International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics. Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, pp.1-10, 1999
Historical Linguistics (HL) only analyzes the arbitrary signs or the raw material of language (substance) or externalized Language. HL, by analyzing raw material, formulates a “law” following positivist path. HL searches “authentic” meaning by deploying the tool “etymology.”
What is “authentic” meaning? Socrates questioned, (Cratylus 436, 439) how do you know that the first person, who is naming an object is naming that object after “perfectly” knowing that object’s attributes? Searching authenticity of meaning is a case of extreme essentialism. Attesting a proto-language, on the other hand, is an epi-phenomenal enquiry that leads to a metaphysical totality.
HL follows the biological evolutionary theory to show the development /progress of an externalized language. Hence, it is a case of historicism (deterministic linear history with definite cause and effect, which can be described in a legal term.) This genealogical fantasy is required for the imagination of nation state, as nation state needs a glorious past tradition. Externalized Language, arbitrary signs with the load of values ascribed to them, has become a private property, which can be inherited from the predecessors and can be transmitted to the inheritors.
Epistemologically speaking, from the perspective of History of Science also, there is no pre-figuration of contemporary formal linguistics in Philology (cf. Foucault, 1973:83), though it is incorporated in Linguistics in the guise of HL. Lastly, author questioned the social responsibility of such discipline.
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Keywords: General Grammar, Comparative Philology, Linguistics, Epistemological Break