‘Tong breect been’: The Sins of the Tongue in Middle Dutch Religious Didactic Writings - ‘Tong breect been’: De zonden van de tong in Middelnederlandse religieuze didactische geschriften

Martine Veldhuizen


This article concerns perceptions of harmful speech labelled as ‘sins of the tongue’ in three Middle Dutch religious didactic writings about the capital sins. These perceptions connect to a broader European trend of interest in and fear of the wicked ways of the tongue – metonym of human speech. I use notions of modern language theory to analyse perceptions of the sins of the tongue. The analysis reveals that according to Middle Dutch ecclesiastical textual sources about the sins of the tongue, harmful speech was often seen as the result of an untamed tongue. Because of its potential serious threat to the face (reputation) and grace (salvation) of the speakers, recipients and the subjects of the words, the tongue had to be controlled.


Sins of the tongue; Middle Dutch pastoral texts about the capital sins; face and grace threatening acts; perceptions of harmful speech; Speech Act Theory/ zonde van de tong; Middelnederlandse catechetische teksten over hoofdzonden

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