Is Hebrew similar to Greek

Thorsten Roelcke. 2014. Latin, Greek, Hebrew. Studies and documentation on German language reflection in the Baroque and Enlightenment

The starting point of the book is a project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation under the direction of Andreas Gardt, Oskar Reichmann and Thorsten Roelcke.1[1] The aim of this research project was to examine concepts of language theory in the Baroque and Enlightenment periods. To this end, "around 650 relevant texts from the 17th and 18th centuries (selected from the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 19th century) were extracted and over 115,000 references were drawn on almost 29,000 headwords" (p. 5 ). The author now uses “previously unrelated material” (p. VII) from this corpus of evidence to shed light on contemporary views on the three languages ​​Latin, Greek and Hebrew on the basis of the sources. The relevant evidence for the individual languages ​​is then included in the concrete analysis: Latin: 727 evidence from 193 sources (p. 9), Greek: 295 evidence from 89 sources (p. 210), Hebrew: 146 evidence from 60 sources.

The evidence is extracted based on various criteria and presented in the study. This results in a clearly comprehensible structure of the presentation for all three languages: First, the evidence and word usage are presented, then the corresponding sources for the contemporary genealogical and typological ideas. This is followed by evidence that deals with linguistic characteristics (sound, formation of forms, lexicons, borrowings, etc.), some linguistic-didactic considerations as well as evidence that deals with the positive and negative evaluations of the individual languages. Contemporary ideas about the conceivable and actual varieties of the three languages ​​are also dealt with. The conclusion of the respective chapters is the listing of the references and the respective references in the sources.

As the number of documents suggests, the sources give rise to differently extensive representations of the individual languages. Thus, Latin is discussed much more extensively in the sources, which in turn means that it must also take up more space in the author's study. In the case of Latin, the contemporary statements on Latin as a lingua franca, as a school and foreign language and - in more detail than with the other languages ​​- the problem of borrowing and purism are discussed in detail (Chapters 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5).

The main aim of the study is a documentary, i. H. the respective contemporary ideas on the three languages ​​should be made visible from the sources. Of course, every source selection is already an interpretative act, but it can be stated that the author refrains from further interpretations when presenting the sources and this for conceptual reasons:

“In the present study, the evidence is mainly processed inherently in the text, largely dispensing with a social, cultural or linguistic historical interpretation of the material. In this way, interpretations are prepared and made possible from a variety of points of view, without anticipating or changing them through individual aspects. Against this background, the documentation of the supporting material is of central importance, so that the position of the supporting documents is given sufficient space. "(P. 7)

Thus, the study is primarily a differentiated, processed, viewed and commented collection of meaningful sources and quotations. In this regard, the book does something comparable to the research of contemporary language concepts of the three main languages ​​Latin, Greek and Hebrew as the work of Jones (1995) on contemporary foreign word purism, which compiles and extensively “documents for the study of foreign word purism (1478–1750)” commented.

The author's note that the present work is ultimately a dictionary (p. 7) is, in my opinion, a bit confusing, unless the concept of a dictionary is taken very broadly. Although the numerous documents are dealt with differently in the book according to individual criteria (see above), a dictionary structure (apart from the overarching concepts of Latin, Greek, Hebrew) with corresponding lemmas was not recognizable to the reviewer.

The structure of the study follows the criteria presented in the introduction (Chapter 1). A total of 200 pages are devoted to Latin (Chapter 2), 64 pages to Greek (Chapter 3) and 36 pages (Chapter 4) to Hebrew. The conclusion is a synopsis of the results (Chapter 5), in which the points presented in the individual chapters are compared for all three languages. In this way, the reader receives a brief overview of the criteria 'evidence and word usage', 'genealogy and typology', 'borrowing and purism', 'language didactics', (linguistic) 'characteristics', 'comparison and evaluation' and 'varieties'. Cape. 6 offers a bibliography of the sources used, chap. 7 names the relevant secondary literature. The conclusion is a very helpful subject, language and name register (Chapter 8). This is particularly noteworthy insofar as these registers are the collections of documents, which - in chronological order - follow the systematic representation of the languages ​​(for Latin p. 139–207, for Greek p. 254–273, for Hebrew p. 298–311), help to develop better.

It is obvious that these three languages ​​were selected for the comparative study in view of the language conceptions of the early modern period. Latin, Greek and Hebrew were "main languages" in the understanding of contemporaries. This designation refers on the one hand to the fact that these were the three holy languages ​​of the Bible, but on the other hand it also refers to it, and the author specifically points out that "main languages" have other important features:

“Either its cultural significance for scientific, religious or beautiful literature or its genealogical age as the starting point for the development of an entire language family appear as characteristics of a main language” (p. 15, bold deleted).

