All Scholars

BRUGMANN, Karl

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  • Date of Birth: March 16, 1849
  • Born City: Wiesbaden
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Karl Wilhelm Heinrich & Eleonore Christiane Philipine B.
  • Date of Death: June 29, 1919
  • Death City: Leiipzig
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Valeska “Therese” Friedrike Berner, 1882
  • Education:

    Study at Halle, 1867-8; Leipzig, 1868-71; Ph.D., 1871.

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Gymnasium, Wiesbaden, 1871-2; Leipzig, 1872-7; asst. Russian Institute of Classical Philology, Leipzig, 1872-7; lecturer, Leipzig, 1877-82; prof. comp. philology, 1882-4; prof. comp. philology, Freiburg, 1884-7; prof. Sanskrit & comp. Linguistics, Leipzig, 1887-1919.

  • Publications:

    “A Problem of Homeric Textual Criticism (1870); ‘Nasalis sonans in der indogermanischen Grundsprache’. Studien zur griechischen und lateinischen Grammatik 9 (1876); ‘Zur Geschichte der stammabstufenden Declinationen. Erste Abhandlung: Die Nomina auf -ar- und -tar-,” Studien zur griechischen und lateinischen Grammatik ibid., (1878). Preface to Morphologische Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiet der indogermanischen Sprachen, 1(1878), trans. Winfred Lehmann in A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Historical Indo-European Linguistics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963); “Lithuanian Folk Songs and Tales,” with August Leskien (1882); “Griechische Grammatik” in Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. Iwan Müller (Munich: Beck, 1885) 2:1-126 (Subsequently published in an enlarged version as separate volume of 632 pages, in 1900); Grundriß der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen, vols.1-2 (phonology & morphology), vols. 3-5 (syntax) by Berthold Delbrück (Strasburg: Teübner, 1886-93; trans. Joseph Wright, R. Seymour Conway and W.H.D. Rouse as Elements of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic languages (London: David Nutt, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner. 1888-1895; Second edition 1897-1916); “Short Comparative Grammar” (1902) "Die Syntax des einfachen Satzes im Indogermanischen" (1925)

  • Notes:

    Karl Brugmann (born “Brugman”; family name changed in the year of his marriage 1882), began the study of linguistics at Halle, but after teaching at the secondary level, he moved to Leipzig, where he would eventually spend the bulk of his professional career and become the center of a linguistics program that he made the finest in Europe. Linguistics, a German specialty, had begun around 1818 as an historical study, then comparative (Rask, Bopp, Grimm) followed by the formalized study by such as August Schleicher (1821-68). Brugmann belonged to the third wave of linguistic study, which tried to establish the Indo-European paradigm of western European languages. He began to publish his ideas while teaching school at the Russian Institute in Leipzig and departed from historians by focusing on the rules and dynamics of continuous morphological and phonological change. Brugmann and his young cohort were disparagingly called by traditional historical linguists, “Junggrammatiker,” (= “youngbloods”), known in English as “neogrammarians.” The group, of which Brugmann and Hermann Osthoff (1847-1909) were the leaders and August Leskien (1840-1916) and Hermann Paul (1846-1921) were prominent members.  They believed that language change resulted from immutable phonetic laws, one of which, “Brugmann’s Law,” governed sound change in Proto-Indo-European. They stressed the value of analogy as not only a feature of modern languages but of ancient ones as well. Their scientific, strict research methodology, which transformed notions of diachrony, influenced generations of grammarians. He was a welcome collaborator on a number of projects: with Georg Curtius (1820-65) he edited the series Studien zur griechischen und lateinischen Grammatik to which he contributed “Nasalis sonans,” advocating views on phonology that Curtius could not support; in 1878, Brugmann founded a journal with Hermann Osthoff (1847-1909), Morphologische Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiete der Indogermanischen Sprachen, which ran to 6 volumes, to publicize his group’s carefully formulated manifesto defying the methodological bases of the traditionalists; and with the Germanic Indo-Europeanist Wilhelm Streitberg (1864-1925) he founded the journal Indogermanische Forschungen (“Indo-European Research”). His own work concentrated on Indo-European with a particular emphasis on Latin and Greek. Thanks to the initiative of three British linguists his works were regularly translated into English. Translation into English was particularly significant for Brugmann’s Greek grammar was long considered one of the clearest and most comprehensive of any grammar in any language and was widely used in Europe and America. While describing the language from an historical point of view, he nevertheless included the neogrammarians’ synchronic phonology, morphology, and syntax. 

    Brugmann’s greatest work was the two volumes containing his vast store of knowledge about Indo-European and the Indo-European languages that formed his part of the Grundriß der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen, published in five volumes several parts (three volumes were written by the comparative syntactician Berthold Delbrück [1842-1922]), beginning in 1886, with a second edition following soon after. Building on Schleier’s Indo-Germanic grammar and thus ultimately Bopp’s comparative linguistics, he employed his contacts with those making discoveries in other languages, with the result that the work represented the latest knowledge in comparative and historical Indo-European studies. While relying on a broader base of scholarship than the Neogrammarians alone, he nevertheless maintained his views on phonology, morphology, syntax and grammar. He began to revise and expand his work in 1897 and produced a second edition in 1916. 

    Throughout the list of subsequent discoveries and theories, Brugmann’s data and the rigor with which he compiled it are valuable templates for later scholars. Brugmann was recognized as the leading figure in his field: he was elected the first president of the Society for Indo-European Studies when it was founded in 1912, he was knighted by the King of Saxony, and was awarded an honorary Doctor f Laws degree from Princeton on its jubilee in 1896. His influence both as teacher and colleague extended even across the Atlantic, from the Swiss Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), the Austrian-born American Maurice Bloomfield (1855-1928) and the Russian Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1890-1938), who all played major roles later in the development of ‘modern’ synchronic linguistics, He wrote mostly on phonology & morphology but also syntax & meaning In 1902-1904, Brugmann published an abridged and slightly modified version of his Grammar, which received a French translation. He also produced an abridged one-volume edition of the Grundriß and died as he was completing the 2nd full edition of that work.

  • Sources:

    Max Förster, “Worte der Erinnerung an Karl Brugmann,” Indogermanisches Jahrbuch, 6 (1918) vii-x; “Karl Brugmann,” Indogermanisches Jahrbuch 7 (1919); W. Streitberg, SGW 73 (1921) 25-40; Id. Indogerm. Jahrb. 7 (1921) 143-52; “Karl Brugmann and Late Nineteenth-Century Linguistics,” in Theodora Bynon & F.R. Palmer (eds.) Studies in the History of Western Linguistics: in Honour of R.H. Robins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) 150-71; Winfred Lehmann, Theoretical Bases of Indo-European Linguistics (London: Routledge, 1993); N.E. Collinge, “History of Historical Linguistics,” in E.F.K. Koerner and R.E. Asher (eds.), Concise History of the Language Sciences (Oxford: Elsevier, 1995);  R.H. Robins, A Short History of Linguistics, 4th ed, (London: Longman, 1997); Wilhelm Streitberg, S. Chapman, & P. Routledge (eds), Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. Press, 2005) 45-8.

  • Author: Ward Briggs