Darwin-L Message Log 4:56 (December 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<4:56>From J_LIMBER@UNHH.UNH.EDU  Wed Dec 15 08:49:58 1993

Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1993 9:52:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Precursors
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Precursors to precursors to...
While not to deny the merits of William Jones, the idea of a protolanguage has
been around a long time--perhaps since the collapse of Babel?  Leibniz, for
example, took it seriously as an empirical question deserving systematic

Leibniz to Ludolf, September 5, 1691 ..Of course, if the first change of
language brings forth other dialects among neighboring tribes, the the second
and third changes will result in another language.  Nor would I disagree very
much with those who, learned in the ancient languages of the world, believe
that many languages have developed from the same source.  But as far as
Chinese, the American Indian, and the African languges are concerned (languages
which , might I say, I do not command), they differ from ours, completely in
vocabulary, thought not necessarily in structure...p.22

Leibniz to Ludolf, April 17, 1692..And it would be most advisable to have the
Lord's Prayer expressed in each language, so that we might have common measure
of comparision.  I ask you to concentrate your attention upon Asia and other
places in that part of the world...."

Leibniz on gradualism and protolanguage (letter to Sparfvenfeldt, 12/6/1695):
"Actually, it is a source of amazement to me that neighboring people often have
such different languages; as for example the Germans and the Slavs.  Perhaps
the ancient people who may have been between the two, and who would have
provided a more perceptible transition from one language to another, have been
exterminated. p.63)

Waterman, J. T. (1978). Leibniz and Ludolf on Things Linguistic: Excerpts from
Their Correspondence . Berkelely: University of California Press.

John Limber, psychology, University of New Hampshire, Durham NH 03824 USA

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