Phonetische studien — applied linguistics gets its first journal

Andrew Linn
University of Sheffield

Several new journals of the late 1870s (Englische studien, Anglia: Zeitschrift für englische Philologie and the Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie) gave the linguistics of the modern languages the means for their proponents to talk to each other in a scholarly forum as the modern languages established themselves as university disciplines. One of the key outlets for this ‘new philology’ was the slightly later arrival on the scene, Phonetische studien [Phonetic studies]. This was very much the preferred organ of the Reform Movement in language teaching (for more on the Reform Movement, see Howatt and Smith 2002). It also rapidly became the principal discourse forum for the wider community of predominantly younger scholars, working both within and outside universities, inspired by the opportunities for new forms of applied language work offered by the new science of phonetics (for more on this ‘discourse community’, see Linn 2008).

Phonetische studien (it did not adopt upper-case letters word-initially in nouns) first appeared in 1888 with the subtitle Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche und praktische phonetik mit besonderer rücksicht auf den unterricht in der aussprache [Journal of scientific and practical phonetics with particular emphasis on the teaching of pronunciation]. The title was a work in progress, as we shall see in due course, and its fluidity tells us much about the journal and the community it served. The style of the title was clearly calqued on that of the earlier journals, and it served to position the newcomer amongst them as a serious contribution to the philological literature. By the 1880s journals had come to “represent the most important single source of information for the scientific research community” (Meadows 1979: 1) and any self-respecting scholarly endeavour needed one to give it credibility as well as serving “to create and solidify a bonding sense of community for scholars who might otherwise have remained isolated individuals or small cadres” (Christie 1990: 17). The 1886 meeting of Scandinavian philologists in Stockholm, attended by Paul Passy (1859-1940) in the year in which he founded the Phonetic Teachers Association, had resulted in the establishment of the four key principles of language teaching reform (see Linn 2002). This, and the other philologists’ conferences which were by now a regular fixture in the annual calendar, must have been an invigorating and empowering experience for the phonetically minded language teaching reformers, and the new journal was a way of keeping the community together and focused. Regular reports on efforts to put reform measures into practice provided a source of encouragement to those who felt themselves to be lone voices in a chorus of traditional methods. However, those lone voices were joining forces rapidly to form a new chorus of reforming zeal. Writing in 1893, and looking back over the previous years, the German reform pioneer Wilhelm Viëtor (1850-1918) charts the dramatic development of this community of scholars and teachers dedicated to applying the insights of phonetics to language teaching reform. He notes that “this rather insignificant germ of reform literature has meanwhile grown to very considerable dimensions” (1893: 353) and that the community is coming together in significant numbers:
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Posted in 19th century, History, Language teaching, Linguistics, Phonetics

Family resemblance and semantics: the vagaries of a not so new concept

Jean-Michel Fortis
Université Paris Diderot

The motivation for writing this post is twofold: first, there is still something to be said about the origins of the notion of family resemblance and its application to semantics, most notably in the version of prototype theory which has gained currency in cognitive linguistics; second, exploring this genealogy puts us in a position to dispel an illusion. This is the illusion that cognitive semantics is an innovative approach, especially because it does away with the so-called “classical” conception of concepts as definable in terms of necessary and sufficient properties. My point is that a notion of prototype and family resemblance can be and was found in Aristotle’s thought, that is, in the tradition which is also the source of the classical conception; further, analyses similar in spirit to those of cognitive semantics have been put forward long before family resemblance was mobilized to justify them.

To start, let us go back to the sources of Rosch and the context in which family resemblance was exported to prototype theory (for more details, Fortis 2010).

Thanks to James McElvenny and Nick Riemer for their review and very useful remarks. Read more ›

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Posted in 20th century, Cognitive Linguistics, Europe, History, Linguistics, Semantics

Translator proditor. The affirmation of the authorial voice in Matías Ruiz Blanco.

Roxana Sarion
University of Tromsø, Norway

Matías Ruíz Blanco (1643-1705/1708?) was a Franciscan friar who served as a missionary, historian and linguist in colonial Venezuela. Born in the village of Estepa in the Spanish region of Andalusia, he was devoted from early youth to religious practice. He was most probably educated in the Convent of Grace. By the age of 23 he was already recognized as a teacher of philosophy at the Monastery of the Valley in the Province of Seville. In 1672, during the third Franciscan expedition to America, he was sent as new lector of philosophy and theology. He continued teaching until early 1675 when, together with other fourteen missionaries, he was sent to evangelize the indigenous people in the province of New Andalusia, Cumana, on the banks of the Orinoco river and in other parts of Southern Venezuela.

