Podcast episode 1: Pre-history of comparative-historical linguistics

The first series of the History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences Podcast looks at the history of modern linguistics. We begin in this episode by examining the pre-history of comparative-historical grammar.

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Archive DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.4767778

References for Episode 1

Primary Sources

Adelung, Johann Christoph and Johann Severin Vater (1806–1817), Mithridates, oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde, Berlin: Vossische Buchhandlung. archive.org: vol. I, vol. II, vol. III parts I and II, vol. III part III, vol. IV

Gessner, Conrad (2009 [1555]), Mithridate/Mithridates, ed. and trans. Bernard Colombat and Manfred Peters, Geneva: Librairie Droz.

Jones, William (1807 [1786]), The Third Anniversary Discourse, on the Hindus. The Works of Sir William Jones, ed. Lord Teignmouth, vol. III, pp. 24–46. London: Stockdale and Walker. Google Books

Jones, William (1807 [1792]), The Ninth Anniversary Discourse, on the Origin and Families of Nations. The Works of Sir William Jones, ed. Lord Teignmouth, vol. III, pp. 185–204. London: Stockdale and Walker. Google Books

Schlegel, Friedrich (1808), Ueber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier, Heidelberg: Mohr und Zimmer. archive.org (English trans. ‘On the Indian Language, Literature and Philosophy’ [1900], The Æsthetic and Miscellaneous Works of Friedrich von Schlegel, ed. and trans. E. J. Millington, pp. 425–536, London: George Bell and Sons. archive.org)

Secondary Sources

Aarsleff, Hans (1982), From Locke to Saussure: Essays on the study of language and intellectual history, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. See ‘Introduction’, Chaps. 1 and 2.

Benfey, Theodor (1869), Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft und orientalischen Philologie in Deutschland, seit dem Anfange des 19. Jahrhunderts mit einem Rückblick auf die früheren Zeiten, Munich: Cotta’sche Buchhandlung. archive.org

Morpurgo Davies, Anna (1998), History of Linguistics, vol. 4: Nineteenth-century Linguistics, London: Longman. See Chaps. 2 and 3.

Rudwick, Martin J. S. (2005), Bursting the Limits of Time: The reconstruction of geohistory in the age of revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. See Chaps. 6 and 7.

Saïd, Edward (2003 [1978]), Orientalism, London: Penguin Books.

Trautmann, Thomas (1997), Aryans and British India, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Posted in 19th century, historical linguistics, History, India, Linguistics, Philosophy, Podcast
3 comments on “Podcast episode 1: Pre-history of comparative-historical linguistics
  1. This podcast puts undue focus on William Jones, who was neither the first, nor the most insightful early western scholar to have been considered as a precessor of comparative grammarians. The cult around William Jones is really a mystery of historiography: everyone knows that his contribution was infinitesimal, but he is still repeatedly quoted, while other scholars such as von Boxhorn, Monboddo etc are never mentioned.

    See additional references in this blogpost: https://cipanglo.hypotheses.org/941
    and in this article:
    Campbell, Lyle. 2006. Why Sir William Jones got it all wrong, or Jones’ role in how to establish language families. Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca “Julio de Urquijo” 40(1–2). 245–264. http://ehu.eus/ojs/index.php/ASJU/article/view/4384.

  2. Thanks very much for your reply, and for the critique with references.

    I agree entirely with the point you make about the excessive emphasis traditionally put on Jones. You’ll note that in the podcast episode I refer to the “standard narrative” of comparative-historical linguistics. Since this series of the podcast is intended as a introduction to the standard historiography of disciplinary linguistics, I think it’s my task to first rehearse the received account and then to challenge it.

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