Julian Walker

Languages and the First World War

Home | Languages and the First World War | Introduction | Gone Away, 2010 | Births, Chimneys and Lightermen - Collecting Greenwich Peninsula, 2008 | Words and Forgetting, 2007 | Encounters with Objects, EV+A, Limerick 2006 | Art out of place, Norwich, 2005 | Interventionist embroidery | Treat Yourself, 2003 | The Best in Heritage, 2002 | Hygiene, 2002 | Art & Work Award 2002 | Unit 2 Gallery, 2002 | Lies & Belonging, 2001 | Walking On Eggshells, 2000 | In The Picture, 2000 | New Contemporaries 99 | Projects 1995 to 2001 | Mr and Mrs Walker have moved, 1998 | Curriculum Vitae | Smaller Individual Works | Work data: size, date, medium | Writing | Reviews | Catalogue Texts | Current work | Drawing | The British Library | Do Bees Like Van Gogh? | Transmission: Provenance - talk Nov 2004 | Tablets and sculptures | Educational work | Books on language

Following the publishing of Trench Talk, Words of the First World War, Peter Doyle and I recognised that our exploration of English during the Great War proposed the examination of a linguistic phenomenon that involved the languages of all the nations involved in the conflict. Contacts with Robin Schaffer and Christophe Declercq confirmed that there was a rich field of material to be explored in German, Flemish and French; a conference was suggested by Peter, proposed to the British Library, who suggested an international conference involving the Library and another site. Christophe took this forward to the University of Antwerp, and in June 2014 the conference Languages and the First World War brought together 29 speakers from Belgium, France, Denmark, England, Wales, US, Australia, Malta, and Germany, with an audience of around 100, and several online participants; Palgrave Macmillan agreed to publish the papers, and more were brought in, extending the range of languages covered to over 15. Subjects covered included censorship, interpreting, phrasebooks, lexicography, propaganda, class, race, common experiences across boundaries of hostility, etymology, occupation, gender, and historiography. Far too much for a single volume, two books were developed: Representation and Memory and Communicating in a Transnational War, edited with introductions by Christophe Declercq and myself.


I am currently working with Christophe Declercq to develop a second conference on the subject in 2018. We are particularly keen to bring in discussion of the linguistic experience of the war and its aftermath in Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Breton, Occitan, Gaelic, and German.

Current research will continue to be posted on the Languages and the First World War website. 


I have been continuing research into language change during and after the period of the war; my current areas of research in this field are: phrasebooks and the development of guided speech; class differences in slang; the slang of the home front; the postwar lexicography of slang. I am currently writing a book surveying the English language during the conflict, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2017.