LINGUIST List 23.848

Mon Feb 20 2012

Review: History of Linguistics: Hassler & Volkmann (2011)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 20-Feb-2012
From: Seetha Jayaraman <>
Subject: History of Linguistics 2008
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Announced at
EDITORS: Gerda Hassler, Gesina VolkmannTITLE: History of Linguistics 2008SUBTITLE: Selected papers form the eleventh International Conference on theHistory of the Language Sciences (ICHoLS XI), 28 August -- 2 September 2008, PotsdamSERIES: Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 115PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2011

Seetha Jayaraman, Dhofar University, Sultanate of Oman


This book contains carefully collected research articles presented at the 11thInternational Conference on the History of the Language Sciences (ICHoLS) heldin Potsdam in 2008. The individual contributions, made in English, German,French and Spanish, are based on changes from Antiquity to 20th centurylinguistics, on a variety of aspects and approaches to language, based onresearch studies by expert linguists and historians.

The edited volume is divided into five sections and a total of 32 articlesdiscuss historical events in linguistic theory from conceptual, theoretical andmethodological perspectives, with references from Indian, Greek and Latintraditions.

In the Introduction, the editor states the aim and scope of the volume, with anexplanation of the relevance of historiography of language sciences, and itsconnection with current studies. Hassler stresses the need forinterdisciplinarity in research and provides the gist of each paper in the volume.

Part I, “Methodological considerations, linguistics and philology”, is comprisedof four articles devoted to methodologies and studies on linguistics andphilology of language. Out of the four papers, two are in English, one is inGerman and one is in French.

The first article, “Du Corpus representatif des grammaires et des traditionslinguistiques au Corpus de textes linguistiques fondamentaux” (‘From Corpusrepresentative of traditional grammars and linguistics to Corpus of fundamentallinguistics’), by Bernard Colombat, discusses the usefulness of electroniccorpora in studies on linguistics. He presents the linguistic library, CorpusRepresentatif des Grammaires et des Traditions Linguistiques (CRGTL), whichenables access to digital texts on linguistics. The program accessesbibliographies of the distant past and allows for the viewing of texts as imagesor texts and gets the etymology of linguistic terms, authors and their works. Italso helps with the study of typographical characters of the terms by placingthem in a certain period in history. Through the Table of Contents, the textscan be compared across languages. The site is still developing and new data arebeing added. It was eventually published in English as “Corpus des TextesLinguistiques Fondamentaux” (CTLF) on the website, http//

The second article, “The ‘floating’ linguistic sign”, by Craig Christy, relatesthe arbitrariness of sound and thought in the description of language astheorized by Michael Breal, Ferdinand de Saussure, Antoine Meillet and KennettePike. Saussure’s theory uses the term ‘linguistic sign’, Meillet’s theorydiscusses grammaticalization, and Breal’s theory utilizes ‘inner language forms’and mythology, while Strauss employs the concept of the ‘floating signifier’ andPike uses the metaphor of ‘waves and swells’. Meillet coined the term‘grammaticalization’, a process in which words with specific expressive forcelose their expressivity. Breal refers to one’s native language memory as ‘innerlanguage form’ and Strauss compares language and thought relationships to theundulations of water waves in contact with air, where the image of a waveformcharacterizes the linguistic sign. Craig explains the concept by metaphoricallyemploying the term ‘floating’ to refer to the fluid-like or wave-like quality ofthe sound and thought relationship in the grammaticalization, internalizationand description of key concepts of language.

The third article, “A term of opprobrium: Twentieth century linguistics andEnglish philology”, by John Walmsley, accounts for the gradual decline in thepopularity and status of philology as a language science, due to changingtraditions and philosophies. Walmsley explains that the loss of interest inphilology stemmed from the system of teaching Old English in Britishuniversities as philology, thus associating it with archeology and anthropology,largely due to a separation between philology and the development of differentviews of structuralists, grammarians and philologists on teaching English as aforeign language in Britain.

“Methode als Grenze? Zur Spaltung von Philologie und Sprachwissenschaft im 19.Jahrhundert” (‘Method as a boundary? On the split of philology and linguisticsin the 19th century’) deals with the issue of dissociating philology fromlinguistics. In this article, Johanna Wolf and Christine Blauth-Henke attempt tolook at the connection between the two disciplines in terms of the objectivesand methodology involved, based on developments in the 19th century. Wolf andBlauth-Henke opine that an orientation toward the methods of natural sciencesled to a new field of historical comparative linguistics, while philology stillfocused on language as being closely related to society.

