Wennekülla Hans and Estonian church language

  • Aivar Põldvee

Abstract

In the 17th century two Estonian literary languages were standardised. As literary language was needed primarily for translating ecclesiastical texts and for worship services, it evolved as a church language that was created mainly by German pastors, following the example of the German language. At the end of the 17th century, in connection with the translation of the Bible and the establishment of Estonian schools, there emerged a need to renew the literary language and make it more approachable for the common people. The reforms created a situation where church manuals that differed in dialects, orthography and wording were used simultaneously. The case of Wennekülla Hans in the year 1700 demonstrates how a peasant reacted to that confusion. Wennekülla Hans, who was a self-appointed preacher in the parish of Paistu/Paistel, got caught up in a conflict with the pastor Andreas Hornung, who belonged to the circle of language innovators. The peasant accused the pastor of false teaching because the pastor was using a church manual with a modified language version. The case is one of the earliest examples of the evolution of a literary language into a sociolect that was used not only by clergymen but by peasants as well.

Published
2019-06-18