August Schleicher

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Schleicher, August


Born Feb. 19, 1821, in Meiningen; died Dec. 6,1868, in Jena. German linguist.

Schleicher, who became a professor at Charles University in Prague in 1850 and the University of Jena in 1857, subscribed to naturalist views on language. Influenced by C. Darwin, he regarded language as an organism that must be studied by the methods of the natural sciences. He applied Hegelian dialectics to linguistic phenomena and arranged in a triad the principal types of morphological structures in language He advanced the notion of linguistic degradation, which involves aging, erosion, and destruction.

Schleicher was the first to recognize the need to establish general laws of linguistic development. The comparative method of linguistic study practiced by him paved the way for the neogram-marians’ study of phonetic law (seeNEOGRAMMARIAN). Schleicher’s works played an important role in the development of Indo-European linguistics, whose task, in Schleicher’s view, was to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European parent language, in which he composed a fable.

Schleicher was among the first to undertake the study of languages (including Lithuanian) and dialects by consulting native speakers; he also studied the Slavic languages. In A Compendium of the Comparative Grammars of the Indo-European Languages (parts 1–2,1861–62) he offered the most complete account up to that time of the Indo-European language system. Schleicher became a foreign corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1857.


Handbuch der litauischen Sprache, vols. 1–2. Prague, 1856–57.
Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen, 2nd ed. Weimar, 1866.
Die deutsche Sprache, 4th ed. Stuttgart, 1879.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Another chapter of Richards's book is devoted to the linguist, August Schleicher, whose theory of linguistic development complemented Darwin's own explanation of the refinement of human intelligence.
In Linguistics and Evolutionary Theory: Three Essays by August Schleicher, Ernst Haeckel, and Wilhelm Bleek, ed.
The very idea of an Indo-European language (and, by extension, race) was proposed after German linguists and philologists, including August Schleicher, discovered that many words in Sanskrit (the language of ancient India) were startlingly similar to words in German, English and other "western" languages.
Two of the German dead, Under Officer Kurt Seydel, 19, and his Observer 17-year-old August Schleicher were buried in Portobello Cemetery overlooking the icy waters of the Firth of Forth where they had fallen.
If we situate him within the history of interaction between language theory and evolutionary thought in the nineteenth century, Huxley's writings on the Synoptic Problem look like an attempt to extend the parallels between the linguistic descent of language and the biological descent of species that intellectuals like August Schleicher (1821-68) and Charles Lyell (1797-1875) had already explored.
(27) As the work of German philologist August Schleicher (1839-1919) confirms, however, Lyell was not alone when it came to turning Darwin's penchant for linguistic metaphors into something more decisive.
(29.) August Schleicher, "Darwinism Tested by the Science of Language," 41-42.