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Introductory Essay: The Goals of Linguistic Historiography

Linguistic historiography is a discipline that has come into its own during the past several decades. It is now possible to cite a large body of literature devoted to linguistic historiography and to identify an international community of scholars dedicated to historiographic research. Although historiography is not yet a standardized part of the linguistic student's training in the United States, historiographic perspectives are appearing more and more in the work of American linguists (see Preface, note 1). The increasing appearance of these perspectives suggests that American linguists perceive an increasing need for the theoretical depth and dimension that historiography provides. However, when it comes to historiographic perspectives on linguistics in the United States, few exist, and almost none at all for the period before the twentieth century. In fact, up to now, the tradition of American linguistics announced in my title has been assumed not to exist. This book challenges that negative assumption by providing a history of American linguistics from the founding of the American Philosophical Society in 1769 to the founding of the Linguistic Society of America in 1924.