In this respect, the language scholars of the time also always worked to raise their own vernacular to the rank of a main language or to prove that their own language, e.g. B. German has always been a main language.

When discussing which languages ​​were considered the main languages ​​in the examined texts, the author divided the texts into seven groups. This is interesting because it becomes so clear that different approaches can be shown here. Slavic languages ​​or Romance languages ​​are counted among the main languages. Conversely, there are texts in which Latin, Greek or Hebrew are not listed under the main languages ​​(see the table on p. 314). Here it would have been interesting for the reader which specific texts and authors are hidden behind the groups. Particularly in the groups in which Hebrew and Hebrew / Greek are not counted among the main languages, the question arises as to which arguments are used to exclude these two languages, which, as biblical languages, are unquestionably added to the main languages ​​in all other text groups. The same applies to the in chap. 5.4.2 presented canon of languages ​​in foreign language didactics. Here, too, a distinction is made between seven groups (p. 331) and here, too, it would be interesting to find out which authors and texts make up the individual groups, i. H. z. B. Which authors (in addition to Latin, French and Spanish) are already promoting English as a foreign language to be acquired. In this way, a change in the recommendations for foreign language didactics could possibly also be made comprehensible.

The thematic structure gives the reader a quick overview of what was important in the languages ​​discussed for contemporaries over the two centuries. The lines of tradition that stretch from the Baroque in the 17th century to the Enlightenment in the 18th century become clear. The somewhat simplistic designation of the two centuries as "evaluating" (17th century, Baroque) and "objectifying" (18th century, Enlightenment, see e.g. p. 60) is helpful. However, it must also be noted that a look at both centuries at the same time smooths out the very clear break between the Baroque and the Enlightenment in some places.

The systematic and commented source documentation presented by the author represents an extremely comprehensive collection of documents that can also be used very well as a basis and illustrative material for courses. The book offers a wealth of interesting and sometimes curious detailed information from today's perspective, which could be reconstructed from the documents. B. to borrow the Latin script (p. 86ff.) Or to parallelize German and Hebrew (p. 284ff.).

It is due to the rather documentary character of the book that the more intensive discussion of the linguistic conceptions of the time and the differences between the 17th and 18th centuries take a back seat. Here the reader is still referred to relevant monographs and anthologies such as B. von Polenz (1994), Gardt (1994), Gardt et al. (1995), Gardt (2000), Scharloth (2003) or Stukenbrock (2005).

The fact that German is a genuine word-forming language was argued in many places by linguists of the 17th century, so that this feature (in addition to the postulated language age, authenticity, basic correctness, etc.) played an important role in the discourse on appreciation. If the author states that the meaning of multi-part compounds did not move into the focus of linguists until the 18th century, he cannot be entirely agreed, since the multi-part composition is already mentioned by Schottelius. The author quotes here from Gottsched (1762). In the "Detailed Work" by Schottelius (1663), however, there are already similar references:

“Alhie is now aware of it / that this type of doubling = for one / arises from two stem words [...]. For others / these doubles also arise from three master words / as Landfriedbruch / Supreme Guardian / Landhauptmann / Reichspfennigmeister [...]. "

(Schottelius 1663, 77)

"As in those / which are further doubled by four root words / As: Oberberghauptmann Ertzhauptbößwicht [...]"

(Schottelius 1663, 78)

The same applies to Harsdörffer, who in his practical language work (e.g. in the “Frauenzimmer Talkspiele”) resorted to the language-theoretical ideas of Schottelius.

The juxtaposition of German and Hebrew, which is curious for today's reader, in which German was mostly portrayed as directly related to Hebrew, is made clear by the evidence cited by the author. However, one or the other example would also have been helpful with such a parallelization for illustration. In the "Specimen Philologiae Germanicae", Harsdörffer attempted to show the relationship between German and Hebrew by means of word pairs that can be compared with one another via phonetic similarities (e.g. Harsdörffer 1646, 129-131).

Conclusion: Thorsten Roelcke's book is an interesting, thematically structured and commented collection of evidence from important linguistic reflective texts (primarily) from the 17th and 18th centuries. By reading the individual chapters on Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the reader gets an interesting insight into the language concepts of the Baroque and the Enlightenment. At the same time, it becomes clear to the reader what function the preoccupation with the biblical, holy main languages ​​had. It went - v. a. in the 17th century - less about the linguistic specifics, the actual historical circumstances, etc. to reconstruct, but rather to gain arguments for the upgrading, expansion and importance of the German language. We hope that the book will have many readers who, based on the source-saturated presentation, can then develop further research questions on the topics addressed in the book.


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Published online: 2016-9-12
In print: 2016-12-1

© 2015, Markus Hundt, published by de Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.