LINGUIST List 23.2358

Thu May 17 2012

Review: Discourse Analysis; Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Gunnarsson (ed.) 2011

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <>

Date: 17-May-2012
From: Rolf Kemmler <>
Subject: Languages of Science in the Eighteenth Century
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EDITOR: Britt-Louise GunnarssonTITLE: Languages of Science in the Eighteenth CenturyPUBLISHER: de Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2011

Rolf Kemmler, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro / Centro de Estudos emLetras, Portugal


As the editor Britt-Louise Gunnarson (University of Uppsala, Sweden) states inher pre-introduction, ''most of the chapters this volume were originallypresented as plenary lectures or section papers at the Symposium on Languages ofScience in the Time of Linnaeus, held in Uppsala in June 2007'' (p. xi). TheSymposium was held on the occasion of the tercentenary of the birth of the 18thcentury Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné or CarolusLinnæus (1707-1778), who is acknowledged to have devised the basics of modernbiological zoological classification. Four years after this symposium theresults are presented in a printed edition by Mouton de Gruyter, unitingseventeen articles.

After an introduction by the editor which serves both to inform on the generaltheme of languages in the 18th century (with a focus on the Swedish reality) andon Carl von Linné, she continues with a brief synopsis of the individualarticles, which are organized in four sections.

Section 1: The forming of scientific communities

In the article ''Church, state, university, and the printing press: Conditionsfor the emergence and maintenance of autonomy of scientific publication inEurope'' (pp. 25-44), Charles Bazerman focuses on scientific printing in a timewhen knowledge in the natural sciences increasingly came to be a matter of stateand of independent scholars and less of the church dominated universities.Comparing the advent of printing in China and in Europe, Bazerman puts intoevidence what could be called a secularization of knowledge in learned societiesand academies since the 16th century as well as in scientific journals due toliberal access to printing. While in the 18th century research activity all overmost of Europe didn't necessarily have to be linked to a university, this beganto change with the German university reforms from the mid 19th century on.

In the article ''Philology in the eighteenth century: Europe and Sweden,'' (pp.45-61), Gunilla Gren-Eklund offers an overview over 'philology' in eighteenthcentury Sweden. Given that the term 'linguistics' is used nowadays mostly forsynchronous linguistics and that the article focuses on a historiographic viewof the scientific dedication to linguistic thought (even in a pre-linguisticperiod), it seems more adequate to use the term 'linguistic historiography' and'Sprachwissenschaftsgeschichte' in the sense of E. F. Konrad Koerner. It seemsquite natural that in 18th century Swedish universities there was not yet anyregular philological (or linguistic) activity, except for studies concerning theoriental language, which actually coincides with the general picture before theintroduction of philology and language studies in the early and mid-19th century.

In the article ''The Swedish Academy of Sciences: Language policy and languagepractice'' (pp. 63-87), Ulf Teleman dedicates himself to the Royal SwedishAcademy of Sciences (''Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien'', KVA), founded in Stockholmin 1739. As a learned society that was created emulating the British ''RoyalSociety of London'' and the French ''Académie Royale des Sciences'', the KVA'sfocus from the beginning was exclusively dedicated to Science (as opposed to theHumanities). From its beginning the academy opted to use the Swedish languageexclusively in its publications, so it could not avoid dedicating itself tolinguistic topics such as the choice of German/Swedish vs. Latin typeset in itspublications, the orthography of the Swedish language or the policy regardingthe use of foreign words in Swedish normative aspects. Teleman undertakes abrief linguistic survey, sampling some articles published in the KVA proceedings(some of which have Latin counterparts published in the proceedings of theUppsala Society) by some authors from 1739 to 1775. In his results it seemsquite convincing that the Academy, while not being able to establish any formalgeneral norms before the advent of the more linguistically oriented SwedishAcademy (''Svenska Akademien'') in 1786, at least contributed to the evolution ofthe Swedish scientific language as a substitution to the formerly all-dominatingLatin.

Section 2. The emergence of new languages of science

In her article ''Scientific literacy in eighteenth-century Germany'' (pp. 91-106),Renata Schellenberg takes a look at a singular aspect of intellectual cultureand languages in 18th century Germany, concentrating on the public scientificdispute of biological and philosophical nature between the German CasparFriedrich Wolf (1734-1794) and the Swiss Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777) inbooks and scientific periodicals since 1758. While the discussion began in Latinpublications by both authors, the dispute was soon held in German in order to beunderstood by a broader audience. After the initial dispute ended with Haller'sdeath, further contributions were made in German by other scholars.

The article ''From vernacular to national language: Language planning and thediscourse of science in eighteenth-century Sweden'' (pp. 107-122) by Anna HelgaHannesdóttir focuses on Swedish language planning in the 18th century. Asignificant part of the article is occupied by a thorough explanation of theideas of the American linguist Einar Haugen (1906-1994) on language planning andthe application of Haugen's model on the Swedish reality (pp. 107-115). Lessthan 4 1/2 pages (pp. 115-119) are dedicated to what was supposed to be thearticle's main concern, namely the various types of contribution Linnaeus madeto the Swedish language. As the author concludes that Linnaeus, apart fromcontributing enormously to the creation of a Swedish scientific prose as well asthe introduction of many new lexemes for the Swedish dictionary, did not takepart in any language planning per se, the relationship between Haugen's modeland Linnaeus's role in 18th century Swedish linguistic politics seems somewhatforced as his role clearly was that of a contributor to the internal evolutionof the Swedish language.