Part II, “Antiquity”, consists of three articles, two written in English and onein German. The first, “Grammatical doxography in Antiquity: The (hi)stories ofthe parts-of- speech system”, by Pierre Swiggers and Alfons Wouters, exploresthe parts-of-speech system and the developments that occurred in the Greek andLatin grammars. Swiggers and Wouters define doxography as “the doctrine and theviewpoints with regard to the number and nature of parts of speech” (p. 69). Thestudy interprets the approaches used by doxographers, for instance, Dionysius’doxography represented by the Stoics, Quintilian’s doxography and Aristotle’suse of Roman grammar to describe Latin grammar, and Priscian’s doxography, whichadopted Greek grammar. The authors also emphasize the need for studying these texts.

The second article in this section, “Über die Bezeichnung des Indikativs bei denrömischen Grammatikern des 1. und 2. Jh.” (‘On the designation of the indicativeby Roman grammarians of the 1st and 2nd centuries’), by Vladimir I. Mazhuga,traces the history of the study of grammar in the first and second centuries.Mazhunga discusses the definitions given for verb forms and verb qualities, asin the case of ‘indicative’, which is a prevalent form in contemporary grammars.Another example is ‘modal verbs’, which refer to a category of verbs, analyzedin the context of Latin and Greek. The study observes that philosophicaldoctrines greatly influenced theories on the evolution of grammar.

In the last article in this section, “Rewriting the history of the languagesciences in classical antiquity”, Daniel J. Taylor presents the rich history ofclassical historiography over the past 50 years and draws examples from Greekand Latin linguistics to support the successful path tread by thehistoriographers in this field, which has helped recreate classical linguistics.He demonstrates that Marcus Trentius Varro (116-27 BC), with his “De LinguaLatina” (‘From the Latin Language’), remains the most successful in classicalhistory, from both etymological and morphological standpoints. Varro was themost authoritative language scientist of ancient Rome, as he was a prolificlinguist and grammarian. He proposed the idiosyncratic classification of fourparts of speech based on morphological criteria. The extensive study of wordformation and philosophical principles in language sciences shows that historyhas been rewritten by re-editing linguistic texts, while keeping all keyconcepts intact. The studies of Greek and Roman linguists had a tremendousimpact on contemporary grammar and morphology, which proves that the history oflanguages is being rewritten in its theoretical and conceptual perspectives tilldate.

Part III is on “Renaissance Linguistics” and has three articles on differentelements of language study. The first article, “Elements of a philosophy oflanguage in Claudio Tolomei’s “Il Cesano de la lingua Toscana” (‘The Cesano ofTuscan language’)”, by Stefano Gensini, presents a philosophical linguisticpoint of view of Tolomei’s “Il Cesano de la lingua Toscana”. The studyinvestigates Tolomei’s treatment of spatial and temporal aspects of languagechange and believes that major evolution in languages is a natural process andcan be the impact of changes in space and time. The need to communicate extendsgradually from an individual to include the family, and the community at large.This explains the changes that occur in language(s) with space and time, andthis makes the multiplicity along these two dimensions grow. The two factors areinterconnected.

“La conception de l’ordre des mots dans la ‘Grammatica Latina’ de Caspar Fincket Christoph Helwig” (‘The concept of word order in the ''Grammatica Latina'' ofCaspar and Christoph Helwig Finck’), by Claire Lecointre, investigates wordorder in Latin grammar as presented by two German authors, who discuss thesyntactic pattern and anomalies which exist with respect to word order. Forexample, the grammatical order can be ‘sentential adverb-relative-conjunction orinterjection’, ‘vocative’ or ‘impersonal verb with case’. In case this orderdoes not occur, the sentences could be of the type, ‘nominative words(adjective, genitive or ablative)’ or would include ‘(personal) finite verb’.They present a clear distinction of these types of sentences, as ordered by thenatural phenomenon of mental language, but which is subjected to change throughconstant usage.

