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Sprachauffassung und Lebensmetaphorik im Umkreis von Friedrich Schlegel, Jacob Grimm und Alexander von Humboldt – Eine Kontaktzone von Naturphilosophie, Geowissenschaften und Linguistik

  • Since the late 18th century the notion of an "organism of language" has been dominating the views of the essence of language in Germany. It was a crucial aspect of this notion that languages were something living and had to be described as living beings. It was this aspect in particular that was severely criticized in the second half of the 19th century as no longer meeting the standards of a more sophisticated biological concept of life. It must be borne in mind, though, that the notion of organism developed in the intellectual context of German natural philosophy, where one basic assumption was that all three kingdoms of nature—plants, animals, and minerals as well— breathe life, and are manifestations of a living earth in a living cosmos. Corresponding to the assumed unity of life processes was the aspiration after uniform philosophical and scientific principles of their investigation; and there accordingly was little hesitation to exchange terminologies, conceptions, metaphors, methods, and speculations between disciplines. This provides the backdrop also for the rapprochement of linguistics and the geosciences among adherents of natural philosophy, mediated by Carl Ritter's anthropological geography and Alexander von Humboldt’s Kosmos. The notion of life could be applied in classification and periodization in relatively concrete ways (as for example, when speaking of the youth, adulthood, and old age of both languages and the earth), or could be made use of in more abstract speculative schemes (evident for example, in Jacob Grimm's preference for triads), whose impact has so far been little investigated. In the 19th century, advances in the geosciences lead to entirely new insights into the course of the history of the earth. What was emerging more slowly was a realistic picture of the time spans to be taken into account in anthropology and linguistics. Authors such as Adelung and Grimm still saw it as their task in principle to account for linguistic developments throughout the entire history of mankind, subject to certain geographical limitations. Such ambition was premature, though, since serious anthropologically orientated research into tens of thousands of years of linguistic and cultural prehistory, reaching well beyond the limits of traditional reconstructions, is only beginning today.

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Author:Hartmut Schmidt
Parent Title (English):Language and Earth. Elective Affinities between the Emerging Sciences of Linguistics and Geology
Series (Serial Number):Amsterdam studies in the theory and history of linguistic science (66)
Place of publication:Amsterdam (u.a.)
Editor:Bernd Naumann, Frans Plank, Gottfried Hofbauer
Document Type:Part of a Book
Year of first Publication:1992
Date of Publication (online):2018/01/31
GND Keyword:Aufklärung; Deutsch; Sprachtheorie; Wissenschaftsgeschichte
First Page:129
Last Page:140
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 430 Deutsch
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt