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Darwinism and the Linguistic Image: Language, Race, and Natural Theology in the Nineteenth Century
     

Darwinism and the Linguistic Image: Language, Race, and Natural Theology in the Nineteenth Century

by Stephen G. Alter
 

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In the nineteenth century, philology—especially comparative philology—made impressive gains as a discipline, thus laying the foundation for the modern field of linguistics. In Darwinism and the Linguistic Image, Stephen G. Alter examines how comparative philology provided a genealogical model of language that Darwin, as well as other scientists and

Overview

In the nineteenth century, philology—especially comparative philology—made impressive gains as a discipline, thus laying the foundation for the modern field of linguistics. In Darwinism and the Linguistic Image, Stephen G. Alter examines how comparative philology provided a genealogical model of language that Darwin, as well as other scientists and language scholars, used to construct rhetorical parallels with the common-descent theory of evolution.

Editorial Reviews

British Journal of the History of Science
The emphasis throughout on how analogies can influence belief is important and persuasive. All told, Alter has provided a rich and rewarding account of the often subtle connections that bound the nineteenth-century sciences of language and life.

— Gregory Radick

British Journal of the History of Science - Gregory Radick
The emphasis throughout on how analogies can influence belief is important and persuasive. All told, Alter has provided a rich and rewarding account of the often subtle connections that bound the nineteenth-century sciences of language and life.

Booknews
Historian Alter explains how Darwin drew models and examples for his theory of evolution from the new discipline of philology, even though analogues of languages descending from common ancestors provided no real scientific evidence for biological evolution. He analyzes the argumentative strategy implicit in such comparisons, and considers the long-term consequences in both biology and the humanities. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801872440
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
03/30/2003
Series:
New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are Saying About This

Sandra Herbert
Anyone who enjoys noting instances of convergence between the sciences and the humanities, will like this short, elegantly written book. It draws expertly both on Charles Darwin's theoretical notebooks and on recent scholarship in the history of linguistics.

Robert J. Richards
By far the most comprehensive discussion of the contributions made by linguists for and against Darwin's theory. There are lessons here for the contemporary understanding of human evolution.

Richard W. Burkhardt Jr.
Alter's analysis of the ways natural history and linguistics enriched each other in the nineteenth century is a real intellectual treat. The book goes beyond an identification of the broad, cross-disciplinary appeal of the idea of common descent to explore and illuminate the diverse stakes that were involved in the construction of parallels between species and languages. Anyone interested in Darwin, linguistics, or the role of analogies and metaphors in science should find this to be a fascinating study.
Richard W. Burkhardt

Alter's analysis is a real intellectual treat. Anyone interested in Darwin, linguistics, or the role of analogies and metaphors in science should find this to be a fascinating study.

Richard W. Burkhardt, Jr., University of Illinois at Urbana -- Champaign

Meet the Author

Stephen G. Alter is an assistant professor of history at Gordon College in Massachusetts.

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