Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Linguistics, Philology and Language - The Brothers Grimm

Linguistics, Philology and Language are in some sense natural enemies.



The Brothers Grimm

The most famous linguist (philologist) of all time, Jacob Grimm [in German sometimes written as Jakob Grimm], who was not only the discoverer of Grimm's Law (see also here) but was also one of the Grimm brothers famed for their Grimm's Fairy Tales, wrote:

"As a matter of general logic, I am an enemy of grammar; it gives the appearance of being strict and exclusive in its rules, although it actualy limits pure observation, which I regard to be the soul of linguistic research. He who pays no attention to the perceptual fruits of observation - which from the very start do mock all theories by the certainty of their existence - will never make heads or tails of the impenetrable essence of language.

The above is our translation from the original German which reads - in original spelling:

Allgemein-logisch begriffen bin ich in der grammatik feind; sie führen scheinbare strenge und geschlossenheit der bestimmung mit sich, hemmen aber die beobachtung, welche ich als die seele der sprachforschung betrachte. Wer nichts auf wahrnehmungen hält, die mit ihrer factischen gewisheit anfangs aller theorie spotten, wird dem unergründlichen sprachgeiste nie näher treten.

- Jacob Grimm (1827:VI) Deutsche Grammatik [German Grammar], Göttingen, 1819, 2nd ed., Göttingen, 1822–1840, reprinted 1870 by Wilhelm Scherer, Berlin

Jacob Grimm has set forth the basic philosophy of the postings to be made to this blog. We make observations, which is the soul of linguistic research.

We might note here in connection with the Brothers Grimm that the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, "German Research Foundation") is financing a library digitization project and that the University of Kiel has digitized Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s epoch-making 33-volume German Dictionary (Deutsches Wörterbuch, "DWB") which is available online as Das Deutsche Wörterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm auf CD-ROM und im Internet. As written by Dagmar Giersberg for the Goethe Institut:

"If you have all 33 volumes of the DWB in front of you, you can readily imagine the herculean efforts involved in merely processing and proofreading all that text."

Take a look at that article to discover "the Chinese connection" to this dictionary.

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