Benfey, Theodor

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Benfey, Theodor


Born Jan. 28, 1809, in Nörten; died June 26, 1881, in Göttingen. German philologist. Author of analyses of classical languages, comparative linguistics, and Indian philology.

Benfey published ancient Indian texts, including Hymns of Sama-Veda (1848), a Sanskrit grammar, and the famous collection of stories Panchatantra (Five Books), which was published in 1859 with an extensive foreword, which is a classic work on the theory of borrowing. Indian literature, according to Benfey, is the sole source of fairy-tale plots for all the peoples of the world. Benfey delineated the periods of particular cultural influence of the East on the European West and traced the paths of these plots as they traveled from culture to culture. Also inherent in this work of Benfey—and characteristic of the theory of borrowing in general—is the ignoring of national and social factors involved in the development of folklore and literature and the practice of dealing with subject sketches instead of actual texts. Among the well-known followers of Benfey were Gaston Paris (France), A. Clouston (England), and M. Landau (Germany). Benfey is the author of the Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1866) and the work The History of Linguistics and Eastern Philology in Germany (1869).


Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft und orientalischen Philologie in Deutschland, seit dem Anfange des 19 Jahrhunderts. . . . Munich, 1869.


Savchenko, S. V. Russkaia narodnaia skazka (Istoriia sobiraniia i izucheniia). Kiev, 1914.


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