The third article, entitled “The earliest stages of Persian-German languagecomparison”, by Toon van Hal, studies the similarities between Persian-German inthe early stages of the discovery of Persia and during the period of theRenaissance. The aim of the article is to study vocabulary in the two languagesas investigated by Dutch scholars. Hal concludes that what was believed by manyhistoriographers to be a relationship between Persians and Germans resulted inthe hypothesis of a common Scythian origin.

Part IV has ten articles on different theories proposed during the seventeenthand eighteen centuries. The selections in this section are in German, French andEnglish. The first, “European conceptions of writing from the Renaissance to theeighteenth century”, by Cordula Neiss, discusses writing as a social form ofexpression. The study focuses on the history of writing, from hieroglyphs toalphabetic writing, and also the relevance of writing to document sound-graphemerelationships, to history, and to civilization. The author discusses theadvantages of using an alphabet and infers that it is the most efficient,permanent and advanced system of writing.

In the second article of this section, “Lessons from literary theory: Applyingthe notion of transtextuality (Genette 1982) to early modern German grammars”,Nicola McLelland refers to contemporary German grammar and relates it to theconcept of “transtextuality” while talking about the usefulness of this conceptin the history of linguistics. Lelland also refers to other concepts like‘hypertextuality’, archtextuality, ‘intertextuality’, ‘paratextuality’ and‘transtextuality’, and establishes an inter-relationship among these notions ingrammar: Hypertextuality refers to translations of re-works of texts for thebenefit of audiences; archtextuality refers to the awareness and expectations ofa genre; intertextuality refers to the implicit and explicit references tosources and authors; and paratextuality refers to the interpretation of bothtext and pictorial representation.

The next article, by Boris Djubo, entitled, “Nachahmung und Schöpfung in derBarock grammatik: Ch. Gueintz liest W. Ratke” (‘Imitation and creation inBaroque grammar: Ch. Gueintz reads W. Ratke’), analyzes German grammar withspecial reference to Gueintz’s views. The speciality of Gueitz’s grammar lies inhis approach to describing it using analogy of different forms, as used by agroup of speakers (e.g. language forms used by the common people compared withthe cultivated language used by the elite). This approach differs markedly fromearlier works based on a rationalist approach to grammar studies. Gueintz’stheory uses Ratke’s grammar (1619) and similar theories to account for theanomalies which existed in their description.

“Leibniz as Lexicographer?”, by John Considine, studies Leibniz’s contributionto lexicography through his philological ideas and making of a German dictionarythrough the etymological collection of lexis. Leibniz’s work, hitherto unknown,was brought to the limelight through his 4-volume collection of manuscripts andserved immensely in publishing the German historical and etymological dictionary(which remained an unfinished project, later completed as a diachronic dictionary).

The fifth article, “Du verbe actif au verbe transitif: Transitivité etcomplémentation dans les grammaires françaises 1660-1863” (‘From active verbs totransitive verbs: Transitivity in grammar and complementation in French,1660-1863’), by Berengère Bouard, explores French grammar in the backdrop ofLatin grammar. Bouard looks at transitive verbs and the connotation of the term“active verb” in terms of the presence or absence of an object, with or withouta preposition, and depending on the semantic value of the action and theinterpretation of the utterance. Eventually, the term was reformulated from‘active verb’ to ‘transitive verb’ with changes in the interpretation of theterm. An active verb is understood as a verb whose subject performs an actionor, alternatively, the verb which takes a ‘complement’.

The sixth article, “Metaphors in metalinguistic texts: The case of observationsand remarks on the French language”, by Wendy Ayres-Bennett, deals witheffective use of metaphorical phrases to enrich the comprehensibility of texts,particularly where they involve references to names of rules and theirinter-relationships. Bennett presents different views on functions of metaphorsunderlining key elements in technical texts, which give structural unity andcreate intertextual references with Latin and French traditions. The workemanates from the French rule of authoritarianism and absolutism. Bennett pointsout that the use of metaphorical expressions declined significantly during the17th century, but they were not uncommon in the texts of law, war, religion andmedicine, especially those written in French.

