A vivid commentary on Jewish survival and Jewish speech communities that will be enjoyed by the general reader, and is essential reading for students and researchers interested in the study of Middle Eastern languages, Jewish studies, and sociolinguistics.
Johann Severin Vater (1771–1826) was professor of theology and Oriental
languages at Halle, but his linguistic interests ranged far more widely. This 1801
publication is the thirty-year-old scholar's ambitious attempt to outline a
universal theory of language. Vater begins with a short definition of language,
and two chapters speculating on the origins of human language and
mechanisms for language change. These theoretical chapters, Vater says, were
intended to be accessible to students making the transition from classics to
philosophy. Vater then proposes the possibility of an overarching theory that
could accommodate the different sounds, structures and vocabularies used to
encode language functions, and which could be used by scholars to describe
the grammar of different languages. He goes a stage further in suggesting that
this could be the basis of a universal language. The book ends with a
fascinating bibliography of early modern writings on language.