Linguistic Variability and Intellectual Development

Linguistic Variability and Intellectual Development

Wilhelm von Humboldt. Translated by George C. Buck and Frithjof A. Raven. Preface by Alexander von Humboldt

1972 | 320 pages | Paper $18.95
Anthropology | Languages
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Table of Contents

Note to the Translation
Translator's Foreword
Preface by Alexander von Humboldt
Transliteration of Foreign Alphabets
Objective of the Present Treatise

1. The Course of Human Development
2. Effect of Exceptional Intellectual Power: Civilization, Culture, and Education
3. Cooperation of Individuals and Nations
4. A More Detailed Consideration of Language
5. Morphology of Languages
6. Nature and Properties of Language
7. The Phonetic System of Languages
8. Internal Linguistic Morphology and Structure
9. The Relationship of Phonemic Quantity to Intellectual Concept
10. The Linguistic Process: Etymology and Morphology
11. Isolation, Inflection, and Agglutination of Words
12 The Word Unit: The Incorporative Capacity of Language
13. Accentuation
14. The Incorporative System of Languages: Syntactical Sentence Components
15. Congruence of Phonetic Patterns of Languages with Grammatical Requirements
16. Structural Differences Between Languages
17. The Character of Languages
18. Independent Synthesis in Languages
19. A Review of the Present Investigation
20. Less Developed Linguistic Structure: The Semitic and Delaware Indian Languages
21. Less Developed Linguistic Structure: The Chinese and Burmese Languages
22. The Origin of Polysyllabic Structure


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]

The Objective of the Present Treatise

The distribution of human beings into races and tribes and the variation in their languages and dialects are certainly closely related, but both of these result primarily from the productivity of human intellectual power in all its forms. It is in the creation of human intellectual power that they find their recognition and their explanation to the extent that research is able to penetrate the relationship between them. This revelation of human intellectual power about the earth during the course of millennia, varying in type and degree, constitutes the ultimate goal of all intellectual activity; it is, moreover, the ultimate idea which the history of the world must clearly strive to produce.

This expansion of the intellectual life is the sole possession that the individual, to the extent that he participates, may regard as indestructible. And in a nation it represents that entity from which, in turn, great individualities unfailingly develop. Comparative linguistics, or the precise investigation of the diversity through which innumerable peoples resolve the problem of linguistic structure imposed upon them as human beings, fails to attract serious interest unless its relationship to the pattern of national intellectual power is made clear. But the insight into the actual nature of a nation and into the internal relationships of an individual language, as well as its relationship to linguistic requirements in general, depends entirely upon consideration of the total intellectual individuality. For this alone, dictated by nature and its milieu, furnishes the articulation for the character of the nation. Upon its heritage alone, consisting of an accumulation of deeds, institutions, and productive ideas, is based the nation's character and rests its dignity and the power to continue itself diachronically down to posterity. Language [human speech] on the other hand is the organ of the internal being, this self that progressively achieves internal cognition and enunciation. All of its tiniest rootlets are anchored firmly in the national intellectual potential. The more appropriately the latter reacts upon it, the more principled and richer its development. As language in its intricacies is but an effect of the national linguistic sense, those problems concerning the complex structuring of languages (from which also stem their most important variables) cannot be solved adequately if one does not subscribe to this viewpoint. Material cannot, of course, be sought there for that which is inherently restricted to historical treatment by comparative linguistics. Nevertheless, an insight into the original concatenation of facts and a comprehension of language as an internally cohesive organism may be obtained. These, in turn, aid in a correct appraisal of individual factors.

Observation of the connection between linguistic variation and the distribution of tribes on the one hand, and the production of human intellectual power on the other, as a relationship developing progressively in varying degree and in new configurations, is the theme with which this treatise will be concerned, insofar as these two phenomena are capable of clarifying each other.