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Albert Schultens (1686–1750) and primeval language: the crisis of a tradition and the turning point of a discourse
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Linguistics and Philology.
2014 (English)In: Metasprachliche Reflexion und Kontinuität / [ed] Gerda Haßler och Angelica Rüter, Nodus Publikationen, 2014Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This article demonstrates points of discontinuity in the views on the identity of the original language of mankind in the 18th century, such as they are manifested in the seminal Dutch Orientalist Albert Schultens (1686-1750). In dealing with the question of the identity of the primordial language, Schultens developed a concept of a Semitic proto-language (although not coining the term Semitic), of which Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic were conceived as dialects. His guiding idea was that Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic are separate continuations of the original primaeval language spoken before the Flood. In his metalinguistic imagery these dialects are termed “offshoots and branches of the antediluvian tree trunk” and he underlines that Arabic best retains the characteristics of the antediluvian tongue. These ground-breaking ideas were elaborated in polemics with contemporary biblical philology, which attributed a unique position to Hebrew in claiming its identity with the primaeval language and disclaiming its need of a comparative method (Jac. Gousset). In modern historiography, Schultens’ historical-linguistic ideas have never been traced out thoroughly, despite being clearly attested in his extant writings. This article elucidates Schultens’ theoretical and metalinguistic innovations and his role in achieving a discursive turning point and explores what crises in scholarship his ideas answered and met.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Nodus Publikationen, 2014.
, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Semitic Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-228292OAI: diva2:733500
Synen på språkens historia i Västerlandet 1600-1800: konstruktionen av de indo-europeiska och semitiska språkens ursprung, utveckling och släktskap
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, P10-0188:1
Available from: 2014-07-09 Created: 2014-07-09 Last updated: 2014-08-05Bibliographically approved

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