ABSTRACT

Whoeverisconcernedwiththedevelopmentofthecraftoflinguistics inthenineteenthcenturymustseeWilhelmvonHumboldtasanobject ofbothwonderandembarrassment.Historiographicallyeverythingabout himiscontroversial.Doesheintellectuallybelongintheeighteenthor inthenineteenthcentury?Inlinguisticsdoeshecountasanamateuror aprofessional?Andwheredoeshisstrengthlie,inhistorical-comparative linguisticsorinuniversalgrammar?WhatdohismostfamouspronouncementsaboutinnereSprachform,languageasenergeia,etc.really mean?Ingeneraldoweunderstandhismaintenetsorishisobscurity overpowering?WhatJedhimtolinguistics:Germanphilosophyorthe FrenchEnlightenment?Iftheformer,whosethoughtwasmostinfluentialonhim:Kant'sorHerder'sorFichte's?Andwhatabouthisfortune inlinguistics:didhedeterminethefuturedevelopmentsordidhissuccessorsseehimasanegligibleentity?Washemoreinfluentialinthe nineteenthorinthetwentiethcentury?Finally,whatdoesHumboldt meantousnowadays?Ishestillalivingforceorsomeonelongsince forgotten?Eachoneofthesequestionshasbeenanswered,andreputablyanswered,indiametricallyoppositefashions.HenceHumboldt hasaplaceofhonourinChomsky'sCartesianLinguistics(1966),but alsoinJespersen's(1922)andLeroy's(1971)accountsofnineteenthcenturylinguistics;isadmiredbyabehaviouristsuchasBloomfield andimitatedbyanidealistsuchasVossler.ForCassirerandhislater followersHumboldt'slinguisticthoughtmustbeseenwithinaGerman traditioninspiredbyKantandHerder,whileforAarslefflinguistics acquiredacentralpositioninHumboldt'sthoughtastheresultofhis stayinParis(1798-1801)andhismainideaswerereachedonthebasis ofhisreadingofCondillacdoneundertheinfluenceoftheideologues.' Finally,eveninthehistoriographyofthecomparativists,Humboldt's

fortuneisvaried:Benfeydeeplyrespectedhim,evenifwithsomereservations(Schmitter1991b,7),butPedersen([193I]1962)hardlymentions himandheplaysnorealroleinthefirsteditionofDelbriick'sEinleitung (1880),whilethefourthedition(1904)givesadetailedaccountofhis work(Koerner1989,6f.).2