The seventh article, “Les Méthodes au XIIe siècle: Un outil composite. Irson,Lancelot, Nicole” (‘The twelfth century Grammar Textbooks: A composite tool.Irson, Lancelot, Nicole’), by Simone Delesalle and Francine Mazière, isconcerned with pedagogical issues in the 17th century. The grammar books(méthodes) used in the Port-Royal school, the controversy between French andLatin didactics in vernacular language, and the influence of religious andpolitical problems on language teaching and language policy form the focus ofthe study. The criticism was against using French language grammar books withmore poetry rather than grammar in 17th century.

The eighth article, “À propos des règles dans les grammaires françaises de l’âgeclassique: Forme, fonction, status (le cas de l’accord du participe passé)”(‘The rules of French grammar in the classical age: Form, function, status (thecase of agreement of past participles)’), by Jean-Marie Fournier, discusses thehistory of French grammar, and the rule of agreement of past participles withthe auxiliary verb ‘avoir’ when used with different objectives. The congruencerule was first formed to facilitate pronunciation and to streamline the lengthof vowels used in the plural form. In Middle French, the congruence of pastparticiples with auxiliary verbs was considered with the object placed in anyposition in the syntactic structure. During the 17th and 18th centuries, therule was modified to apply to cases where the object preceded the auxiliary verb‘avoir’. This aspect was also compared with other languages to re-emphasize thevalidity of the rule.

The ninth article, “La phrase expliquée aux sourds-muets: Remarques sur lasyntaxe chiffrée de l’abbé Sicard” (‘The sentence as explained to deaf-mutes:Commentary on encrypted Syntax of Abbe Sicard’), by Valérie Raby, is a study ofthe problem of teaching deaf-mute learners, which received the attention ofpedagogues in the 18th and 19th centuries. The objective is to study sentencestructure and the role of copula in sentence structure, as opposed to theabsence of similar elements in the variety of languages used by deaf and dumblearners. These views later lead to improvements in theories and practicesemployed in the context of teaching-learning of deaf-mute learners.

In the last article in this section, “The place of spatial case forms in earlyEstonian, Latvian and Finnish grammars”, Annika Kilgi treats three grammars and‘case’ in terms of space in three languages which do not conform to Latingrammar. The similarities among these languages with regard to ‘locative case’are related to the cultural and political situations that prevailed in the 17thcentury. Each of these languages interpreted case assignment differently.Latvian and Estonian grammarians related them to prepositions and particles,whereas Finnish explained it as a case with locative meaning. It was not untillater in the century that the vernacular language grammars were describedindependently of Latin grammar. The issues at hand are the method of assigning anumerical analysis of proposition, as introduced by Abbe Sicard, and generalcriticisms associated with his theory in teaching deaf-mute learners.

The final section of the volume, “Nineteenth and twentieth centuries”, hastwelve articles. The first article, “Aproximaciones a la enseñanza del análisis:Los principios del análisis lójico de Ramón Merino (1848)” (‘Approaches to theteaching of analysis: Principles of logical analysis by Ramón Merino (1848)’),by Maria José García Folgado and Esteban T. Montoro del Arco, discussesdifferent schools and developments in the interpretations of linguistictheories. The authors present the results of the study of logical grammar inSpain and its effects on language teaching in secondary schools in the 20thcentury. Based on the views of French encyclopedia makers, Spanish grammarianselaborate the theoretical analysis of sentence structures, divided into subject,verb and predicate. This distinction of the basic components of sentence grammaris in line with the studies of authors of the Port-Royal.

Second, “A difficult case: A sketch of the different interpretations of theconcept of ‘case’ in the early Chinese grammatical studies”, by Tommaso Pellin,studies the notion of ‘case’ in Chinese based on the views of Zittoli and CaoXiang. Pellin describes the views of Chinese linguists during the 19th and 20thcenturies, who found the demarcation between syntactic function and ‘case’ to bechallenging. Chinese linguists determined ‘case’ based on the position ofconstituents in the sentence and used word order to determine sentencefunctions. There was a marked grammatical case signified in Indo-Europeanlanguages and grammarians attempted to employ this concept to analyze theChinese system of grammar.

