In most simple terms, philology is a study of words.
Words as they get to be spoken. Words, as they get to be written. Words, as they happen to become human thinking matter. Words in texts old and words in texts new.
To think about taking up this profession, you need to be fond of words, and this is what the name means — the Greek philos and logos together have been to tell one who is fond of words.
You also need patience, to hold on against bias.
Humanity has complicated the philological matter. Philosophy, politics, and war thrown into the same goblet, here comes Friedrich Nietzsche, even without an energetic stir.
In another cup, politics, fable, and war amalgamated into the bubbly tales by J.R.R. Tolkien, to include the fiction his theory of a “universal instinct” was.
It would have been simply a tumbler, where colonial politics brimmed into the Proto-Indo-European theory by William Jones, without foot or stem.
The mixtures did not make as agreeable an entity as the idea for the American melting pot, and philology got worse than adulterated. Well, but not on own ground.
The “golden age of philology” lasted throughout the 19th century, or “from Giacomo Leopardi and Friedrich Schlegel to Nietzsche”, presents the written bias Wikipedia.
Based on the harsh critique of Friedrich Nietzsche, US scholars since the 1980s have viewed philology as responsible for a narrowly scientistic (?) study of language and literature.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, the term was abandoned as a consequence of anti-German feeling following World War I, narrates Wikipedia with the mark “citation needed”.
There may be some problem finding a reasonable quote, not only because the term “physics” remains in use, despite nuclear applications.
No ÜBERMENSCH theory could figure in a philological reading list, and for Nietzsche, whose name I continue to get corrected by the spellchecker, you could blame German philosophy, would it make sense to blame schools rather than the individual, who turned out merely mad.
To compare, how many physicists — as JACK PARSONS? — psychologists — as HARRY HARLOW? — did not qualify for scientific objectivity? One ill-famed and insane graduate of philology in history makes a bearable statistic.
On the side of mental health, it is not possible to drive a philologist insane with words, and as for other methods, other people go mad with them too, hence the ban on unusual punishment and a bearable statistic, indeed.
You might even speculate Nietzsche would have kept his head, had he not departed from philology in his pursuits. Obviously, he would have taken to something else than inventing a super-human; a species is anyway a species. The question yet remains, who is the greater fool: a fool, or the one to follow his or her advice.
Quotients dropped considerably, in Germany before WWII, I happened to read a written pursuit, as the crisis allowed only primary schools and then factory employment, for most people. The people did not read much. After the War, it was not only the damage and division of Germany not to allow having the warfare for an act of wisdom.
For purely philological and educated pursuits, an honest lexicographer might only shrug to a theory for a universal instinct, and a reliable etymologist frown, to an “ancestor” language where words for men, women, children, and houses do not even resemble the “offspring” (feel welcome to READ).
Without knowledge of words, instinct may not be enough to pronounce them, also in the native tongue, and the perspective for a natural change in words as “house” is as distant, as to position the beginnings of language on Earth at some time before dinosaurs and progressively earlier, that is, it looks completely absurd.
From outside the box or cup: people are people, and ideas by persons should not make for judgment on studies overall. Just as we do not ask another baker for a refund, if the local bread is too salty, our assessment on philological works should be individual as well.
There is some goodness to come with meticulous study of language. Philological curricula offer quite a broad linguistic perspective, without any “scientistic” or “scientology” aspects, as I hope this website can show.
Philology can increase your chances to win a job wherever language skill comes to the fore, as in PR, advertising, language teaching, or translation — to name a few.
Some bias against philology might have come with competition for employment, looking to the obvious limits on bakers’ responsibility, in this physical world.
Dishonest competition is not only unethical, however. It is illegal, too. Of course, everyone is free to remain by silly bias, which for the sake of decency yet should not be dressed up in robes for an encyclopedia.
Philology also can help appreciate advanced forms of poetry. Feel welcome to my philological thinking matter,
COMMENTARY ON EMILY DICKINSON’S POETRY.
Hardened opponents of her verse might try a view to one of her linguistic devices, in the first print shape. It changes the way the poetry looks. Me too, I do not like Johnson or Franklin edits.
THE CONSCIOUS EMILY DICKINSON
Feel welcome (!) 🙂
J. R. R. Tolkien wrote “the philological instinct” was “universal as is the use of language”. Wikipedia, Tolkien, J. R. R. (1923). “Philology: General Works”. The Year’s Work of English Studies. 4 (1): 36–37. doi:10.1093/ywes/IV.1.20.