chapter  1
Pages 23

Indo-European linguistics arose as a new field at the end of the eighteenth century for a variety of reasons. Increased interest in Asia, especially India, had led to investigation of its literature, its law and religions among cultural concerns. The Asiatic Society of Bengal, at whose meetings its founder, Sir William Jones (1746-94),1 delivered his influential lectures, was established in the aim of pursuing those investigations. At the same time the Romantic movement, especially in Germany, devoted consider­ able attention to the study of earlier periods, at least in part on the grounds that knowledge of simpler eras would assist an understanding of the culture of their own time. And gifted individuals, such as Franz Bopp (1791-1867), had great interest in learning the ancient language of India, to the extent of acquiring it from the manuscripts themselves, with little help from hand­ books or teachers. Such motives led to one of the most fruitful intellectual pursuits of the nineteenth century - the investigation of the numerous languages of the Indo-European language family and determination of their background, ultimately also of the language of a preliterate period now referred to as Proto-Indo-European. From the beginning of Indo-European studies, interest was not con­

fined to the languages alone, but was extended also to the culture of their speakers, notably its literature. One of the most important instigators of those studies, Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), was a leading member of the older German Romantic school. After study of Sanskrit texts in Paris, he wrote a highly influential treatise “on the language and wisdom of the Indians” (1808).2 The book expressed lofty aims, one of which was knowledge of the ‘innermost structure’ of language. It was also instru­ mental in prompting Franz Bopp to go to Paris, where he acquired the background that led to his treatise, which is credited as the starting point of Indo-European linguistics as well as comparative linguistics (1816).3 In Sources for this chapter: Bopp (1816, 1820); Lehmann (1967), for selections by Jones, Grimm, Brugmann, among others; Pedersen (1931); Szemerenyi (1970 [1989]).