The Use of Slovenian in Education, the Church, and Early Theatre Performances in the 17th Century and the First Half of the 18th Century


  • Kozma Ahačič



Slovene language, use of language, education, church, theatre performances, history of language, 17th/18th cent.


The Use of Slovenian in Education, the Church, and Early Theatre Performances in the 17th Century and the First Half of the 18th Century
The paper provides a sociolinguistic survey of the use of Slovenian in education, the church, and early theatre performances in the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century. The extant studies and primary sources serve to identify the occasions for, and forms of, its use.
The practice of elementary education shows no significant changes between the 16th and 17th centuries; there are, however, some changes at the ideological level. There is no explicit request for elementary education in Slovenian, either in the period of the Catholic reformation or later, while the demand for the use of Slovenian in education is primarily limited to catechesis: in catechesis, however, the emphasis was not on reading texts but on listening and on spoken reproduction. Some sources do suggest the use of Slovenian in elementary education at certain “non-Slovenian” schools, but it was not systematic. The same applies to the Ljubljana Jesuit gymnasium, where the use of Slovenian is likely – especially at the early stages – but lacks immediate evidence. On the other hand, the presence of Slovenian can be proved for the theological seminary adjoining the Ljubljana Cathedral, as well as for the educational centre at Gornji Grad. Moreover, the great number of Jesuit gymnasia significantly improved the general language knowledge in their localities as compared to the previous periods.
The use of Slovenian in church was concentrated in preaching. All Slovenian priests were encouraged by the bishops to preach, and there were ecclesiastical orders that particularly fostered this activity. Sources testify to the delivery of Slovenian sermons by the Capuchin Friars, Jesuits, and Franciscans, while the role of Slovenian in the sermons by the Dominicans, Augustinians and Cistercians has received less attention. Of particular importance is the fact that the preachers belonging to ecclesiastical orders regularly moved from place to place all over the Slovenian territory, thus maintaining a supra-dialectal preaching idiom. While this idiom was increasingly influenced by the dialects of the areas where the preachers spent most of their time, it was usually not confined to the features of a single dialect. Slovenian was also used in pastoral letters to the congregation, in explaining the Gospels, in some other parts of the Mass, in church singing, in confessions, in village and town missions, on pilgrimages abroad (where some Slovenian formulas were used even by non-native Slovenian speakers), as well as in communication within the church. In order to discharge their duties, priests had to be proficient in Slovenian; occasionally they were even obliged to prove their command of the language if they were to preserve their post. However, it was only in 1706 that Slovenian found its way into the Rituale Labacense.
Slovenian was also increasingly present in theatre performances, which largely grew out of religious (especially Jesuit and Capuchin) and popular theatre (the students of the Jesuit College), including various religious processions. The use of Slovenian at such events may be traced all the way to the beginning of the 17th century.


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