Degérando’s three prize essays and the shift in linguistic thought at the turn of the 19th century
Degérando started out from the views of the French ideologists on the relationship of language and thought, but increasingly distanced himself from them. This is already evident based on the choice of reference authors and also on the increasing emphasis on empirical research. His prize essays reflect the fundamental changes in linguistic thought during the late 18th century. He was successful in the competition of the Institut National (1797/1799) and with another essay at the Berlin Academy (1802). His main argument against Condillac and the ideologists is that empirical knowledge does not depend on signs. Therefore, the development of better languages will not improve this kind of human knowledge.