Romance Philology

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Romance Philology


a branch of philology that studies the Romance languages and literatures and the folklore and culture of the Romance-speaking peoples.

Romance philology originated in the Middle Ages but became a developed study only during the Renaissance. One of the earliest Romance philologists was Dante, whose treatise De vulgari eloquentia (1305–08) was a defense of the living languages spoken by the people; these languages were usually regarded as not sufficiently “noble” in comparison with Latin, which had a rich literary tradition. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the question of studying Romance languages and literatures was taken up in Italy and Spain and especially in France. In the 18th century, articles devoted to Romance languages and literatures appeared in the Encyclopedia (1751–80), published under the supervision of Diderot and d’Alembert.

A new era for Romance philology began in the first third of the 19th century, when the comparative-historical method of studying language kinships was developed and substantiated. The Romance languages provided extensive material for confirming this method: their source language (Latin) was well preserved in numerous and diverse texts, making it possible to trace the paths of development of a related group of Indo-European languages. Important contributions to the formation and development of Romance philology were made by the German linguist F. Diez, the Austrian linguists W. Meyer-Lübke and H. Schuchardt, the Italian linguist G. Ascoli, the French linguist E. Bourciez, and the Russian philologists A. N. Veselov-skii, V. F. Shishmarev, and M. V. Sergievskii.

In the early 1920’s, the new ideas of I. A. Baudouin de Cour-tenay and, later, F. de Saussure prompted scholars to direct attention not only to the history of Romance languages and literatures but also to the contemporary (synchronic) state of the languages and literatures. Colloquial speech and the language of literature have been studied. Progress has been made in linguistic geography and stylistics, and the relationship between language and culture has been investigated. However, less work has been done in the more uncommon Romance languages and literatures of Portugal, Catalonia, Provence, and Latin America and the history, grammatical structure, and lexical development of the Romance literary languages. New problems are emerging concerning the interaction between the Romance languages and literatures and, on a broader scale, between the cultures of the peoples speaking Romance languages.

Most centers for the study of Romance languages and literatures are in the Romance-speaking countries. Major centers are in France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Rumania. In the USSR, centers are located at universities and at institutes of linguistics in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kishinev. The Society of Romanic Linguistics (Société de Linguistique Romane), chaired by K. Baldinger of the Federal Republic of Germany, convenes international congresses on Romance philology every three years; the first congress was held in Bordeaux in 1895 and the 14th was held in Naples in 1974.


Bourciez, E. Osnovy romanskogo iazykoznaniia. Moscow, 1952. (Translated from French.)
Stepanov, G. V. Ispanskii iazyk ν stranakh Latinskoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1963.
Budagov, R. A. Literaturnye iazyki i iazykovyestili. Moscow, 1967.
Iordan, I. Romanskoe iazykoznanie: Istoricheskoe razvitie, techeniia, metody. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from Rumanian.)
Shishmarev, V. F. Istoriia itaVianskoi literatury i ital’ianskogo iazyka. Leningrad, 1972.
SravniteVno-sopostaviteVnaia grammatika romanskikh iazykov: Problema strukturnoi obshchnosti. Moscow, 1972.
Elcock, W. The Romance Languages. London, 1960.
Niculescu, A. Individualitatea limbii române între limbile romanice. Bucharest, 1965.
Wartburg, W. von. La Fragmentation linguistique de la Romania. Paris, 1967.
Bal, W. Introduction aux études de linguistique romane. Paris, 1966. (Includes references.)
Mourin, L., and J. Pohl. Bibliographie de linguistique romane, 4th ed. Brussels, 1971.
Baldinger, K. La formación de los dominios lingüísticos de la península ibérica. Madrid, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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