In the article ''From Latin and Swedish to Latin in Swedish: On the early modernemergence of a professional vernacular variety in Sweden'' (pp. 123-138), LarsWollin takes a statistical look at the evolution of the relationship betweenLatin and Swedish in the lexical area up until modern times. As in otherEuropean languages, the direct use of Latin, so typical for scholarship untilthe 18th century, came to be substituted by an increased use of loan words andLatin lexemes.

Under the title ''Science and natural language in the eighteenth century: Buffonand Linnaeus'' (pp. 141-155), Richard Sörman explores linguistic aspects of thescientific controversy between the Frenchman Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count ofBuffon (1708-1788), who in his ''Histoire naturelle générale et particulière'' (36vols., Paris, 1749-1789) rejects Linnaeus's taxonomic approach to classifyingnature. Considering that the article is meant to be an objective scientifictext, it seems unusual that the introduction ends with the following anticlimax:''The main conclusion, however, is that Buffon's critique of modern scientist'suse of language is far from out of date and that it raises the general andahistorical question of the effective value of abstract language as a tool forunderstanding and describing reality'' (p. 142). From the historian's point ofview, such an attitude as displayed by the author might be considered dubious,as his main role should be to describe and not to judge. Essentially, Buffon'sdifficulty with Linnaeus's method seems to be a different perception of how theextralinguistic nature might be described by linguistic means, and what stylewould be more adequate. In conclusion of this seemingly more literary thanlinguistic study, one question remains unanswered -- did Linnaeus comment onBuffon's criticism? If so, what was his reply?

The last article in this section is entitled ''From theory of ideas to theory ofsuccedaneum: The Linnaean botanical nomenclature(s) as 'a point of view on theworld' '' (pp. 157-168), by Philippe Selosse. Based on the term ''succedaneum''which is frequently used by Linnaeus with the approximate meaning of''substitute,'' the author offers a more philosophical than purely linguisticapproach to Linnaeus's taxonomy.

Section 3: The spread of scientific ideas

In the article ''Linnaeus's international correspondence: The spread of arevolution'' (pp. 171-191), Ann-Mari Jönsson offers an outlook on the scientist'scorrespondence as one of the means used by Linnaeus to divulge his scientificresults. Dedicated to Linnaeus's scientific revolution, the real content of thearticle is, not so much dedicated to linguistic aspects but rather to thehistory of science.

Under the title ''The influence of Carl Linnaeus on the 'EncyclopaediaBritannica'' of 1771'' (pp. 193-206), Rosemarie Gläser takes a look at theinfluences of Linnaeus's work on the first edition of the ''EncyclopaediaBritannica''. After short considerations on Linnaus's British connections, Gläseroffers some information on the first edition of the ''Encyclopaedia Britannica,''trying to situate this Scottish encyclopaedia project. Even though there seemsto be some confusion with regard to the French ''Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaireraisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers,'' which, contrary to theauthor's reference (p. 196), did not include the term ''française'' in its title, the proof the author offers for Linnaeus's influence on the ''EncyclopaediaBritannica'' seems convincing.

The article ''Linnaeus and the Siberian expeditions: Translating political empireinto a kingdom of knowledge'' (pp. 207-226) by Kenneth J. Knoespel is dedicatedto Carl Linnaeus's response to the findings of the expeditions to Siberia from1724 on. After the presentation of some ''Russian dissertations'' associated withLinnaeus (p. 210-219) it becomes evident that while the biologist's interest wasgetting to know new species his linguistic goal was their naming.

In the last article of the third section, Palmira Fontes da Costa offers anoutlook on ''The introduction of the Linnaean classification of nature inPortugal'' (p. 227-243). Beginning her considerations with the Marquis ofPombal's reform at Coimbra University (1772), where Linnaeus's works weremandatory in the newly created studies of natural history, the author dulymentions the Italian Domenico Vandelli, as well as Félix Avelar Brotero, who,while also adhering to Linnaeus's classification, voiced his misgivings aboutthe limitations of his classification. While the former, who even correspondedwith Linnaeus, can be said to have initiated academic science at CoimbraUniversity, Brotero is held as the father of Portuguese Botany. The fifth andlast section of the article is dedicated to ''Classification and the Muses.''Whereas the reflex of Linnaeus's work in Portuguese poetry might be interestingfor Portuguese studies, this is clearly not a linguistic but a literary chapter.This might not be deemed problematic. The same, however, cannot be said if weconsider that throughout the book any citation of non-English text is dulytranslated in relation to the original texts (although not all of thetranslations appear similarly adequate, but it seems acceptable that they serveforemost for understanding what otherwise wouldn't be understood by allreaders). It appears somewhat problematic that the article's author refers toEnglish titles when talking about the works of Portuguese authors (p. 228). Thereferences, however, show that the referred works really have Portuguese titles.Any translations of such source texts should have been (but are not) accompaniedby the original text.

