William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science)

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9780801880209: William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science)
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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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Review:

"A 'must' for linguistics collections."

(The Bookwatch)

"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 American Historical Review)

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

(T. Craig Christy Historiographia Linguistica)

"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."

(Thomas L. Haskell, Rice University)

About 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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