Johanes de Laet - Map

Johanes de Laet (Leiden, 1625) – Engraved map representing present-day North Eastern Venezuela territory with some Caribbean islands, which includes the mouth of the Orinoco river (courtesy of John Carter Brown online library)

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Posted in 17th century, America, Grammars, History, Linguistics, Missionary Linguistics

Vivien Law Essay Prize 2015

Vivien Law

The Vivien Law Prize is offered annually by the Henry Sweet Society for the best essay in the history of linguistic ideas. The competition is open to all currently registered students, and to scholars who have received their PhD or equivalent qualification within the last five years. Essays can be up to 8000 words in length. Closing date is 31 October 2015 (extended from 30 September 2015).

Further information is available here:

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Posted in Announcements

Las disciplinas lingüísticas en la España decimonónica: Julián González de Soto y el Colegio de Figueras (1839-1845)

María José García Folgado
Universitat de València – Grupo GIEL

La historia de la enseñanza de la gramática es un campo que, en el marco hispánico, solo recientemente está siendo objeto de investigación. Aunque desde la Historiografía Lingüística se han abordado muchas obras que, stricto sensu, son textos escolares (producidos por enseñantes y para la enseñanza), no se ha tenido en cuenta este hecho en su análisis, lo que supone, en última instancia, una interpretación sesgada de la historia gramatical. Un principio determinante en la investigación de la gramática escolar y su historia es la necesaria imbricación en el análisis de factores externos e internos que aporten datos empíricos que permitan abordar desde sus diferentes esferas el fenómeno: no solo el texto, sino el contexto; no solo la teoría gramatical, sino los supuestos didácticos que la acompañan; no solo el autor, sino los receptores (maestros y alumnos), etc. (vid. Swiggers 2012). En este trabajo, ofrecemos una muy breve muestra de investigación de tres manuales escolares de gramática producidos para un centro concreto (el Instituto de Figueras), en un momento histórico de desarrollo y cambio de las enseñanzas medias en España. Read more ›

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Posted in Europe, Grammars, Spain

John Stoddart’s The Philosophy of Language: the “last truly universalist work”

Joseph L. Subbiondo
California Institute of Integral Studies


Sir John Stoddart (1773-1856) served as England’s advocate in Malta from 1803-1807, editor of The Times from 1814 to 1816, founder and editor of The New Times from 1816 to 1826, and Chief Justice and Justice of the Vice-Admiralty Court in Malta from 1826 to 1840. He was knighted in 1826. Stoddart’s formal education was as notable as his professional career: at Oxford, he earned Bachelor of Arts in 1794, Bachelor of Civil Law in 1798, and Doctor of Civil Law in 1801.

In addition to his career in public service and journalism, Stoddart studied and wrote about the history of universal grammar with remarkable breadth and depth. Moreover, he formulated his own theories regarding the philosophy of language and the historical development of ancient and contemporary languages. His lifetime of research is well represented in his Universal Grammar, or the Pure Science of Language published in 1849; Glossology, or the Historical Relations of Languages published posthumously in 1858, and The Philosophy of Language, a revised and enlarged 700 page edition of both books, published in 1861. My references in this paper are to the 1861 publication.

Peter H. Salus (1976) aptly described Stoddart’s The Philosophy of Language (1861) as “the last truly universalist work” (p. 99): he recognized that Stoddart’s publications conclude a significant period of universal grammar that spanned nearly nine centuries. Following Stoddart, universal grammar would not occupy center stage in linguistics until the emergence of transformational generative grammar nearly a century later. Yet despite Stoddart’s insightful and extensive study of universal grammar and its history from ancient origins to the mid-nineteenth century, his work has been overlooked by historians of linguistics. Read more ›

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Posted in 18th century, 19th century, History, Philosophy

Esperanto: some observations of a speaker-linguist

Ken Miner
University of Kansas (emer.)

