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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Posted in Programs

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

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