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definitions - Philology

philology (n.)

1.the humanistic study of language and literature

Philology (n.)

1.(MeSH)The study of literature in its widest sense, including grammar, etymology, criticism, literary history, language history, linguistic history, systems of writing, and anything else that is relevant to literature or language viewed as literature. Philology as a discipline has both philosophical and scientific overtones.

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Merriam Webster

PhilologyPhi*lol"o*gy (?), n. [L. philologia love of learning, interpretation, philology, Gr. �: cf. F. philologie. See Philologer.]
1. Criticism; grammatical learning. [R.] Johnson.

2. The study of language, especially in a philosophical manner and as a science; the investigation of the laws of human speech, the relation of different tongues to one another, and historical development of languages; linguistic science.

Philology comprehends a knowledge of the etymology, or origin and combination of words; grammar, the construction of sentences, or use of words in language; criticism, the interpretation of authors, the affinities of different languages, and whatever relates to the history or present state of languages. It sometimes includes rhetoric, poetry, history, and antiquities.

3. A treatise on the science of language.

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definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - Philology

philology (n.)


see also - Philology

philology (n.)



analogical dictionary




Philology (n.) [MeSH]




Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.[1]

Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin. Classical philology is historically primary, originating in European Renaissance Humanism, but was soon joined by philologies of other languages both European (Germanic, Celtic, Slavistics, etc.) and non-European (Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Chinese, etc.). Indo-European studies involves the comparative philology of all Indo-European languages.

Any classical language can be studied philologically, and indeed describing a language as "classical" is to imply the existence of a philological tradition associated with it.

Because of its focus on historical development (diachronic analysis), philology came to be used as a term contrasting with linguistics. This is due to a 20th-century development triggered by Ferdinand de Saussure's insistence on the importance of synchronic analysis, and the later emergence of structuralism and Chomskyan linguistics with its emphasis on syntax.



The term philology is derived from the Greek φιλολογία (philologia),[2] from the terms φίλος (philos), meaning "love, affection, loved, beloved, dear, friend" and λόγος (logos), meaning "word, articulation, reason", describing a love of learning, of literature as well as of argument and reasoning, reflecting the range of activities included under the notion of λόγος. The term changed little with the Latin philologia, and later entered the English language in the 16th century, from the Middle French philologie, in the sense of "love of literature".

The adjective φιλόλογος (philologos) meant "fond of discussion or argument, talkative", in Hellenistic Greek also implying an excessive ("sophistic") preference of argument over the love of true wisdom, φιλόσοφος (philosophos).

As an allegory of literary erudition, Philologia appears in 5th-century post-classical literature (Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii), an idea revived in Late Medieval literature (Chaucer, Lydgate).

The meaning of "love of learning and literature" was narrowed to "the study of the historical development of languages" (historical linguistics) in 19th-century usage of the term. Due to the rapid progress made in understanding sound laws and language change, the "golden age of philology" lasted throughout the 19th century, or "from Friedrich Schlegel to Nietzsche".[3] In the Anglo-Saxon world, the term philology to describe work on languages and literatures, which had become synonymous with the practices of German scholars, was abandoned as a consequence of anti-German feeling following World War I. Most continental European countries still maintain the term to designate departments, colleges, position titles, and journals. J. R. R. Tolkien opposed the nationalist reaction against philological practices, claiming that "the philological instinct" was "universal as is the use of language".[4][5] In British English usage, and in British academia, "philology" remains largely synonymous with "historical linguistics", while in US English, and US academia, the wider meaning of "study of a language's grammar, history and literary tradition" remains more widespread.[6][7]

  Branches of philology

  Comparative philology

The comparative linguistics branch of philology studies the relationship between languages. Similarities between Sanskrit and European languages were first noted in the early 16th century[8] and led to speculation of a common ancestor language from which all these descended. It is now named Proto-Indo-European. Philology's interest in ancient languages led to the study of what were, in the 18th century, "exotic" languages, for the light they could cast on problems in understanding and deciphering the origins of older texts.