Esperantism is one of those many small worlds that have more substance to them than outsiders think but less than most insiders think. The twain rarely meet. Much linguistic attention to Esperanto, including almost all of my own, is in Esperanto and therefore inaccessible to non-Esperantists. For this reason I have responded to James McElvenny’s invitation to say something about the language here. I will simply summarize some of the work I and others have done; the basic information about the language, its origin, history and progress, is readily available elsewhere.

My affiliation with Esperanto has been somewhat unusual. I learned the language from the age of about fourteen, but regarding the movement – the attempt to advance Esperanto as a serious solution to the world’s “language problem” – from the sixties I favored instead an inward-turning approach: acknowledge the futility of getting the language “recognized” and simply nurture the language and its community of speakers. (Apparently I was not alone; in the eighties, a group sharing this view actually factionalized themselves and are today known as Raumists.)

Not being an “Esperanto salesman” (see Language Log for November 21, 2011) I was not disturbed when my later linguistic work, in part following on that of others, revealed aspects of the language well outside its usual portrayal. Throughout the history of the movement, Esperanto was promoted as regular and easy to learn, with intuitive word-formation reducible to early “keys” containing, with basic grammar, lists of morphemes (available in 26 languages by 1933). But the regularity of Esperanto is only in its inflectional morphology; its derivational morphology, as actually developed, is quite capricious, and certain aspectual and pragmatic matters are actually undetermined. As for ease of learning, the excellent practical grammar, Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko [complete handbook of Esperanto grammar] (ELNA, 2005), by the tireless Bertil Wennergren, runs to nearly 700 pages. For a quick comparison, admittedly perhaps unfair, Michael Coulson’s Teach Yourself Sanskrit, widely used as a college textbook, is only 513 pages, and it has reading selections and a lexicon. Read more ›

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Posted in Constructed languages, Linguistics

Program August-December 2015

[Updated 16 September 2015]

Esperanto: some observations of a speaker-linguist
Ken Miner
University of Kansas
John Stoddart’s The Philosophy of Language: the “last truly universalist work”
Joseph Subbiondo
California Institute of Integral Studies
Las disciplinas lingüísticas en la España decimonónica: Julián González de Soto y el Colegio de Figueras (1839-1845)
María José García Folgado
Universitat de València
Translator proditor. The affirmation of the authorial voice in Matias Ruiz Blanco.
Roxana Sarion
University of Amsterdam
Family resemblance and semantics: the vagaries of a not so new concept
Jean-Michel Fortis
Laboratoire d’histoire des théories linguistiques, Université Paris-Diderot
Phonetische Studien – applied linguistics gets its first journal?
Andrew Linn
University of Sheffield
Antoine Meillet and the Armenian genocide
Sébastien Moret
University of Tartu
Spanish language in Portuguese texts (16th to 19th centuries)
Sónia Duarte
Centro de Linguística da Universidade do Porto
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Salon: Anachronism in linguistic historiography

Welcome to the first salon. The purpose of our salons is to provide a forum for discussing topics of interest in linguistic historiography and related fields. This salon will focus on ‘anachronism in linguistic historiography’. The discussion opens below with contributions from:

Everyone is invited — and indeed encouraged — to continue the conversation in the comments thread. Read more ›

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Posted in History, Linguistics, Salon

Hugo Schuchardt and his Network of Knowledge

Johannes Mücke & Silvio Moreira de Sousa [1]
Hugo Schuchardt Archiv, University of Graz

“Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth.”
Frank Zappa (1979)

Hugo Schuchardt Archiv

Hugo Schuchardt (1842-1927)
Source: Hugo Schuchardt Archiv


The goal of the project “Network of Knowledge” (runtime 2012-2015, FWF project number P 24400-G15, main researcher: Bernhard Hurch) appears to be very linear at first sight: the online, open access presentation (and consequent analysis) of the papers of Hugo Schuchardt (1842-1927), combining the digital facsimile edition of all of Schuchardt’s publications with the also digital edition of his correspondence and a bibliography of secondary literature.

Preserved at the University’s library in Graz, the Hugo Schuchardt Papers account for nearly 14,000 letters received from virtually all over the world. The actual tally for the digital edition of Schuchardt’s correspondence is at the moment (May 2015) around more than 2,000 edited letters. Furthermore, all of Schuchardt’s works (a growing number of them also as OCR scanned searchable PDFs) are already available for consultation, together with an ever increasing collection of more than 315 reviews, which are being processed and will be put online. Read more ›

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Posted in 19th century, Europe, Linguistics

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