William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language

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JHU Press, Mar 9, 2005 - History - 339 pages
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Linguistics, or the science of language, emerged as an independent field of study in the nineteenth century, amid the religious and scientific ferment of the Victorian era. William Dwight Whitney, one of that period's most eminent language scholars, argued that his field should be classed among the social sciences, thus laying a theoretical foundation for modern sociolinguistics.

William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language offers a full-length study of America's pioneer professional linguist, the founder and first president of the American Philological Association and a renowned Orientalist. In recounting Whitney's remarkable career, Stephen G. Alter examines the intricate linguistic debates of that period as well as the politics of establishing language study as a full-fledged science. Whitney's influence, Alter argues, extended to the German Neogrammarian movement and the semiotic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure.

This exploration of an early phase of scientific language study provides readers with a unique perspective on Victorian intellectual life as well as on the transatlantic roots of modern linguistic theory.

  

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Contents

A Pathclearer in Linguistic Science
1
Indological Foreshadowings
39
Victorian Language Debates
53
Building a System of General Linguistics
66
Organizing a New Science
94
Creating a Science of Language
123
Forging an Alliance with Anthropology
146
The Battle with Max Muller
174
The Elder Statesman and the Junggrammatiker
207
Enduring Legacies
236
Whitney Chronology
271
Whitneys Main Works in General Linguistics
321
Index
333
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About the author (2005)

Stephen G. Alter, professor of history at Gordon College, Massachusetts, is the author of Darwinism and the Linguistic Image, also available from Johns Hopkins.

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