The next article, entitled “Relecture jakobsonienne de la distinctionsaussurienne ‘langue/parole’: De la constitution d’un concept à l’acceptationd’un objet donné” (‘Jakobson’s revisiting of saussurian ‘langue /parole’distinction: From constituting a concept to accepting an object’), by Anne GaëleTautain, investigates Jakobson’s views on Saussure’s langue/parole distinctionas a shift of interpretation of the concept. Saussurian ideas relate toindividual speakers on the one hand, and groups of speakers, or communities, onthe other. Jakobson believed language to be confined to a ‘field of study’, thusserving as a model of language output. The study infers that Jakobson’sexplanation of language consists of the opposition of virtual/actual,social/individual or conventional/variant dimensions.

“Ernst Cassirer’s and Benedetto Croce’s theories of language in comparison”, bySarah Dessi Schmid, is an analysis of criticisms of two theories on thephilosophy of language and the conflicting ideas of the two linguists, ErnstCassirer and Benedetto Croce. From the point of view of dependence onspirituality, they present two distinctly different views. Croce’s opinion isthat language and spirituality are closely associated with each other, thusmaking linguistics a part of aesthetics. On the other hand, according toCassirer, language study and empirical study are interwoven. Croce criticizesthis view as being confined to the practical applicability to language study,without a spiritual basis.

The fifth article of this section, “Tradition versus grammatical traditions:Considerations on the representation of the Russian language”, by SylvieArchiambault, is based on the study of Russian grammar. Archiambault presents acomparison of phonological characteristics, as put forth by traditionallinguists, as well as by linguists of 18th century and after. Supported by theexample of distribution of consonantal features, the author justifies herviewpoint that the traditional approach was narrow and inflexible, as opposed tolater interpretations, where linguistic theories were based on theoreticalconsiderations in relation with practical findings.

The sixth article, “An early sociolinguistic approach towards standardizationand dialect variation: G.G. Kloeke’s theory of Hollandish expansion”, by CamielHamans, focuses on the sociological aspects of language change and the principalfactor which brings about dialectal variation. One example used to make thispoint is ‘diphthongization’ in Dutch. The study supports Kloeke’s (1887-1963)view that social and structural factors contribute equally to explainingvariation and standardization theories in dialectology, rather than justtaxonomies of languages.

The seventh paper, “Gender and the language scholarship of the Summer Instituteof Linguistics in the context of mid twentieth-century American linguistics”, byMargaret Thomas, shifts the attention to the contribution of women in the studyof languages and the challenges they faced in their academic work. During the20th century, women linguists in the U.S produced a significant amount of workin the field of linguistics. The authorship of published articles was as high as33% in the popular journal, “Language” between the years 1944-1970, which is asignificant figure. This shows a downward trend in gender-bias.

In the eighth article, “When categories go back to parts of speech”, BéatriceGodart-Wending and Pierre Joray deal with the issue of categorization of grammarinto parts of speech. Their study infers that the system of division intodifferent parts of speech was based on advanced algebraic calculations, whichare very scientific and logical in their approach.

The ninth article, “‘Cultural morphology’: A success story in Germanlinguistics”, by Clemens Knobloch, is an analysis of the link between sociologyand linguistics. It is an investigation of German grammar in the light ofculture and dialectology in German Volks forschung. The term “Culturalmorphology” was more relevant for dialectology in 20th century Germany becauseit helped in funding their research based on sounds and forms in view of Germanacademic policy. The study concludes that cultural morphology emerged as, andremains, one of the most successful branches of applied sciences.

The subject of the tenth article in this part, by Ekaterina Velmezova, is“Interjections: An insurmountable problem of structural linguistics? The case ofearly Soviet structuralism”. It uses structuralism to describe all elements ofall language uses. Interjections proved to be an obstacle in the description ofthe language dichotomy along the ‘langue, parole and langage’ distinction.Nevertheless, they continued to be used fluently, easily and naturally, andVelmezova accounts for this by discussing the arbitrariness of language and theuse of linguistic signs, as well as the use of interjections as natural andspontaneous.

The eleventh paper, “L’espace linguistique en voie de (dé)multiplication”(‘Linguistic space in the process of (de)multiplication’), by Carita Klippi, isa study of a connection between space and dialects in French in the 19th and20th centuries, depending on extralinguistic factors like geography andethnicity. Klippi relates this relationship to verticalization of communitystructures and standardization policies adopted by the state, with the objectiveof setting a standard language common to all members of a community.Consequently, there was a distinction between language as centralized andstandardized varieties of language and this led to vertical and horizontallevels of language analysis in relation to society. The study concludes thatlanguage is a natural phenomenon which diversifies with time and space, andspeakers using a language tend to modify it, incorporating their own forms,which results in dialect formation.

