Philological Synopses

 

Erasmus

Erasmus

 

At some point during the process of dealing with each new language one will encounter on this blog (using modern English as a baseline) I intend to compose a synopsis of the salient points of phonology, morphology and syntax (grammar basically) of each given language. These pages are not suited to nor intended for learning a language ab initio, but rather they are intended for a quick review for those who may not have used a given language in some time.

Those readers and users trained in philology such as myself will generally find the synopses much more useful. These pages will generally link to other pages associated with my blog which discuss the commonalities of various language groups and across language groups. Examples are discussions of a case system for nouns, of verbsvoices, tenses, moods and aspects and of grammatical genders.

These pages will fall into two broad categories, synopses of individual languages and reference pages. The latter will discuss topics relevant to multiple languages, while the details specific to any given language will be summarized on its individual page. The language pages will only be added as a work in the relevant language is discussed on this blog. The reference pages will be added as they similarly become relevant.

Map showing the distribution of language famil...

Image via Wikipedia

One should note however that the context of each language will also be discussed in the synopses. Namely, any language is characterized by who speaks it where and when, which in addition to historical eras may be both social strata and specifics types of situations. Language varies gradually across time, space and social contexts. The common idea of languages as sharply distinct mutually unintelligible entities breaks down upon close examination.

Philology is based on the above model of language. While in some contexts the terms philology and linguistics are synonymous, in the more technical usage of the terms they refer to similar but different fields, each using a characteristic approach to the study of language. Linguistics in this technical sense is a field in which one attempts to study human language by scientific means; namely, one attempts to use the scientific method to answer questions related to language. The evidence then of linguistics is based on experimentation and observation. In contrast, philology studies language by studying recorded samples of languages. Until recently in the historical sense, philology was restricted to studying written materials. The evidence in philology consists of the extant corpus of all records of any specific language, language group or of all languages generally. The process is generally analytic and descriptive rather than attempting to be predictive in the manner usually associated with experimentation. The two fields are clearly related, but each is used to addressing specific types of questions about language, with admittedly a good deal of overlap.

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