ARTS1691 - History of the Linguistic Discipline

History of the Linguistic Discipline

The earliest 'linguists' were the ancient Indians, who documented phonological and grammatical material of their sacred texts, the Vedas, in order to preserve them. This was between 800 and 150BCE. Their aim was prescriptive; to prevent further changes from impeding their relationship with God, as he needed to be able to understand their pure language.

The other early linguistis were the Ancient Greeks. We still use many of the alphabetical and grammatical foundations they laid down, and have many of the insights and documentation they made about their different dialects. The interesting thing here is that whilst they closely documented, they did so without making value judgements.

Main Topics of Interest Throughout the Ages

Originally the main topic of interest was the origin of language, and which language was the original.
In the 18th Century interest shifted towards whether language was social or physiological, as opposed to the previous biblical discussions.

At the end of the 18th Century Linguistics developed as a field with the pursuit of comparing newly discovered languages to historical comparisons.

In the 20th Century the focus was looking for scientific ways to show the connections between different languages. Showing that not all languages were descended from each other, some came from the same source that was now not used: a protolanguage.
The most important thing is consistency; correspondence has to be regular, systematic and consistent. Any exceptions must have other rules and connections to explain them.