Podcast episode 8: Language as an institution – William Dwight Whitney

In this episode, we look first at the critiques of Schleicher’s “physcial” and Steinthal’s “psychological” theory of language put forward by the American linguist William Dwight Whitney. We then turn to Whitney’s own conception of language as a “human institution” and its intellectual background.

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References for Episode 8

Primary Sources

Lyell, Charles (1830–1833), Principles of Geology: being an attempt to explain the former changes of the Earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation, 3 vols., London: John Murray.

Lyell, Charles (1863), The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man, London: John Murray. archive.org

Steinthal, H. (1875), ‘Antikritik. Gegen Whitney’, Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft, 8: 216–250. archive.org

Whitney, William Dwight (1867), Language and the Study of Language, London: Trübner and Co. archive.org

Whitney, William Dwight (1873a), ‘Schleicher and the physical theory of language’, Oriental and Linguistic Studies, Vol. I, pp. 298–331, New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co. archive.org

Whitney, William Dwight (1873b), ‘Steinthal and the psychological theory of language’, Oriental and Linguistic Studies, Vol. I, pp. 332–375, New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co. archive.org

Whitney, William Dwight (1874), ‘The elements of English pronunciation’,Oriental and Linguistic Studies, Vol. II, pp. 202–300, New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co. archive.org

Secondary Sources

Alter, Stephen G. (2005), William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Christy, Craig T. (1983), Uniformitarianism in Linguistics, Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Morpurgo Davies, Anna (1998), History of Linguistics, vol. 4: Nineteenth-century Linguistics, London: Longman. See especially pp. 207–212.

Nerlich, Brigitte (1990), Change in Language: Whitney, Bréal, and Wegener, London: Routledge. See especially Part I.

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