The last article in this volume is, “Z.S.Harris and the semantic turn ofmathematical information theory”, by Jacqueline Léon. The article explainsmathematical concepts implicit in the description of languages and describes adifferent approach to the study in linguistics. The study reflects the processof adopting mathematical concepts for language analysis like the interpretationof linguistic and semantic elements, linguistic information, and distributionalanalysis (viz. pattern and structure of discourse).


The volume presents an impressive collection of 32 articles exploring an arrayof themes in linguistics theoretically, conceptually, and empirically. It isvery informative and provides details of the social and political events whichinfluenced language policies and regulations with exemplary ease and clarity.The editor has done an excellent job of selecting and compiling the mostsignificant contributions on lesser known facts and views in terms of thethemes, approaches, and theories in history, and highlights interdependenciesamong related fields in linguistics. The contributions focus on a variety ofaspects, from linguistic studies in the Middle Ages, to contemporarylinguistics. Many of the articles investigate regional issues and explorediverse approaches to the history of linguistics, ranging from etymology to thephilosophy of language, with a wide scope for further research.

The volume stands out from other books in that the articles cover themes fromthe classification of parts of speech (Part (Pt.) II.1; Pt. IV.8) to thoseinvolving grammatical changes, as well as the impact of social and politicalinfluences on language use and language change in different periods in history,from Antiquity to contemporary linguistics (Pt III.1; Pt.IV.7) from differentschools, and projects the commonalities and divergences critically, while alsolinking them together. The value of the contributions is enhanced by theirphilosophical accounts of different traditions of language sciences (e.g. India,ancient Rome and Greek). The studies on the history of grammar and verb forms(Pt. II.2; Pt. IV.5, 8; Pt. V.2) raise a few research questions on comparabletrends in modern languages. The volume is cohesive chronologically, but onearticle (Pt. IV.7), on “Méthodes” and the critique of the content in languageteaching in the 17th century, does not fit in the sequence and with the problemsaddressed in Part IV. Among other issues discussed extensively are grammartraditions (Pt. III.2; Pt. IV.2, 3, 8, 11; Pt. V.1, 2, 5, 8) and thestandardization of language dialects (Pt. II.1; Pt. II.2; Pt. IV.5). The studyby Bernard Colombat (Pt. I.1) is an innovative approach to bibliographic studiesthrough a data base (CTLF), which is a convenient tool for linguists. Thearticle on agreement in past participles (Pt. IV.8) is interesting, with changesin the rules associated with vowel length in the plural form, and position ofthe ‘object’ in the sentence.

The volume is of interest to historians and advanced researchers working on thehistory of language and linguistics. One needs to be familiar with the keychanges in the history of linguistics to follow the reflections and the microdetails discussed. The contributions are helpful to researchers with specificinterest in developing the inter-relationship between language, culture andpolitics. The articles illustrate different views, as evidenced by examples fromdominant languages, viz., French, German, Spanish, Russian, and so on. Theextensive list of references provided at the end of each article makes acomplete bibliography by itself and deserves a special mention. The onlyshortcoming of the book is that out of a collection of 32 contributions, as manyas 12 are written in languages other than English, and neither a parallel nor anonline English version is available for readers for reference. Thus, the volumehas effectively 20 articles which can be of interest to readers, especially tothose who are not familiar with the other languages.


Ratke, Wolfgang. 1959 [1619]. “Allgemeine Sprachlehr: Nach der Lehrart Ratichii.Zu Cothen Im Furstenthumb Anhalt” (‘General treatise on language: After theteaching method of Ratichii, at Cothen in the principality of Anhalt’). WolfgangRakes Schriften zur deutschen Grammatik (1612-1630). Hrsg. Von Erika Ising. TeilII. Textausgabe: 23-37+38-48 Anhang. Die Sonderbaren Eigenschaften. Berlin:Akademie-Verlag.


Dr. Seetha Jayaraman is a faculty member at Dhofar University, Sultanate of Oman, where she teaches English language to undergraduates. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, musicology, comparative linguistics, and articulatory and acoustic phonetics.

Page Updated: 20-Feb-2012