By Brigitte Nerlich
The purpose of this publication is to supply a clean view of the heritage of nineteenth-century language research through targeting the writings of 3 linguists (Whitney, Bréal and Wegener) in 3 international locations (the usa, France and Germany). the traditional histories of linguistics painting the interval among the 1840s and the Nineties as comprising a gentle raise in philological wisdom, the invention of sound legislation and the astute research of minute philological curiosities. the 3 writers mentioned right here illustrate one other development within the evolution of the technology of language. they're witnesses to an expanding curiosity on questions of 'general' linguistics, semantics and the research of human conversation - new issues of view from which they research the foundation of language, language switch and linguistic creativity. The existence and paintings of those 3 remarkable students, their relationships with their neighbors and enemies and their efforts to loose linguistics from the unreflecting use of organic metaphors, provide a brand new perception into the evolution of language research in an interdisciplinary and overseas context.
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Additional resources for Change in Language: Whitney, Breal and Wegener (History of Linguistic Thought)
These two tendencies had come about by the ill-judged importation of one biological theory or another in order to give linguistics an air of scientificity. Seduced by the achievements of ‘comparative anatomy’ (cf. Cuvier 1800), Schlegel and others had believed that a reconstruction of the IndoEuropean proto-language was possible. Linnaeus’ classifications of biological species and Darwin’s redefinition of the origin of species had led Schleicher to regard language as an organism and language families as species.
His lecture ‘On thought and language’, given at the Philosophical Society of Glasgow in 1891 (cf. Müller 1901:85– 109), reiterated what he had first said thirty years earlier. Until the very end Müller held to his idiosyncratic theory of language, its origin, and its relation to thought, and he did not flinch under Whitney’s continuous attacks (on Müller’s life and work, cf. Jankowsky 1979). This raises the question who won the popularity battle; who ultimately convinced the scientific community—the Yale professor or the Oxford professor?
It is not surprising, then, that Müller distanced himself in later editions of the Lectures from the ‘ding-dong’ theory he had at first espoused. Some people, among them Darwin himself, whom Müller met in 1874 (cf. Müller 1902, I: 468), expressed their criticism more politely. In June 1873, Müller had sent Darwin a copy of his 1873 lectures on Darwin’s philosophy of language, and Darwin had replied in July: As far as language is concerned, I am not worthy to be your adversary, as I know extremely little about it, and that little learnt from very few books….
Change in Language: Whitney, Breal and Wegener (History of Linguistic Thought) by Brigitte Nerlich