Grammar, typology and the Humboldtian tradition in the work of Georg von der Gabelentz

James McElvenny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A frequently mentioned if somewhat peripheral figure in the historiography of late nineteenth-century linguistics is the German sinologist and general linguist Georg von der Gabelentz (1840–1893). Today Gabelentz is chiefly remembered for several insights that proved to be productive in the development of subsequent schools and subdisciplines. In this paper, we examine two of these insights, his analytic and synthetic systems of grammar and his foundational work on typology. We show how they were intimately connected within his conception of linguistic research, and how this was in turn embedded in the tradition established by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), especially as it was further developed by H. Steinthal (1823–1899). This paper goes beyond several previous works with a similar focus by drawing on a wider range of Gabelentz’ writings, including manuscript sources that have only recently been published, and by examining specific textual connections between Gabelentz and his predecessors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalLanguage & History
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jan 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • history of linguistics
  • typology
  • language description
  • grammar
  • Humboldtian linguistics
  • Georg von der Gabelentz
  • H. Steinthal
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt


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