An outline of the history of linguistics
• Hindu Tradition
o Had its origins in the 1st millennium BC
o Stimulated by changes in Sanskrit
o Panini (c. 500 BC) is the best known grammarian
o Panini’s grammar of Sanskrit covered phonetics and
• The Greek Origin
o The Greek tradition of linguistics developed in response to Homer’s epics. The Greeks founded the European tradition.
o IMPORTANT THEMES IN THE GREEK TRADITION INCLUDE:
The origin of language
Classification of words (parts of speech)
The relation between language and thought
The relation between two aspects of word-signs (whether
form and meaning are connected by nature or by
o Plato (c. 429-347 BC) distinguished between Nouns and Verbs. He favored nature over convention.
o Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) main contributions to linguistics are as follows:
• He divided words into Nouns, Verbs, and
• He divided the sentence into two parts, SUBJECT
• He classified GENDER into masculine, feminine,
• He was the first to distinguish between the
different types of TENSE a verb carries.
o Thrax (100 BC) produced the first complete grammar of Greek. He concluded that Greek words fell into just eight classes,
which we call the parts of speech. Thrax’s description of Greek has become the basis of all grammatical description in Europe until the 20th century.
• Roman Tradition
o After the Roman conquest of Greece in the mid-2nd century BC, Roman scholars learned of the Greek work, and they began to
apply the same analysis to their own language, Latin.
o One of the most influential Roman grammarians is Priscian, who wrote in the 6th century AD. Priscian’s description of Latin is still what we find in most school textbooks of Latin today.
• Arabic Tradition
The oldest Arabic grammarian is Abu-Alaswad al-Du'ali, who established diacritical marks and vowels for Arabic in the mid-600s.
o The schools of Basra and Kufa in the late 700s.
o From the school of Basra, two representatives laid important foundations for the field: Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi
authored the first Arabic dictionary and book of Arabic
prosody, and his student Sibawayh authored the first book on theories of Arabic grammar.
• The Port-Royal Grammar
o The 17th-century French scholars, known as the Port-Royal
Circle, put together a remarkably original “universal” grammar of French that is very different from the Priscianic tradition. o The central argument of the Grammar is that grammar is
simply mental processes, which are universal; therefore
grammar is universal.
o The Port Royal Grammar had a pedagogical goal as its primary one. However, this goal was not learning a specific language, but rather learning any language. It aims to provide an overview of the grammatical features shared by all languages.
o As such, it was part of Port Royal’s overall program of
changing language teaching methodology
o A TYPICAL EXAMPLE OF THEIR ANALYSIS IS AS FOLLOWS:
The invisible God created the visible world
This sentence is analyzed as…
God, who is invisible, created the world, which is
…. Which in turn is decomposed into the three propositions…
God is invisible
God created the world
The world is visible
• Historical Linguistics
o Towards the end of the 18th century, European linguists began to realize that certain languages exhibited systematic
resemblances. Linguists believed that these languages derive from one single ancestor.
o For example, the English 'f' sound often corresponds to a 'p' sound in, among others, Latin and Sanskrit, an important
ancient language of India.
Were able to show that almost all of the languages of Europe and many languages of Asia were all related. As a result, the study of language change and of the...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document