jacob.baltuch at jacob.baltuch at
Thu Feb 27 00:51:39 UTC 1997

Robert J. Zydenbos wrote:

>I cannot escape from the impression that many feel unjustly uneasy about
>the "german-" in the term "Germanic" (while in German, "germanisch"
>generally does not mean "deutsch"). Perhaps many brothers and sisters of
>European ancestry are simply jealous that pioneers of IG / IE studies
>such as Franz Bopp, Wilhelm von Humboldt and others were mere
>Or perhaps all this is just silly. I propose that we continue using IG
>in memory and honour of Bopp, Humboldt and the rest -- as perhaps was
>also the intention of those fine historians Kulke and Rothermund.

Well since mention is made of Bopp, maybe some would be interested to learn
he actually *opposed* the use of the word "indogermanisch" and suggested
"indoeuropaeisch" was more appropriate, at least once, in one of the
prefaces to his "Vergleichende Grammatik".

To be honest I haven't read Bopp's preface but let me quote from Mounin's
"Histoire de la Linguistique" [in my own translation of this excerpt]:

  Bopp is like Rask, at heart, the least romantic of the linguists of his time.
  For example he defends, in the preface to his Vegleichende Grammatik, his use
  of the term Indoeuropean: "I can't approve the term Indogermanic, as I don't
  see why one would take the Germanic people as representing all the people of
  our continent". In 1833 there was much probity, antiromanticism, and
  coolheadedness too [in doing so]. Meillet, when he speaks of the mystical
  comparative grammar had in the beginning with the Germans, always
excludes Bopp.

  (Georges Mounin, "Histoire de la Linguistique", 3e edition revue, PUF,
Paris, 1974,
   chapitre IV, 3.3, I forget the page)

Some might wish to check the 1833 edition [at least this is the date
implied by this
excerpt] of Bopp's work.

But presumably Bopp was less informed than Zydenbos as to what lied behind the
choice of this term.

Note that time was also when F. Schegel was developping his ludicrous
racist theories
of superior and inferior languages in "Ueber die Sprache und Weisheit der
Indier" (1808).
For example he apparently "proved" that Semitic languages can't have "true"
flexions and
"true" roots. Presumably only superior languages like Sanskrit or German
could. Again,
I haven't read Schlegel, only second hand quotes, so I encourage anyone to
check the source.

Anyway, this was the intellectual climate in which "indogermanisch" was
preferred to
"indoeuropaeisch", and, if you ask me, it had, especially in view of later
some unpleasant features.

Of course I don't believe there's anything sinister implied in the use of
*today*. Germans probably do it just out of habit, and don't give another
thought. But
maybe if they examined how that term was chosen in the beginning of the
19th century
especially against the opinion of such an authority as Bopp (and I'm
surprised they don't)
they might change their mind.

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