The science of language in the nineteenth century

Science also changed approaches to language in the nineteenth century. If Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century could refer to the ‘dusty desarts of barren philology’ which he hoped his dictionary might be able to enliven with ‘verdure’ and ‘flowers’, nineteenth-century philology instead marked out the scientific and empirical methods which increasingly characterized the study of language too. ‘I am a scientist of language’, as James Murray, editor in chief of the OED, affirmed. A range of -ologies specific to language appeared during this time:

The branch of linguistics concerned with the study of dialects.
The study of the form, meaning, and behaviour of words.
The study of the forms of words, in particular inflected forms.
The study of phonological relationships within a language or between different languages.
The branch of linguistics that deals with words and phrases and the concepts that they represent.


While popular works on language continued to appear, its formal study now required analytical knowledge and methodological (and systematic) approaches.

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