Section 4. The development of scientific writing

The articles in this section can summarily be described as text linguisticstudies of 18th century texts. As these articles will be mostly of interest tospecialists in Swedish linguistics, I will limit myself to a briefcharacterization of each article.

The first two articles are dedicated to some linguistic aspects of CarlLinnaeus's works. In his article ''Linnaeus as a connecting link in Swedishlanguage history'' (pp. 247-261), Bo Ralph offers some insight into stylisticaspects of Linnaeus's contributions to Swedish language history, based on thescientist's notebooks and travel records, ending by an overview of those whosestyle his writing might have influenced.

In a slightly different approach, but also analysing works of the Swedishscientist, Han-Liang Chang takes a look into the conventions ''Calendar'' and''aphorism'' in Linnaeus's Latin works ''Philosophie Botanica'' and ''FundamentaBotanica'' in his article ''Calendar and aphorism: A generic study of CarlLinnaeus's ''Fundamenta Botanica'' and ''Philosophia Botanica'' (pp. 263-278).

In his text linguistic article ''The reflective cultivator? Model readers ineighteenth-century Swedish garden literature'' (pp. 279-301), Andreas Nordprovides an analysis of 18th century garden literature. Using the concepts of''social semiotics'' and ''appraisal theory,'' his aim is to characterize theanalysed texts according to being action-oriented or knowledge-oriented inrelation to the ''model reader.''

The last two articles by Britt-Louise Gunnarsson (''The linguistic constructionof scientificality in early Swedish medical texts,'' pp. 303-332) and Päivi Pahta(''Eighteenth-century English medical texts and discourses on reproduction,'' pp.333-355) are dedicated to medical texts. Whereas the former offers a focus onmedical treatises in the Transactions of the Royal Swedish Academy, the latterfocuses on reproduction in English texts.

The book ends with a subject index (pp. 357-365), which is to be applauded, asproceedings normally do not tend to offer such an index.


This volume is remarkable in its broad linguistic approach, both promising andoffering new insights. It falls, however, short of fulfilling the promise madeby its title. For someone specialized in 18th century linguistics, a publicationdedicated to ''Languages of Science on the Eighteenth Century'' must have a strongattraction, even more so considering the advertising message divulged inLINGUIST Llist 22.4199. But although the publisher concedes that ''a particularfocus is placed on the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)'', the furtheraffirmation ''The book covers writing in different European languages: Swedish,German, French, English, Latin, Portuguese, and Russian'' is not really matchedby the book's contents: as a matter of fact, fourteen (!) of the texts arerelated to Sweden, Swedish, or to Carl Linnaeus, whereas only three arededicated to other countries or languages.

While it seems evident that such a reference might have been omitted formarketing purposes, the Swedish domination of the collective of individualarticles should have been more obvious. The lack of a subtitle that explains the''Swedish Connection'' could mislead potential buyers as well as readers and theabsence of any reference to Sweden or the Swedish language on the back coverblurb reinforces this impression.

The various parts of the books cannot really be regarded as chapters of whatwould be a monographic publication, but simply as articles by seventeen authorsfrom Sweden (8), the US (3), France (2), China/Taiwan (1), Finland (1), Germany(1) and Portugal (1). Obviously, the fact that the volume in reality constitutesthe proceedings of an academic symposium is not problematic. As there is anincreasing tendency to deprecate proceedings in evaluations of academicpublications, the editor's choice of a publication as a collection of individualarticles seems wise and cannot be criticized.

Aside from the fact that throughout the whole book there is a multitude ofunproven affirmations concerning information that is not public domain, most ofthe articles do, however, show the quality and scientific seriousness that is tobe expected of such a publication.

It may seem that the book contributes but little to our knowledge of languagehistory and linguistic historiography of 18th century Europe as a whole. Therecan, however, be no doubt that it should prove quite useful and interesting foranybody interested diverse aspects of the history of the modern Swedish languageespecially since the 18th century.


Alorna (Marquesa de), Leonor d'Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre. 1844. Obraspoeticas de D. Leonor d'Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre, Marqueza d'Alorna,condessa d'Assumar e d'Oeynhausen, conhecida pelo nome de Alcipe, tomo IV,Lisboa: Na Imprensa Nacional.


Rolf Kemmler is an auxiliary researcher in the field of Portugueselinguistic historiography with the Centro de Estudos em Letras (CEL),University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal). Hereceived his doctorate in Romance Philology from Bremen University(Germany) in 2005, with a thesis entitled "A Academia OrthográficaPortugueza na Lisboa do Século das Luzes: Vida, obras e atividades de JoãoPinheiro Freire da Cunha (1738-1811)," published in 2007. His researchinterests focus on the history of Portuguese orthography as well as thehistory of Portuguese and Latin-Portuguese grammar.

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