Semantic Theories in Europe, 1830–1930
From etymology to contextuality
It is widely believed by historians of linguistics that the 19th-century was largely devoted to historical and comparative studies, with the main emphasis on the discovery of soundlaws. Syntax is typically portrayed as a mere sideline of these studies, while semantics is seldom even mentioned. If it comes into view at all, it is usually assumed to have been confined to diachronic lexical semantics and the construction of some (mostly ill-conceived) typologies of semantic change. This book aims to destroy some of these prejudices and to show that in Europe semantics was an important, although controversial, area at that time. Synchronic mechanisms of semantic change were discovered and increasing attention was paid to the context of the sentence, to the speech situation and the users of the language. From being a semantics of transformations', a child of the biological-geological paradigm of historical linguistics with its close links to etymology and lexicography, the field matured into a semantics of comprehension and communication, set within a general linguistics and closely related to the emerging fields of psychology and sociology.