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A Reader in Nineteenth Century
Historical Indo-European Linguistics

Winfred P. Lehmann


Introduction

W. P. Lehmann

This anthology has been arranged to provide easy access to some of the important works of nineteenth-century historical Indo-European linguistics. These works are not readily available to students, in part because of their language, in part because of the difficulty of obtaining the works themselves. Schlegel's book of 1808, for example, is generally placed in a special section for rare books in a library; the early issues of an important journal like the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft may be stored in a depository; even the section in Grimm's Grammar dealing with the sound shift may be difficult for a non-specialist in German to locate. An anthology will permit students to become acquainted with some of the key works of the nineteenth century, and to learn at first hand their contributions to the development of linguistics as well as their weaknesses.

The weaknesses are readily apparent, and should not need detailed comment. Even the important contributions presented here include shortcomings we would not tolerate. Principles observed in writing, printing and editing generally seem to have been determined for the ease of the publisher rather than the reader. A very capable author like Grassmann, for example, paid little attention to editorial details. The name Panini is at one point given without a macron in his article, at another point as Pānini; similarly Samaveda and Sāmaveda. These are superficial details, but they indicate how little the editor pampered the reader. Greek forms were rarely labeled--the special type face used for Greek was considered an adequate marker--and often a reader was expected to recognize Latin and Sanskrit forms as well. Glosses for forms may be in one of a number of languages. Other such editorial practices of the nineteenth century are left to the reader to discover. Occasionally it was difficult to maintain them without seeming unfair to our great predecessors. But when Brugmann lists himself as Brugman and permits spelling his forename Carl or Karl, one has the impression that externals were of little concern in the aim to make available as quickly as possible new insights into linguistic problems.

The selections here incorporate such insights, or are credited with priority in achieving them. In making selections, I intended to present only complete essays, or complete sub-sections of a work, so that the reader might himself determine the point of view of a scholar, his contemporaries, and his publication. Excerpts may more economically present the high points of early linguistics, but they take from readers the pleasure of determining these; the interested student can find the history of linguistics in this way in Hans Arens' Sprachwissenschaft. Excerpts also fail to provide the context in which a permanent contribution was made. Jones's entire essay is reprinted here, for example, to indicate that the celebrated paragraph which is constantly reprinted simply makes up one small segment of a report on Indian culture; it is instructive for students to find out for themselves how peripheral was the concern with language at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Schlegel too discussed Indian culture in general, not simply language. Yet it did not seem useful to demonstrate repeatedly by incorporating long passages of their writings on other matters that he and the other early linguists assumed many intellectual responsibilities. For similar reasons, only parts of selections 12, 13, 15, 16 and 18 are included here.

Each selection in the anthology is preceded by comments which point up its contributions, and thus I do not give here a survey of the development of nineteenth-century linguistics. I might also note that the anthology does not reflect all advances of the nineteenth century. Some are not represented because they were inaugurated by more than one man, sometimes in several different works. The study of dialect geography, for example, was encouraged by many linguists, as the selections from von Raumer and Sievers demonstrate. Such encouragement was not given in special essays, as the example of Gaston Paris may indicate; his initial lecture of 1868 on the historical grammar of the French language, Mélanges linguistiques, pp. 153-173 (Paris, 1909), reflects the views that led to the dialect project in France, but only in a general discussion. Other advances are not represented because they occurred to a number of linguists almost simultaneously and were not made in any one notable work, for example the understanding that reconstructions can be established from other segments of a linguistic system than those directly involved. The conclusion that PIE e must be assumed because of palatals in Sanskrit is the most striking example. The gradual clarification of the vowel system of Proto-Indo-European is also the work of many, as the excerpt from Saussure indicates. Further, because of the length of the materials here, I have omitted the works of the great dissenters such as Hugo Schuchardt. These to be sure would be useful in illustrating the breadth of approaches in linguistics, as does the Hugo Schuchardt-Brevier (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1922). But, as Schuchardt himself points out, his central concern was the Romance language group, not Indo-European; accordingly his work lies outside the area of the anthology. Moreover, like the dialect geographers, he published many of his theoretical statements in the twentieth century. For this reason too Paul's Prinzipien is not represented; its definitive form was reached only in 1920. For a synthesis of nineteenth-century work, I have included a chapter from Whitney.

