Neogrammarian(redirected from Neo-grammarians)
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the name of several schools of 19th-century European linguistics united by a common understanding of the nature and functions of language and the tasks of linguistics. The neogrammarians included G. Ascoli, W. Whitney, H. G. Gabelentz, F. F. Fortunatov, F. de Saussure, and several other scholars who shared similar views. In the narrow sense, the movement also includes the Leipzig school (A. Leskien, K. Brugmann, H. Osthoff, H. Paul, and B. Delbrück), the Gottingen school (A. Fick, A. Bezzenberger, H. Collitz, and F. Bechtel), and the Berlin school (J. Schmidt and W. Schulze). The term “neogrammarian” was first applied to the Leipzig school by the German philologist F. Zarncke; the term attained wide currency among linguists.
The neogrammarians viewed language as an individual psychophysiological activity; they believed that changes occur and spread in language as a result of more or less accidental causes connected with peculiarities of linguistic usage. Therefore, the linguist should first of all apply himself to the study of living languages and to the task of establishing the laws of their development. The study of dead languages is only of secondary importance. However, the neogrammarians understood the laws of linguistic development as given a priori; they considered these laws to be capable of accounting for all causative changes that occur in language development. Another shortcoming of the neogrammarian schools was their lack of any concept of language as a system.
The neogrammarians greatly contributed to the development of comparative-historical linguistics. However, the defects of neogrammarian theory provoked criticism from various stand-points (including H. Schuchardt and I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay). In the early 20th century, neogrammarian views ceased to be the leading current in linguistics and were replaced by sociolinguistics.
REFERENCESThomsen, V. Istoriia iazykovedeniia do kontsa 19 v. Moscow, 1938. (Translated from Danish.)
Paul, H. Printsipy istorii iazyka. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from German.)
Zvegintsev, V. A. Istoriia iazykoznaniia 19–20 vv. v ocherkakh i izvlecheniiakh, part 1 [3rd ed.]. Moscow, 1964. (Excerpts from the works of H. Osthoff, K. Brugmann, and B. Delbrück.)
Jankowsky, K. R. The Neogrammarians. The Hague, 1972.
A. A. LEONT’EV