Skip to content
BY 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2018

Wordplay and baroque linguistic ideas

From the book Cultures and Traditions of Wordplay and Wordplay Research

  • Natalia Filatkina and Claudine Moulin


The paper tackles the question of what the dynamics of wordplay mean for Early Modern language philosophy and what function wordplay fulfills at a time when linguistic norms and cultural values of a particular language are being sought. In Part 1, the current definition of wordplay suggested in Winter-Froemel (2016) is presented as a theoretical framework for the analysis which follows. In Part 2, we give a brief sketch of the main features of Early Modern linguistic thought with a particular focus on the concepts of play and wordplay. As one of the language theorists of 17th century Germany, Georg Philipp Harsdörffer (1607- 1658) is widely known for the sophisticated integration of these concepts into his “linguistic” oeuvre, and this will determine the main focus of the current article. Two of Harsdörffer’s works will be the center of attention: the Frauenzimmer Gesprächspiele (FZG), published 1643-1649 in Nuremberg, an eight-volume series of dialogues about social, poetic and scientific matters, which incorporates much of Harsdörffer’s thoughts on language and one of the best-sellers of the 17th century, and the Delitiae Mathematicae et Physicae (DMP), a three-volume scientific work, to which Harsdörffer added the last two of the three volumes (1651- 1653, Nuremberg). Based on the study of various subtypes of wordplay with letters in Part 3, we shall argue that in the context of baroque linguistic ideas wordplay should be defined in a broader sense. It is deeply rooted in a particular view of language peculiar to European baroque culture that provided a conceptual background not only for language “theories”, poetry, education and standards of knowledge but also for the role and functions of wordplay. As Harsdörffer found his inspiration in and was strongly influenced by similar ideas of other scientists, particularly in Italy and France, the results of the analysis of the German baroque sources allow for more general assumptions that are not restricted to one language only.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
Downloaded on 4.6.2023 from
Scroll to top button