Words and the First World War : Language, Memory, Vocabulary
Author(s): Julian Walker
"The experiences could be understood only as being of such extremity that they stood beyond written words; it was not a failure of language, but a view that, for the individual, language, particularly written words, and the enormity of the experience were not matched."
First World War expert Julian Walker looks at how the conflict shaped English and its relationship with other languages. He considers language in relation to mediation and authenticity, as well as the limitations and potential of different kinds of verbal communication. Walker also examines:
- How language changed, and why changed language was used in communications
- Language used at the Front and how the 'language of the war' was commercially exploited on the Home Front
- The relationship between language, soldiers and class
- The idea of the 'indescribability' of the war and the linguistic codes used to convey the experience
'Languages of the front' became linguistic souvenirs of the war, abandoned by soldiers but taken up by academics, memoir writers and commentators, leaving an indelible mark on the words we use even today.
“Edifying and readable … [An] indispensable reference [tool] for anyone researching twentieth-century history and literature, not only the documents of war.” - Michigan War Studies Review
“Julian Walker’s Words and the First World War provides a rich account of the linguistic world that emerged from the western front during the First World War. The book convincingly demonstrates that for British and Dominion troops, language functioned as a mechanism for coping with the traumatic experiences of war, a means of dealing with separation from home, and a way of mastering and knowing new, unfamiliar environments … Words and the First World War provides a highly detailed discussion of its topic, based on extensive research of soldiers’ diaries, letters, postcards, published memoirs, and trench newspapers, as well as newspapers and other materials produced on the home front. It constitutes one of the most authoritative discussions of trench talk and wartime slang, and forms part of a longer tradition of lexicography … A comprehensive, colorful, and highly engaging exploration of how the First World War transformed the English language.” - H-Net Reviews