Saturday, March 7, 2015

Whither Philology?

"The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities," is the subtitle of a book reviewed here about field that "encompassed a huge range of subjects as it developed: not only grammar and syntax, but rhetoric, textual editing and commentary, etymology and lexicography, as well as, eventually, anthropology, archeology, biblical exegesis, linguistics, literary criticism, and even law" — A kingdom in splinters. The field "nowadays is less a ruin than the shadow of a ruin; no, even less than that, the vestige of a shadow." An anecdote:
    At times there was something decidedly otherworldly about other philologists I met. In the 1970s, when I studied at the University of Tübingen and had the good fortune to work with Manfred Ullmann, the great lexicographer of Classical Arabic, he startled me one day by excitedly brandishing a file card on which was written the Arabic word for “clitoris” (bazr) and exclaiming, “Kli-tO-ris! What do ordinary folk know about Kli-tO-ris?” (More than you imagine, I thought.) Needless to say, it was the word—its etymology, its cognates, its morphology—that captivated him.
On a similar note, clitics in Spanish were a major topic of graduate study with Professor Jorge Guitart, a very cunning linguist. Speaking of things sweet, "The word for honey gives you a good breakdown of Europe's main languages," as this posted map shows — A good, quick guide to Europe's languages, and more.

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