Publication details [#6991]

Kucharczik, Kerstin. 1998. 'Organisch' - "Um den beliebten aber vieldeutigen Ausdruck zu gebrauchen". Zur Organismusmetaphorik in der Sprachwissenschaft des 19. Jahrhunderts ('Organic' - "To use the beloved but ambiguous expression": On the organism metaphor in 19th-century linguis. 27 pp.
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In light of the homogeneity commonly attributed to the frequent metaphor of organism in 18th- and 19th-century linguistics, it is argued that the terms 'organism' and 'organic' were used to reflect clearly distinct conceptions by three writers, Friedrich Schlegel, Jakob Grimm, and August Schleicher. Schlegel's typology characterizes the inflecting languages as organic and opposes them to "mechanical" languages, placing a much higher value on the former and proudly including German in their number. Grimm is claimed to be central in a group of early Indo-Europeanists including Franz Bopp and Rasmus Rask who use the organic metaphor to describe language in terms of regular phonological and morphological change. Grimm's view of the second Germanic sound shifts as nonorganic ('unorganisch') is examined and attributed to the fact that it contains a large number of sound laws that apply to a small portion of the lexicon. Schleicher explicitly and problematically claims that language is an actual natural organism; both protolanguages and language families are included as organisms, as are individual languages and words. (LLBA 1998, vol. 32, n. 5)