Philology is the study of in oral and s; it is the intersection of , , , and (with especially strong ties to ). Philology is more commonly defined as the study of literary texts as well as oral and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning. A person who pursues this kind of study is known as a philologist. In older usage, especially British, philology is more general, covering and . studies . Classical philology principally originated from the and the around the fourth century BCE, continued by Greeks and Romans throughout the /. It was eventually resumed by European scholars of the , where it was soon joined by philologies of other European (, ), Eurasian (, etc.), Asian (, , , , etc.), and African (, , etc.) languages. involve the comparative philology of all . Philology, with its focus on historical development ( analysis), is contrasted with due to 's insistence on the importance of . The contrast continued with the emergence of and linguistics alongside its emphasis on , although research in historical linguistics is often characterized by reliance on philological materials and findings.


The term ' is derived from the (''philología''), from the terms (''phílos'') "love, affection, loved, beloved, dear, friend" and (''lógos'') "word, articulation, reason", describing a love of learning, of literature, as well as of argument and reasoning, reflecting the range of activities included under the notion of . The term changed little with the Latin ''philologia'', and later entered the English language in the 16th century, from the ''philologie'', in the sense of 'love of literature'. The (''philólogos'') meant 'fond of discussion or argument, talkative', in , also implying an excessive ("") preference of argument over the love of true wisdom, (''philósophos''). As an of literary erudition, ''philologia'' appears in fifth-century postclassical literature (, ''De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii''), an idea revived in Late Medieval literature (, ). The meaning of "love of learning and literature" was narrowed to "the study of the historical development of languages" () in 19th-century usage of the term. Due to the rapid progress made in understanding s and , the "golden age of philology" lasted throughout the 19th century, or "from and to ". In the Anglo-Saxon world, the term philology to describe work on languages and literatures, which had become synonymous with the practices of German scholars, was abandoned as a consequence of anti-German feeling following .. "Them Philologists: Philological Practices and Their Discontents from Nietzsche to Cerquiglini." ''The Year's Work in Medievalism'' 26 (2011): 4–12. Most continental European countries still maintain the term to designate departments, colleges, position titles, and journals. opposed the nationalist reaction against philological practices, claiming that "the philological instinct" was "universal as is the use of language". In usage, and in British academia, ''philology'' remains largely synonymous with "historical linguistics", while in , and US academia, the wider meaning of "study of a language's grammar, history and literary tradition" remains more widespread. Based on the harsh critique of Friedrich Nietzsche, some US scholars since the 1980s have viewed philology as responsible for a narrowly study of language and literature.



The branch of philology studies the relationship between languages. Similarities between and were first noted in the early 16th centuryThis is noted in Juan Mascaro's introduction to his translation of the ''Bhagavad Gita'', in which he dates the first ''Gita'' translation to 1785 (by Charles Williams). Mascaro claims the linguist stopped in Paris in 1802 after returning from India, and taught Sanskrit to the German critic . Mascaro says this is the beginning of modern study of the roots of the Indo-European languages. and led to speculation of a common ancestor language from which all these descended. It is now named . Philology's interest in ancient languages led to the study of what were, in the 18th century, "exotic" languages, for the light they could cast on problems in understanding and ing the origins of older texts.


Philology also includes the study of texts and their history. It includes elements of , trying to reconstruct an author's original text based on variant copies of manuscripts. This branch of research arose among ancient scholars in the Greek-speaking world of the 4th century BC, who desired to establish a standard text of popular authors for the purposes of both sound interpretation and secure transmission. Since that time, the original principles of textual criticism have been improved and applied to other widely distributed texts such as the Bible. Scholars have tried to reconstruct the original readings of the from the manuscript variants. This method was applied to Classical Studies and to medieval texts as a way to reconstruct the author's original work. The method produced so-called "critical editions", which provided a reconstructed text accompanied by a "", i.e., footnotes that listed the various manuscript variants available, enabling scholars to gain insight into the entire manuscript tradition and argue about the variants. A related study method known as studies the authorship, date, and provenance of text to place such text in historical context. As these philological issues are often inseparable from issues of interpretation, there is no clear-cut boundary between philology and . When text has a significant political or religious influence (such as the reconstruction of Biblical texts), scholars have difficulty reaching objective conclusions. Some scholars avoid all critical methods of textual philology, especially in historical linguistics, where it is important to study the actual recorded materials. The movement known as has rejected textual criticism because it injects editorial interpretations into the text and destroys the integrity of the individual manuscript, hence damaging the reliability of the data. Supporters of New Philology insist on a strict "diplomatic" approach: a faithful rendering of the text exactly as found in the manuscript, without emendations.


Another branch of philology, cognitive philology, studies written and oral texts. Cognitive philology considers these oral texts as the results of human mental processes. This science compares the results of textual science with the results of experimental research of both psychology and artificial intelligence production systems.


In the case of , philology includes the prior of the language under study. This has notably been the case with the , , , , and languages. Beginning with the famous decipherment and translation of the by in 1822, a number of individuals attempted to decipher the writing systems of the and . In the case of and , decipherment yielded older records of languages already known from slightly more recent traditions ( and ). Work on the ancient languages of the Near East progressed rapidly. In the mid-19th century, and others deciphered the , which records the same text in , , and , using a variation of for each language. The elucidation of cuneiform led to the decipherment of . was deciphered in 1915 by . , a script used in the ancient Aegean, was deciphered in 1952 by and , who demonstrated that it recorded an early form of Greek, now known as . , the writing system that records the still-unknown language of the , resists deciphering, despite many attempts. Work continues on scripts such as the , with great progress since the initial breakthroughs of the phonetic approach championed by and others in the 1950s. Since the late 20th century, the Maya code has been almost completely deciphered, and the Mayan languages are among the most documented and studied in Mesoamerica. The code is described as a style of writing, which could be used to fully express any spoken thought.

In popular culture

In the ' by , the main character, Elwin Ransom, is a philologist – as was Lewis' close friend . Dr. Edward Morbius, one of the main characters in the science fiction film ', is a philologist. Philip, the main character of 's 'bourgeois comedy' , is a professor of philology in an English . , the main character in 's 1997 comic novel ' is a philologist, educated at Cambridge. The main character in the in 2012, ', is a philologist, and a significant part of the film deals with his work. A main character of the science fiction TV show ', , is mentioned as having a PhD in philology.

See also

* ' * * * * * * *


External links

(A special web search through the philological sites of ) * *

University of Florida

* [ Asociación de Jóvenes Investigadores Filólogos de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (AJIF-UCM)] {{Authority control Textual scholarship