- A world of words: Revisiting the work of Renward Brandstetter (1860–1942) on Lucerne and Austronesia ed. by Robert Blust and Jürg Schneider
On June 28–29, 2010, a conference was held in Lucerne to commemorate the 150th birthday of Renward Brandstetter (1860–1942), the first dedicated scholar of Austronesian comparative- historical linguistics. Apart from his activities in Austronesian linguistics, Brandstetter did groundbreaking work on the dialect of the Lucerne canton and was one of the foremost Swiss dialectologists around the turn of the twentieth century. He was, furthermore, involved in the study of traditional theater, literature, anthropology, classical music, and education. One of the main aims in his later life was to spread among academics and the colonial establishments his humanistic conviction that Austronesian language speakers were equal to Indo-European language speakers in their intellectual and spiritual development.
The volume under review is a collection of most of the papers presented during that conference. The authors deal with different aspects of Brandstetter’s life and work. Jürg Schneider gives general biographic information; Robert Blust and Walter Haas evaluate Brandstetter’s linguistic contributions; Waruno Mahdi has a close look at his humanistic message; Holger Warnk, Roger Tol, Iwar Werlen, and Peter Kamber try to catch a glimpse of the scholar at work; Wolfgang Marschall and Jacqueline Achermann try to understand what sort of man Brandstetter really was.
In the introduction, Jürg Schneider gives some general information about Brandstetter’s life and work. He characterizes the man’s scholarly contributions, which, as noted above, were extremely wide-ranging. According to Schneider, Brandstetter’s publications did not always get the recognition they deserved. This was due to several factors: (i) he worked in two rather disconnected scholarly fields, (ii) he had most of his work printed locally in Lucerne rather than in standard academic journals, and (iii) he wrote in German at a time when this language was fast losing its position as the major medium of scientific exchange. Schneider also writes about the Lyceum (the college in Lucerne where Brandstetter was trained and where he also taught), Brandstetter’s humanistic message and how it was manifested in his work, his relation to the Canton Library in Lucerne, and his autobiography.
In a separate chapter, Schneider writes about the formative years of Brandstetter’s work in the period between 1880 and 1905, using the only sources that are available, namely Brandstetter’s autobiography, and various eulogies and obituaries. The autobiography gives a rather limited insight into his character and what happened in his life. Among the other sources, the obituary by his friend Bühlmann is the most detailed. Schneider writes about Brandstetter’s father, who shared his son’s linguistic interests and contributed to the Swiss German Idiotikon, a national project to compile a dictionary of Swiss dialects. He also writes about Brandstetter’s most influential teachers. Franz Misteli (1841–1903) taught him general and Indo-European linguistics and introduced him to Völkerpsychologie (lit. “ethnopsychology,” a nineteenth-century German school of [End Page 297] thought encompassing anthropology and linguistics).1 George Karel Niemann (1823–1905), a Dutch Indonesianist, who was the first to point out a close relationship between Acehnese and Cham (Niemann 1891), taught him about Indonesian languages and literatures. Schneider also relates the circumstances that might have induced Brandstetter to gradually abandon Swiss dialectology in favor of Austronesian studies, and of his friendship with José Rizal, the Filipino freedom activist.
Holger Warnk gives a refreshingly critical assessment of Brandstetter’s legacy as the first translator and analyst of Malay literature in the German-speaking world. He also points out another of Brandstetter’s achievements that is not mentioned elsewhere: his translation of the opus 23 for piano and voice by Paul J. Seelig (1876–1945), a well-known composer in the Dutch East Indies (Seelig 1913). For Brandstetter, Malay literary products were...