Language, History and Language and History
Defining a topic for discussion by conjoining two large, vague nouns with ‘and’ is not calculated to elicit narrowly focused debate. On the contrary, it is a procedure that apparently invites contributors to say anything that in some way relates one designated thing or phenomenon to the other; and when the things or phenomena are in themselves complex and multifaceted, and the connections and relationships between them numerous and varied, the likeliest outcome is no more than an enhanced and perhaps rueful appreciation of how many disparate issues can be made to fall under the heading in question. This shortcoming of the ‘X and Y’ formula may appear especially salient in the case of ‘language and history’. To take only the most obvious point, it seems to embrace questions pertaining to the language of history and questions pertaining to the history of language. Aren’t those two (at least two) different subjects? Is there anything to be gained by bringing them together in a single volume? Does this collection go beyond merely bringing them together and perform the altogether more useful and significant operation of yoking them together?