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HISTORICAL ROMANCE LINGUISTICS AND THE COGNITIVE TURN Peter Koch Tübingen 1. Institutional retreat of Romance philology Romance philology is a product of early German Romanticism. Starting in the nineteenth century, it established itself as a scholarly discipline in European universities. But from the second half of the twentieth century onward, its position as a part of institutionalized academic activity in most countries could, increasingly, no longer be taken for granted. There are still several international journals carrying the programmatic label "Romance", and the Société de Linguistique Romane holds a congress every three years. Some prominent representatives of a true Romance philology no doubt continue to teach and conduct research in various countries, yet one has the impression that institutionalized Romance philology has, to a large degree, been pushed back to the universities of the German-speaking countries where it had originated. Even here, however, the survival of Romance philology is no longer to be taken for granted. Toward the end of the twentieth century, some in the field, facing a changing student body which, for reasons related to their potential employment, is more interested in language specialization than in a broad academic overview, have begun to call explicitly into question the unity of the field. Furthermore, facing increasing strictures in university financing, Romance philology as a unified field has to justify itself with ever more strenuous arguments to technocratic politicians, university administrators, and even La corónica 31.2 (Spring, 2003): 41-55 42Peter KochLa corónica 31.2, 2003 colleagues from related, "monoglot" philologies. Everywhere the specialists in Romance languages are being advised to break up their field in order to survive the state's rigid budget cuts in the humanities, at least in restricted areas of their discipline. The fact that institutional specialization into French studies, Spanish studies, Italian studies, etc., has long since been an accepted practice in other countries, serves as a convenient argument in an increasingly internationalized academia. All this is certainly to be differentiated again according to further aspects: even in the German-speaking countries, scholars in literary studies for the most part do not consider themselves Romance philologists to the same extent as linguists (numerous exceptions prove the rule!). Furthermore, synchronic linguists have a lesser affinity toward unified Romance philology than diachronic linguists. 2. Diachronic Romance linguistics as the core of Romance philology This last point is of decisive importance here, and I would therefore like to discuss it in greater depth: the core of the unity of Romance philology is without any doubt diachronic Romance linguistics. A comparatist working in French literature may ask why he or she should work with Spanish and Italian literature as points of comparison and not for example with English, German, or Russian literature.1 Similarly, a specialist in synchronic Spanish sociolinguistics could pose the question ofwhether his or her methodological points of reference and standards of comparison must lie exclusively in the Romance language area. To take a last example, synchronic language comparison is not actually bound to any language family, as modern linguistic typology has made very clear with its cross-linguistic studies using representative language samples from throughout the world. It has always been the historical-diachronic relationship ofthe modern Romance languages to Latin which holds Romance philology together at its innermost core. What has always made diachronic Romance linguistics attractive is the tension between evidence of the relative unity and uniformity of a language group, which it reveals qua Romance linguistics, and the ' See Gauger 1981: 8. There are still, nevertheless, numerous literary scholars who continue to regard the Romance language area, with its Greco-Roman roots, as a common cultural area and structure their research accordingly. Historical Romance Linguistics and the Cognitive Turn43 emergence of linguistic diversity which it has to elucidate, systematize, and explain qua historical-diachronic linguistics.2 Traditional problems of Romance philology are animated by precisely this tension: Western versus Eastern part/periphery versus center of the Romance linguistic area, Romania continua versus Romania discontinua, Romance vowel systems, and so on. Of course, this Janus-faced discipline has always had a certain tendency as well towardjustification, to the extent that its representatives feel themselves obligated to identify...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 41-55
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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