William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language

William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language

by Stephen G. Alter
     
 

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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

The Bookwatch
A 'must' for linguistics collections.

American Historical Review
A deeply engaging book that should be of interest to historians, linguists, and anyone interested in the relation between science and society in the nineteenth century and beyond.

— Brigitte Nerlich

Historiographia Linguistica
Should be required reading for all those eager to immerse themselves in the fascinating early years of linguistic science.

— T. Craig Christy

American Historical Review - Brigitte Nerlich
A deeply engaging book that should be of interest to historians, linguists, and anyone interested in the relation between science and society in the nineteenth century and beyond.

Historiographia Linguistica - T. Craig Christy
Should be required reading for all those eager to immerse themselves in the fascinating early years of linguistic science.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801880209
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
03/01/2005
Series:
The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, #123
Pages:
360
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Thomas L. Haskell
A welcome historical perspective to one of the most far-reaching and controversial issues of our time. Alter's account not only helps readers understand the 'linguistic turn' of our own day, but along the way provides what amounts to a stunning Grand Tour of nineteenth-century intellectual history.

Meet the Author

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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