Article ID: CBB320251226

Language as a Specimen (2023)


Language was never studied by linguists (or philologists) alone. The greater part of the languages of the world was first known in the West through the reports of missionaries, explorers, and colonial administrators, and what they documented reflected their specific interests. Missionaries wrote catechisms, primers, dictionaries, and Bible translations (especially Lord's Prayers); for explorers and administrators, language was one aspect among many to cover in their accounts of faraway regions. Peoples were identified by their language; toponyms served for geographic description; names of plants and animals were gathered together with specimens and images of plants and animals. In this context, linguistic materials were equally described as “specimens.” This article investigates the various ways in which language material was used and conceived of as a specimen, and the global trajectories of these “specimens.” Especially the role of naturalist explorers deserves closer attention in this regard. What they did, throughout the late 18th and 19th century, was gathering language material as one kind of specimen among others, Forster in the Pacific, Humboldt, Martius, and d'Orbigny in South America, and Peters in Mozambique. Two large-scale expeditions from the mid-19th century stand out as examples: the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838–1842), whose collections later filled the Smithsonian Institution, and the Austrian-Hungarian Novara expedition (1857–1859).

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Article Floris Solleveld (2023) Language in the Global History of Knowledge. Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte (pp. 7-17). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Bertucci, Paola
Bret, Patrice
Cooper, Alix
de Deus Duarte, Maria
Dettelbach, Michael S.
Donato, Clorinda
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Early American Studies
Eighteenth-Century Studies
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
University of Chicago
Faber & Faber
University of Pittsburgh Press
Tinta da China
Transmission of ideas
Transmission of texts
Travel; exploration
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Language and languages
Ardinghelli, Maria Angela
Eidous, Marc-Antoine
Humboldt, Alexander von
Laborde, Alexandre, comte de
Mentzel, Christian
Nieuwentijt, Bernard
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
16th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Smithsonian Institution

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