Interpretation of the contributions of the leading nineteenthcentury linguists are happily available in a number of fine surveys. One of the best is Language, by Otto Jespersen (London: Allen and Unwin, 1922) pp. 19-99. The most widely read is probably Holger Pedersen's Linguistic Science in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John W. Spargo and republished as The Discovery of Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962). Pedersen's penetrating review of linguistics has a capable predecessor in Vilhelm Thomsen: Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft bis zum Ausgang des 19. Jahrhunderts, translated by H. Pollak (Halle: Niemeyer, 1927). A recent short survey going beyond the nineteenth century is Perspectives in Linguistics, by John T. Waterman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963).

Students who read German should make use of the excellent introduction to the history of linguistics through well-chosen excerpts in Hans Arens' Sprachwissenschaft (Freiburg/Munchen: Karl Alber, 1955). Its bibliography contains 744 items, of which items 306-321 deal with the history of linguistics.

Moreover, handbooks that provide brief surveys should not be overlooked, such as Hermann Hirt's Indogermanische Grammatik I. (Heidelberg: Winter, 1927) pp. 1-16, or J. Schrijnen's Einführung in das Studium der indogermanischen Sprachwissenschaft, translated by W. Fischer (Heidelberg: Winter, 1921) pp. 20-38, or Antoine Meillet's Introduction à l'étude comparative des langues indo-européennes (Paris: Hachette, 1937 8), Appendix I, pp. 453-483, or the fine essays on individual linguists in his collected essays: Linguistique historique et linguistique générale II. (Paris: Klincksieck, 1938). All of these provide means for a better understanding of the contributions in the selections presented here, and of the problems their authors attempted to solve.

This Reader was undertaken in the fall of 1963. At that time students in a course on the history of the German language were asked to translate various essays. Of these, translations by the following students are included, after revision: 5 by Mr. Roy A. Boggs, 7 by Mr. Louis E. Brister, 9 by Mr. Peter Mollenhauer, 11 by Miss Carolyn Farmer, 13 by Mr. Clifford Crowe, 14 by Miss Judy Haddon, 18 by Mr. Jerry Glenn. The other essays I have translated. I am grateful to Catharina Breedveld for typing much of the manuscript, and to Miss Victoria Bunye for reading all of it.

Problems of translation could be discussed at length. Among them are shifts in the uses of terms. For Grimm deutsch meant Germanic, for Schleicher West Germanic, though also German in accordance with its current use. It is often difficult to translate such terms accurately without providing a contemporary interpretation that reflects the increased precision in use of terminology, and may therefore not correspond to the views of the author. More external, but also troublesome, are items that we no longer use, such as Bactrian rather than Avestan, or symbols like rather than Sanskrit c, IE a₁ rather than e. The proper interpretation of these is generally apparent. Some of the forgotten terminology one is tempted to reintroduce, such as the youthful Saussure's symphthong and autophthong.

In general, interpretation is left to the reader; when Grimm uses "analogy," for example, his meaning differs from ours, but it is instructive and not difficult to interpret his use of the term. Often such terminology has been long maintained. It is highly important to understand Grimm's view of the consonant shift occurring in stufen "grades," in accordance with the scheme he included in his discussion; the concept of the shift as a series of steps or grades has persisted to the present, though it was probably carried to its extreme under the neogrammarians for whom not only the various series but also the individual items were distinct. Further, an understanding of the methodological approach of Grimm to the consonant shift may be instructive when viewed in relation to that maintained in our handbooks for Indo-European ablaut.

Students who seek to follow the development of methodology in linguistics will want to consult the originals, not merely the translations or even the selections provided here. Fuller acquaintance with the important contributions of the past will lead to a deeper understanding of the views we have maintained and may also provide insights into contemporary approaches and the discussions of linguists today.