Workshop: Language in the Global History of Knowledge, 29–30 April 2021

KU Leuven (online), 29–30 April 2021

This workshop discusses various ways in which language and the study of language figured in the global history of knowledge, from the 16th to the early 20th century. In the expanding network of mercantile, missionary, and colonial relations, language was both a vessel and a barrier for the transmission of knowledge. Moreover, languages became an object of knowledge and theory-formation in themselves, in ways that diverged from how their speakers knew their language and their world.

Our aim is to address the interrelations between these different kinds of knowledge. The emergence of the language sciences has to be understood both in relation to traditions of textual scholarship within different cultures, and to developments in other fields of science (broadly understood).


  • How was linguistic and philological knowledge ingrained into other sciences and learned practices?
  • Which role did language and language study play within different knowledge cultures?
  • Who did the knowing and what did they know? What was the role of interpreters, go-betweens, and gate-keepers?
  • How were language barriers overcome (or not)?


Feel free to join! Please send an e-mail to register and we will supply you with Zoom links for both days (or either).

Floris Solleveld (KU Leuven)
Toon van Hal (KU Leuven)


Thursday 29 April

14:00-17:00 CEST

Sabine Dedenbach (University of Sterling)
Knowledge shared through language and enactment: How God became an Apu

Asaph Ben-Tov  (University of Copenhagen)
Enquiries touching the Diversities of Languages and Religions: Edward Brerewood (c. 1565-1613) and other universal histories of language and religion in the seventeenth century

Sven Osterkamp (Ruhr University Bochum)
Polyglot interpreter Yoshio Gonnosuke (1785–1831) and his unpublished Dutch–Japanese Comparative Syntax

Ian Stewart (Queen Mary, London)
Language and the Development of Racial Thought: J.C. Prichard and the Case of British Ethnology

Luz van den Bruel (KU Leuven)
Language as a Racial Characteristic: Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman’s Views on the Languages of the Americas in Relation to the Unity of Mankind

Friday 30 April

14:00-17:00 CEST

Michiel Leezenberg  (University of Amsterdam)
From Cosmopolitan to Vernacular in the Language Sciences: A Global History Perspective

Judith Kaplan (UPenn)
The Turfan Expeditions and the Instrumentality of Philological Knowledge

Pascale Rabault-Feuerhahn (ENS, Paris)
War(s) and peace: the role of international conflicts in the reorganization of Orientalist knowledge, as exemplified by the history of Orientalist congresses

Floris Solleveld (KU Leuven)
The Global Networks of ‘Pygmäen-Schmidt’: Wilhelm Schmidt and the Afterlives of 19th-Century Ethnolinguistics

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

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Upcoming events

28-30 June 2023
Faro, Portugal
International Inter-association (History of Language Teaching) Conference
Language teachers, methodologies and teacher training in historical perspective

4-6 September 2023
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
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What counts as scientific in the History of Linguistics?

6-9 September 2023
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
XXXII. International Colloquium of the “Studienkreis ‘Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft'” (SGdS)
Controversies in the history of linguistics

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