After surveying some familiar territory regarding the field’s formulation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this essay probes far deeper into the past to conjecture on a prehistoric, metaphorical extension of a word for unleavened bread batter to a word for people. Such an etymology, with origins in the ancient hearth of Indo-European nationalities, may provide insight into the variable implications of “folk,” disparaging or complimentary, when it is deployed as a term of rhetoric. Seeking to understand the fringe status of folklore in contemporary research universities, this essay draws a contrast with philology, which successfully recast itself as historical linguistics in the twentieth century, sloughing off burdensome connotations taken up during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and the nineteenth-century reaction of Romanticism.


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pp. 117-140
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