Download e-book for iPad: Uniformitarianism in linguistics by Thomas Craig Christy

By Thomas Craig Christy

This research examines particular implications of the significant overlap in method and conception of 19th-century geology and philology. acceptance of this overlap is quintessential to an entire knowing of philology’s improvement into the extra empirical technology of linguistics, in particular as this empiricism culminates within the neogrammarian doctrine of exceptionless sound laws.
The research contains 3 significant elements: I Uniformitarianism within the Palaetiological Sciences [i.e., geology and different normal sciences learning lifestyles in previous sessions of the earth]; II the increase of Uniformitarianism in Linguistics; and III The Uniformitarian foundation of Neogrammarian Linguistics.

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This view of savages as capable of progressive devel­ opment — at least in language — was, of course, in direct opposition to the belief of Scriptural monogenists, who were firmly convinced that degraded savages were capable of nothing but further decline. In his essay "On the Origin of Civilization" (first delivered in 1854), the natural theologian, Richard Whately (1787-1863), archbishop of Dublin, gives a clear statement of this degenerationist view of savages: ... all experience proves that men left in the lowest, or even anything approaching to the lowest, degree of barbarism in which they can possibly subsist at all, never did and never can raise themselves, unaided, into a higher condition.

A c t u a l l y , Whewell d o e s n o t m a i n t a i n t h a t all c h a n g e s i n l a n g u a g e r e s u l t from t h e o p e r a t i o n of y e t - f u n c t i o n i n g 20 UNIFOEMITARIANISM IN LINGUISTICS causes. F u r t h e r m o r e , even t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t he acknowl e d g e s u n i f o r m c a u s e s of c h a n g e , he s e r i o u s l y d o u b t s t h e u n i f o r m i t y of t h e e f f i c a c y of t h e s e c a u s e s . We may e x p l a i n many of t h e d i f f e r e n c e s and changes which we become acquainted w i t h , by r e f e r r i n g t o the a c t i o n of causes of change which s t i l l o p e r a t e .

Witho u t t h e p r i o r d e v e l o p m e n t of phenomenology and a e t i o l o g y t h e r e can be no sound "Theory" (1840 I I : 1 0 0 - 0 1 ) . At t h e t i m e Whewell was w r i t i n g h i s Philosophy (1840), l i n g u i s t i c s had s c a r c e l y advanced beyond t h e d a t a - g a t h e r i n g s t a g e . As Whewell o b s e r v e s : . . the great works which have appeared on Glossology, such, for example, as the Mithridates of Adelung and Vater, contain, for their largest, and hitherto probably their most valuable p a r t , the phenomenal portion of the science, the comparison of languages as they now are.

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Uniformitarianism in linguistics by Thomas Craig Christy


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