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date: 02 December 2022

Diez, Meyer-Lübke, and Co. The Founding of Romance Linguisticslocked

Diez, Meyer-Lübke, and Co. The Founding of Romance Linguisticslocked

  • Marcello BarbatoMarcello BarbatoDipartimento di Studi Letterari, Linguistici e Comparati, Università degli studi Napoli L'Orientale

Summary

The study of Romance linguistics was born in the 19th-century German university, and like all linguistics of that era it is historical in nature. With respect to Indo-European and Germanic linguistics, a difference was immediately apparent: Unlike Indo-European and Common Germanic, Latin’s attestation is extensive in duration, as well as rich and varied: Romance linguists can thus make use of reconstruction as well as documentation.

Friedrich Diez, author of the first historical grammar and first etymological dictionary on Romance languages, founded Romance linguistics. His studies singlehandedly constructed the foundations of the discipline. His teaching soon spread not only across German-speaking countries, but also into France and Italy.

Subsequently, the most significant contributions came from two scholars trained in the Indo-European field: the German linguist Hugo Schuchardt, whose doctoral thesis studied with sharp theoretical awareness the passage from Latin to the Romance languages, and the Italian Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, who showed how the Romance panorama could be extraordinarily enriched by the analysis of nonstandard varieties.

The discipline thus developed fully and radiated out. Great issues came to be debated: models of linguistic change (genealogical tree, wave), the possibility of distinguishing dialect groups, the relative weight of phonology, and semantics in lexical reconstruction. New disciplines such as linguistic geography were born, and new instruments like the linguistic atlas were forged. Romance linguistics thus became the avant-garde of general linguistics.

Meanwhile, a new synthesis of the discipline had been created by a Swiss scholar, Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke, who published a historical grammar and an etymological dictionary of the Romance languages.

Subjects

  • Historical Linguistics
  • History of Linguistics
  • Language Families/Areas/Contact

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