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Lectures on The Science of Language   By:

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Lectures on

The Science of Language

Delivered At The

Royal Institution of Great Britain


April, May, and June, 1861.

By Max Müller, M. A.

Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford; Correspondence Member of the Imperial Institute of France.

From the Second London Edition, Revised.

New York:

Charles Scribner, 124 Grand Street.



Dedication Preface. Lecture I. The Science Of Language One Of The Physical Sciences. Lecture II. The Growth Of Language In Contradistinction To The History Of Language. Lecture III. The Empirical Stage. Lecture IV. The Classificatory Stage. Lecture V. Genealogical Classification Of Languages. Lecture VI. Comparative Grammar. Lecture VII. The Constituent Elements Of Language. Lecture VIII. Morphological Classification. Lecture IX. The Theoretical Stage, And The Origin Of Language. Appendix. Index. Footnotes




The Members Of The University Of Oxford,

Both Resident And Non Resident,

To Whom I Am Indebted

For Numerous Proofs Of Sympathy And Kindness

During The Last Twelve Years,

In Grateful Acknowledgment Of Their Generous Support

On The

7th Of December, 1860.


My Lectures on the Science of Language are here printed as I had prepared them in manuscript for the Royal Institution. When I came to deliver them, a considerable portion of what I had written had to be omitted; and, in now placing them before the public in a more complete form, I have gladly complied with a wish expressed by many of my hearers. As they are, they only form a short abstract of several Courses delivered from time to time in Oxford, and they do not pretend to be more than an introduction to a science far too comprehensive to be treated successfully in so small a compass.

My object, however, will have been attained, if I should succeed in attracting the attention, not only of the scholar, but of the philosopher, the historian, and the theologian, to a science which concerns them all, and which, though it professes to treat of words only, teaches us that there is more in words than is dreamt of in our philosophy. I quote from Bacon: "Men believe that their reason is lord over their words, but it happens, too, that words exercise a reciprocal and reactionary power over our intellect. Words, as a Tartar's bow, shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle and pervert the judgment."


Oxford , June 11, 1861.


When I was asked some time ago to deliver a course of lectures on Comparative Philology in this Institution, I at once expressed my readiness to do so. I had lived long enough in England to know that the peculiar difficulties arising from my imperfect knowledge of the language would be more than balanced by the forbearance of an English audience, and I had such perfect faith in my subject that I thought it might be trusted even in the hands of a less skilful expositor. I felt convinced that the researches into the history of languages and into the nature of human speech which have been carried on for the last fifty years in England, France, and Germany, deserved a larger share of public sympathy than they had hitherto received; and it seemed to me, as far as I could judge, that the discoveries in this newly opened mine of scientific inquiry were not inferior, whether in novelty or importance, to the most brilliant discoveries of our age.

It was not till I began to write my lectures that I became aware of the difficulties of the task I had undertaken... Continue reading book >>

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