In most simple terms, philology is a study of words.


Words that get to be spoken, words that 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 are also going to need patience 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 his theory of a “universal instinct”.


It would have been a tumbler, where colonial politics brimmed into the Proto-Indo-European theory by William Jones, without foot or stem.


The mixtures did not make an agreeable entity, as the idea was for the American melting pot, and philology got worse than adulterated. Well, but not by own agency.


The “golden age of philology” lasted throughout the 19th century, or “from Giacomo Leopardi and Friedrich Schlegel to Nietzsche”, reads the bias from 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, continues Wikipedia with the mark “citation needed”.


There may be some problem finding a reasonable quote. 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.


Similarly, 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).


Particular philological curricula may vary, but there is nothing Nietzschean about library training, or history and theory of literature. (I had to look up “Nietzschean” online.)


Tolkien’s “universal instinct” looks faint in the light of contrastive grammars, and history of England or the USA could not support him, either.


Finally, one ancestor language will have little hold for practical, modern English: phonetics, grammar, study and translation of written and spoken language, as it is today.


Outside the box or cup, people are people, and ideas by persons should not make for judgment on philology 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, as ability to appreciate advanced forms of poetry. Feel welcome to my philological thinking matter,
Of course, everyone is also free to remain by silly bias.


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.



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