Official documents are normally written in one language; however, in the more informal register of administrative and economical notes we find Latin and Low German words and phrases (code-switching and loanwords) in texts otherwise written in Scandinavian. This language mixing is markedly different from that of more formal writings and provides valuable insights into the general linguistic competence of those involved in trade, either as merchants or scribes. It is suggested that the code-mixed informal texts represent an unmarked, functional code for bilingual scribes.