Leibniz’s philosophical and philological interests overlapped at many points, and some of his fundamental philosophical notions shaped his views on language, particularly his thinking about language history, in decisive ways. Although he is better known for his work on universal language, his writings on natural language and language history are worth consideration both for their subtlety and for the insight they give into the complex history of thought on this topic. The principles of sufficient reason, praedicatum inest subjecto, and his doctrine of marks and traces are echoed in his work on natural languages and in his account of their histories. He attempted to reconcile philosophical investigations of the natural languages with the Biblical accounts of the confusion of languages at Babel, and in his approach to etymology he participated in a long tradition of thinking about language and its essence as hidden or secret, the truth of which remains scattered in signs and which etymology alone may occasionally reveal.

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Keywords etymology, Leibniz, natural language, philology
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2018.1461776
Journal European Legacy
Citation
Hawkins, S. (2018). ‘Selig wer auch Zeichen gibt’: Leibniz as Historical Linguist. European Legacy, 1–12. doi:10.1080/10848770.2018.1461776