Henry Sweet, a model for John Rupert Firth?

Angela Senis
Université Bordeaux Montaigne

This post introduces a few of the insights developed during the Henry Sweet Society colloquium in 2017. My full research on this topic is the subject of a paper that is soon to be proposed for academic publication and where the topic is much further developed.

This is also the occasion to thank again the Henry Sweet Society for awarding me the Verburg-Salmon 2017 grant, which made this contribution possible.

Henry Sweet is widely mentioned and quoted throughout John Rupert Firth’s work. Palmer claims Firth even liked to be compared to Sweet and that there were similarities, with both acting as “a voice crying in the wilderness” on academic grounds (Palmer 1968:1). However, the relation between both men is hardly a simple one and, although they never met, their connection most certainly contributed to the scientific orientation of the London School. Read more ›

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Posted in 19th century, 20th century, Article, Europe, History, Linguistics

Program February–June 2019

20 February Henry Sweet, a model for John Rupert Firth?
Angela Senis
Université Bordeaux Montaigne
6 March Grammaticalization clines: a brief conceptual history
Martin Konvička
Freie Universität Berlin
20 March John Hart (c. 1501–1574) and the beginning of English linguistics in Tudor England
Ji Ma
University of Sheffield
17 April Speech sounds in the field: dynamical approaches to phonology after Maxwell and Einstein
Alexander Teixeira Kalkhoff
Universität Freiburg
1 May Why didn’t women document Indigenous Australian languages in the nineteenth century?
Jane Simpson
Australian National University, Canberra
29 May The foreign entanglements of Mandarin Chinese in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
Mårten Saarela
Academia Sinica, Taipei
12 June On the fuzzy identity of linguistic units: the epistemological background of Danish structuralism
Lorenzo Cigana
Institut for Nordiske Studier og Sprogvidenskab (NorS), University of Copenhagen
Posted in Programs

Recent publications in the history and philosophy of linguistics, January 2019

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Posted in Announcements, Publications, Uncategorized

CfP: International Conference Ideology and Linguistic Ideas 2019, Tblisi

12 September 2019 – 14 September 2019

After the two successful conferences in 2015 and 2017, we are pleased to invite scholars interested in the history of linguistic ideas developed alongside with different ideologies in different times once more to Georgia. Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

Recent publications in the history and philosophy of linguistics, December 2018

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Posted in Announcements, Publications, Uncategorized

Pierre-Philippe Potier’s Elementa Grammaticae Huronicae (1745)

Zanna Van Loon
University of Leuven


Instead of imposing European languages, Catholic friars conducting missions in the Americas in the early modern period opted to learn indigenous tongues to more efficiently teach local communities the religious doctrine. To guarantee the success of their missions, many missionaries systematically studied native languages and recorded the knowledge they acquired in religious texts, grammars, wordlists and other sorts of linguistic instruments. By storing all that they had learned on paper, missionary friars made linguistic knowledge available to others, and opened up the possibility of passing it onto successors. They were often among the first and sometimes the only ones who accumulated, codified, and distributed knowledge on Amerindian languages, pioneering work that set in motion the circulation of linguistic knowledge on these languages. In particular, the Jesuits who dominated the missionary field in New France since the 1630s – which encompasses the area covering Hudson Bay in the north, the St. Lawrence River in the east, and the Great Lakes in the west of North America – produced several documents dealing with the native languages they encountered to advance their proselytizing efforts.

Pierre-Philippe Potier (1708-1781), born in Blandain in present-day Belgium, was one of the Jesuits who left France, where he had studied and taught, for New France to perform missionary work. Potier arrived in Quebec in October 1743, and, in September 1744, he joined the Huron mission of father Armand de La Richardie at l’Île aux Bois-Blancs, near Detroit. In 1747, La Richardie established a new mission post in Pointe de Montréal, which is where Potier erected a church in 1749, and founded the first parish of Ontario in 1767, Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. He continued to minister to the Huron population in his new parish until his death in 1781.

During his missionary work, Pierre-Philippe Potier dedicated much of his time to assembling texts, some of which recorded information about the Huron language. A couple of Huron manuscripts in Potier’s handwriting have survived to this day, making his works a particularly interesting part of the early modern missionary linguistics in New France. Moreover, with the Jesuit order’s suppression in France in the 1760s greatly influencing missionary work in the Americas, Potier is considered one of the last known early modern French Jesuits to have written material in Huron (Hanzeli 1969, 29–30). This blogpost explores how his extant linguistic documentation adds to our understanding of the circulation of missionary linguistic knowledge in New France. Read more ›

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Posted in 18th century, America, Article, History, Missionary Linguistics

CfP: Panel on Unusual Grammars

I am hoping to organize a panel at the Henry Sweet Society Colloquium 2019 on grammars that are based on models that are or might seem unusual, at least from our modern vantage point. An example might be John Palsgrave’s Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530), modeled on Theodore Gaza’s Greek grammar, on which I aim to present a paper as part of the panel. Read more ›

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Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

CfP: Panel on Political Conceptualization of Linguistic Thought, HSS 2019

We are hoping to organize a panel of papers on the political conceptualization of linguistic thought at the 2019 colloquium of the Henry Sweet Society and would like to hear from other researchers interested in presenting a paper, with 20 minutes’ speaking time and 10 minutes for questions. If you are interested in participating or would like to discuss this further, please contact Ji Ma (learnermaji@sina.com). We will need to receive a provisional title and a short (no longer than 250-word) abstract of your contribution by 15 February 2019. Read more ›

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Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

CfP: HoLLT panels HSS Colloquium in Edinburgh, 4-7 September 2019

Here are two separate calls for expressions of interest in presenting a paper in a HoLLT-themed panel at the Annual Colloquium of the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas, University of Edinburgh, 4–­­7 September 2019. Please contact the named panel organizer if you are
interested: Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

Recent publications in the history and philosophy of linguistics, October-November 2018

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Posted in Announcements, Publications, Uncategorized