Philology, Etymology

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Summary

Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary criticism, history, and linguistics. It is more commonly defined as the study of literary texts and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning.

Details

The term philology is derived from the Greek (philologia), from the terms (philos), meaning "love, affection, loved, beloved, dear, friend" and (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 . 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 (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,

(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". 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". 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.

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