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Friedrich Engels Zwischen Anthropologie und Sprachwissenschaft

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The author aims to show that Friedrich Engels' linguistic researches, especially in his Der fränkische Dialekt, are to be considered within the same theoretical framework of historic materialism which underlies his more comprehensive studies on the history of primitive peoples, such as the ancient Germanic or Celtic tribes. The main difference, however, between Engels' so-cio-anthropological and his linguistic studies is that for the latter he did not elaborate an evolution model based on the theories of Darwin or L. H. Morgan, for instance, which clearly underlie the former. On the contrary, Engels' linguistic investigation of his own dialect is 'data-oriented' in a very pragmatic way. This is to be seen also as a reaction against the rigid schematism of the neogrammarian school; thus Engels polemicizes against Wilhelm Braune who took the second consonant shift as the only and conclusive criterion for classifying the German dialects. Nevertheless repeated statements in Engels' correspondence and other writings make it clear that he was fully aware of the fact that historical linguistics - and especially the comparative method - had inaugurated a new chapter in the history of language study. Parallels between Engels' linguistic investigations and his socio-anthropological studies can be shown to exist not at the more superficial level of techniques of analysis, but rather at a deeper one: both are part of a global 'science of man' and to be based on a materialistic and dialectic point of view.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 1975

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