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Philology and Purism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2020


Whatever our definition of philology may be, whether we limit the term in accordance with the prevailing English acceptation of the word to the study of language, or regard, with Boeckh, as its proper object the study of the whole range of human culture, of all the products of the human mind, we probably all agree that the chief task of philology is to record and to explain, not to prophesy or to legislate. In this sense the function of the philologist is distinct from that of the grammarian, the rhetorician, and the literary critic. It must indeed be admitted that these different functions have often been confused, that they have often been exercised by the same person and that in fact the work of the philologist has to some extent been the outgrowth of that of the practical teacher of language. The work of Jacob Grimm was preceded by that of a long line of men whose primary aim was to purify, regulate, and in general improve the German language, though incidentally they became interested in its history and began to investigate the origin of its living forms. The history of our science differs not in this respect from that of other sciences; mathematics and astronomy are distinct from surveying and navigation, and botany from horticulture, though the first astronomer was probably a sailor and the first botanist a gardener.

Research Article
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1900

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Note 1 in page 74 Address of the President of the Modern Language Association of America, at its Annual Meeting held at Columbia University, December, 1899.

Note 1 in page 77 Verdeutschungswörterbuch von Otto Sarrazin, Regierungs- und Baurath im Königl. Preussischen Ministerium der öffentlichen Arbeiten. 2. Auflage. Berlin : 1888.—Attention deserve also the Fremd- und Verdeulschungswörterbuch von G. A. Saalfeld. Berlin, 1899, and the Verdeutschungswörterbücher des allgemeinen deutschen Sprachvereins dealing with special topics under the sub-titles of Speisekarte, Häusliches und geselliges Leben, Handel, Namenbüchlein, Amtssprache, Berg- und Hüttenwesen, Schule, Heilkunde. Leipzig and Braunschweig: 1890-98.

Note 2 in page 77 Allerhand Sprachdummheiten von Gustav Wustmann. Leipzig: 1892. For the literature on the subject cf. Litbl. f. germ. u. rom. Phil., xiv, 82 ff.

Note 3 in page 77 Allgemeiner Deutscher Sprachverein.

Note 4 in page 77 For instance, most of the writings of Dr. Fitzedward Hall.

Note 1 in page 79 Deutsche Bühnensprache. Ergebnisse der Beratungen zur ausgleichenden Regelung der deutschen Bühnensprache, die vom 14. bis 16. April 1898 im Apollosaale des Kgl. Schauspielhauses zu Berlin stattgefunden haben. Im Auftrage der Kommission herausgegeben von Prof. Dr. Th. Siebs in Greifswald. Berlin, Köln, Leipzig: 1898.—Cf. also the opinions expressed by Professors Brenner, Erbe, Kluge, Paul, and Seemüller, and published in the Wissenschaftliche Beihefte zur Zeitschrift des Allgemeinen Deutschen Sprachvereins, No. 16. Berlin : 1899.

Note 1 in page 81 E. g., in the plural of the West Germanic a-declension: Goth. nom. pl. dagôs, acc. dagans; OHG. nom. acc. pl. tagâ.

Note 2 in page 81 E. g., in the singular of the OHG. ô-declension: Ags. nom. sing. giefu, acc. giefe; OHG. nom. acc. geba; so E. acc. pl. you used for the nom. ye.

Note 3 in page 81 E. g., E. dat. acc. him, her: Ags. dat. him, hire, acc. hine, hí, héo; NHG. refl. dat. acc. sich: MHG. dat. [im, ir], acc. sich.

Note 4 in page 81 E. g., NHG. dat. acc. euch: MHG. dat. iu, acc. iuch.

Note 5 in page 81 E. g., NHG. woge f. < MHG. wâge, pl. of wâc m. Similarly Fr. joie f. < Lat. gaudia n. pl.

Note 6 in page 81 E. g., E. pea, pl. peas < ME. pese, pl. peses, pesen; similarly E. cherry, sherry, eaves, riches, etc.

Note 7 in page 81 E. g., voller Freuden of a masc. or neut. subject, sing. or pl.; similarly halber, selber, etc.

Note 8 in page 81 E. g., E. children, brethren, kine.

Note 1 in page 82 E. g., E. lesser, worser; G. mehrere; E. foremost, hindmost.

Note 2 in page 82 E. g., Lat. agricola, E. youth, G. frauenzimmer.

Note 3 in page 82 E. g., Gr. and the Germanic pret.-presents; E. I have got = I have.

Note 4 in page 82 E. g., E. “I forget who said so” for have forgotten.

Note 5 in page 82 E. g., G. “ich hätte es thun müssen, dürfen,” etc.

Note 6 in page 82 E. g., Ags. 1. 2. 3. pl. binda < *bindan = Goth. 3. pl. bindand.

Note 7 in page 82 OHG. nâmi. Ags. nóme = Goth. subj. nêmeis, for the indicative namt.

Note 8 in page 82 E. g., E., for the nonce < for then (Ags. am, an) ones; E. a napron > an apron; OHG. lisis thu > lisistu > lisist thu; NHG. währendes Krieges > während des Krieges.

Note 9 in page 82 E. g., Fr. pas, point, jamais, G. kein, which are not in themselves negative. Of course the use of two negatives (which according to logic make a positive) does not belong in this same category, because everywhere in natural, untutored speech several negatives are felt to strengthen one another just like other combinations of synonyms.

Note 10 in page 82 E. g., E. atonement, righteous, starvation, druggist, biographer, witticism, etc.

Note 1 in page 85 A recent exception in a promising line is the article by A. Goetze, Zur Geschichte der Adjectiva auf -isch. PBB. 24. 464 ff.

Note 1 in page 88 Cf. Raumer, Gesammelte sprachwissenschaftliche Schriften, 1863, p. 162.

Note 2 in page 88 This is in the main the standpoint of K. G. Andresen in his well-known Sprachgebrauch und Sprachrichtigkeit im Deutschen, 8. ed., 1898.

Note 1 in page 94 Particularly striking is the frequency of this construction in MHG. prose.

Note 2 in page 94 The first attempt, as far as I know, to lay down some such principles was made by Professor A. Noreen in his monograph Om språkriktighet, 2d ed. Upsala: 1881. Translated into German by A. Johannson in Indogermanische Forschungen, I, 95 ff. The translator in an article in the same volume (pp. 232 ff.) discusses Professor Noreen's views and expresses dissent on several points. It would lead too far on this occasion to discuss the questions involved. Most of the principles laid down by Professor Noreen commend themselves readily. The one that seems to me most objectionable is that of two synonymous terms the shorter one is always to be preferred. This principle, often asserted in rhetoric, seems to me to be in a line with a current explanation of the cause of phonetic change, viz., that phonetic change is generally (or always) due to a desire for ease of utterance. Both I believe to be wrong. There is no doubt that simpler means for the expression of thought could be devised than those now in use; we could form more words of not more than five letters each than we should have any use for, without exhausting all the possible combinations. But language depends for its effects to a certain extent on volume of sound and the reduction of all linguistic expression to the simplest possible forms would in the end greatly change the character of the language and lessen its usefulness. How far we may go in this direction is largely a matter of temper, in the individual as well as in the people. It is well known that some languages have, on the whole, shorter words, more concise forms of expression than others, and such differences reflect undoubtedly differences in the intellectual make-up of the several nations. But their languages are not on that account necessarily more or less perfect. It should also not be overlooked that by simply ruling out the longer form, we preclude the possibility of a later differentiation between the two forms and of a consequent real gain to the vocabulary. Originally kennen, bekennen and erkennen were practically synonymous; if two of them had been dropped, we should have lost the means of a very necessary distinction.