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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
The four chapters comprising Part III all concern phonology and largely address Neogrammarian hypotheses about sound change, especially its regularity and exceptionless nature.
Two of these (Anttila's "Analogy: the warp and woof of cognition" and Hock's "Analogical change") focus on analogy, which, together with sound change, was one of the twin pillars of the Neogrammarian view of change.
Austere Neogrammarians might then reject this as evidence altogether, on the grounds that an obsolescent form might be kept with equal probability in patches anywhere.
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.
Scientific history (with the exception of Indo-European scholars themselves) seems to have largely forgotten his work, for the pigeon-hole into which we love to slot the neogrammarians is labelled "sound change and morphology", ignoring that these scholars were outstanding philologists who studied syntax as well as other aspects of language.
1326-1338), which sparked off the fascinating tradition of the Neogrammarians, whose tenets and historical developments are neatly summed up by Einhauser (pp.
1719-1735) summarize the roots of structuralism (in the Neogrammarians and Paul), complemented by Amacker's exposition of the synchronic dimension in Saussure (pp.
(19.) Some neogrammarians also noticed this connection between the paradigmatic distribution of stem alternations and the semantic relevance of grammatical categories to lexical meaning (Osthoff 1899: 44-45, 55, note 7).
In phonetics, we have the mechanic Neogrammarian sound laws, and in semantics we can rely on the irreversible grammaticalization paths that can be framed in terms of categorial metaphors.