Rath Prize Laudatio 2006 (Jury: Cathleen Giustino, Paula Fichtner, Helmut Konrad) The jury charged with awarding the R. John Rath Prize for the best article in the Austrian History Yearbook, volume 37 (2006) is pleased to report that the winner is Alexander Maxwell, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Nevada, Reno, for his article "Why the Slovak Language Has Three Dialects: A Case Study in Historical Perceptual Dialectology". In this original interdisciplinary study, Dr. Maxwell productively combines the techniques of contemporary perceptual dialectology with nineteenth-century Slovak linguistic theory to illuminate the specific historical processes that encouraged the mid-nineteenth century division of Slovak into Western, Central, and Eastern dialects and the eventual elevation of Slovak to the status of a language within a Slavic continuum. His discussion touches on many national aspects of the Habsburg monarchy, as well as much broader cultural issues, such as the role that religious differences continue to play in shaping one community's perception of others. Using numerous contemporary discussions of linguistic theory, including writings of Ján Kollár, L'udovít Štúr and Anton Bernolák, he shows that the tri-partite dialectic division, still recognized today and often taken as a natural "fact", is a political and social construct, the outcome of efforts among patriotic Slovaks to join Catholic and Lutheran forces among Slavs in northern Hungary in defending their cultural identity against mounting pressures of Magyarization. His conclusions tellingly underscore that we should not accept glib generalizations about the interplay of national identity and language in Central European political thought and action.

In brief, Dr. Maxwell uses the linguistic history of the Slovak people, who are both part of the history of the Hungary and the Habsburg monarchy to raise provocative philosophical issues about the nature of causality in historical processes, thereby moving our entire field into the larger intellectual arena where it belongs. For both its broad-ranging mastery of detail and conceptual suggestiveness, his work clearly merits the R. John Rath Prize for the year 2006.