  Textual philology editing

Philology also includes the study of texts and their history. It includes elements of textual criticism, trying to reconstruct an author's original text based on variant copies of manuscripts. This branch of research arose in Biblical studies and has a long tradition, dating back to the Reformation.[9] Scholars have tried to reconstruct the original readings of the Bible from the manuscript variants. This method was applied to Classical Studies and to medieval texts as a way to reconstruct the author's original work. The method produced so-called "critical editions", which provided a reconstructed text accompanied by a "critical apparatus", i.e., footnotes that listed the various manuscript variants available, enabling scholars to gain insight into the entire manuscript tradition and argue about the variants.[9]

A related study method known as higher criticism studies the authorship, date, and provenance of text to place such text in historical context.[9] As these philological issues are often inseparable from issues of interpretation, there is no clear-cut boundary between philology and hermeneutics.[9] When text has a significant political or religious influence (such as the reconstruction of Biblical texts), scholars have difficulty reaching objective conclusions.

Some scholars avoid all critical methods of textual philology,[9] especially in historical linguistics, where it is important to study the actual recorded materials. The movement known as New Philology has rejected textual criticism because it injects editorial interpretations into the text and destroys the integrity of the individual manuscript, hence damaging the reliability of the data. Supporters of New Philology insist on a strict "diplomatic" approach: a faithful rendering of the text exactly as found in the manuscript, without emendations.

  Cognitive philology

Another branch of philology, cognitive philology, studies written and oral texts, considering them as results of human mental processes. This science compares the results of textual science with the results of experimental research of both psychology and artificial intelligence production systems.


In the case of Bronze Age literature, philology includes the prior decipherment of the language under study. This has notably been the case with the Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Hittite, Ugaritic and Luwian languages. Beginning with the famous decipherment and translation of the Rosetta Stone by Jean-François Champollion in 1822, a number of individuals attempted to decipher the writing systems of the Ancient Near East and Aegean. In the case of Old Persian and Mycenaean Greek, decipherment yielded older records of languages already known from slightly more recent traditions (Middle Persian and Alphabetic Greek).

Work on the ancient languages of the Near East progressed rapidly. In the mid-19th century, Henry Rawlinson and others deciphered the Behistun Inscription, which records the same text in Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian, using a variation of cuneiform for each language. The elucidation of cuneiform led to the decipherment of Sumerian. Hittite was deciphered in 1915 by Bedřich Hrozný.

Linear B, a script used in the ancient Aegean, was deciphered in 1952 by Michael Ventris, who demonstrated that it recorded an early form of Greek, now known as Mycenaean Greek. Linear A, the writing system that records the still-unknown language of the Minoans, resists deciphering, despite many attempts.

Work continues on scripts such as the Maya, with great progress since the initial breakthroughs of the phonetic approach championed by Yuri Knorozov and others in the 1950s. Since the late twentieth century, the Maya code has been almost completely deciphered, and the Mayan languages are among the most documented and studied in Mesoamerica. The code is described as a logosyllabic style of writing, which could be used to fully express any spoken thought.

  See also


  1. ^ Philology. Books.google.com. 2008-02-09. http://books.google.com/books?id=2joVAAAAYAAJ&dq=philology&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=REA2bM6Pf_&sig=Ws1UMX0ld3eeYXO2IxcBXD4WhNs&hl=en&ei=VJowSqeaCYTAMtiD_ccH&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9#PPA5,M1. Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  2. ^ "''φιλολογία'', Liddell and Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus". Perseus.tufts.edu. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%23111282. Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  3. ^ so Nikolaus Wegmann, Princeton University Department of German
  4. ^ "Philology: General Works", The Year's Work of English Studies 4 (1923), 36–37.
  5. ^ Richard Utz, "Englische Philologie vs. English Studies: A Foundational Conflict", in Das Potential europäischer Philologien: Geschichte, Leistung, Funktion, ed. Christoph König (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2009), pp. 34–44.
  6. ^ A. Morpurgo Davies, Hist. Linguistics (1998) 4 I. 22.
  7. ^ M. M. Bravmann, Studies in Semitic Philology. (1977) p. 457.
  8. ^ This is noted in Juan Mascaro's introduction to his translation of the Bhagavad Gita, in which he dates the first Gita translation to 1785 (by Charles Williams). Mascaro claims Alexander Hamilton stopped in Paris in 1802 after returning from India, and taught Sanskrit to the German critic Friedrich von Schlegel. Mascaro says this is the beginning of modern study of the roots of the Indo-European languages.
  9. ^ a b c d e Textual Philology and Text Editing. Books.google.com. http://books.google.com/books?id=Cu4G-D1bNPcC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=Branches+of+philology+Textual+philology+and+text+editing&source=bl&ots=647MRHwJLT&sig=XFlQ93KiBqfd10ZzXGz8ZtyknS8&hl=en&ei=upUwSrj0GZLCM_7U6M8H&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10. Retrieved 2011-07-16. 

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