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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


Thomsen, 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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
But, as Labov (1994:450) points out, "[t]he Neogrammarian viewpoint must of course be modified to accept stochastic regularities in place of absolute rules", and he speculates that "[the Neogrammarians] would not have been as likely to welcome the tools of statistical analysis and probabilistic reasoning, since they were committed to discrete solutions" (1994:470).
LVRA was a self-taught and very prolific comparativist, not unduly concerned with the finer points of neogrammarian consistency.
At the time, scholars did not have the wealth of etymological information that is at hand today, and even in the Neogrammarian Age of the nineteenth century, finding the 'original' meaning of a word was not always guided entirely by sound scientific cross-linguistic analysis.
The four chapters comprising Part III all concern phonology and largely address Neogrammarian hypotheses about sound change, especially its regularity and exceptionless nature.
Max Muller; his relationship with the German "Neogrammarian" movement; his influence on Ferdinand de Saussure's linguistic theory; and the vindication of his theories by modern sociolinguists.
Grootaers also felt that Karlgren's method of reconstruction depended too heavily on the neogrammarian principle of sound laws and did not take sufficient account of psychological and social factors and human geography.
Most have appeared in numerous editions since, but have retained, in common with many other grammars of the period, their essentially neogrammarian approach.
Useful as the Neogrammarian assumption that sound changes have no exceptions may be for historical reconstruction, variationist and lexical diffusion analyses are clearly invaluable for teasing out the complex social forces associated with sound changes.
The Neogrammarian principle that borrowed words can be identified because, unlike inherited words, they are mostly "irregular", is contradicted by modern research.