The training and disciplinary identity of linguists in Europe’s long nineteenth century

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the mid-19th century, the great centres of philological and linguistic study in Europe were a handful of German universities that led the way in organising doctoral training. In seminars guided by a senior professor, students presented papers on specialised topics and had them critiqued and queried. This paper takes a close look at the nature of such training in Germany and France through the experience of one Leipzig doctoral student who went on to lecture in Paris and Geneva, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). The political and cultural relations between Germany and France in the two decades following the Franco-Prussian War and the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine coloured and complexified the importation of the Germany doctoral training model in the various branches of the University of Paris, and not least in the section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études in which Saussure was hired to lecture on Gothic and Old High German, to a student body made up disproportionately of displaced Alsatians. So significant was Saussure’s impact on the institution that his teaching set the agenda for French doctoral training in linguistics and adjacent areas at least through the 1960s, and indeed across Europe and beyond – this despite the fact that he was never in a position to direct a single doctoral thesis himself. The paper considers as well how the disciplinary identity of linguistics came to be formed in this period, and how it went on to develop over the ensuing decades.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistory of Universities, vol. XXXIV/1
Subtitle of host publicationA Global History of Research Education: Disciplines, Institutions, and Nations, 1840-1950
EditorsKu-Ming (Kevin) Chang, Alan Rocke
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780192844774
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • history of linguistics
  • history of doctoral training
  • University of Leipzig
  • natural/social dichotomy
  • French university syste
  • Ferdinand de Saussure


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