The History of linguistic theories research lab was created in 1984 (URA 381 CNRS dir. : J.-C. Chevalier) ; renewed in 1988 (dir. : J.-C. Chevalier) and in 1992 (dir. : S. Auroux), and then was transformed into a “UMR” (Unité Mixte de Recherche, number 7597, CNRS/Université Paris VII/ENS Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Lyon) in 1997. Its current partners are CNRS, Paris Diderot University and Sorbonne Nouvelle University (since 2009). The research lab is currently directed by Émilie Aussant (CR CNRS, director since January 2014, successor of Sylvie Archaimbault) and Christian Puech (PU Univ. de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, assistant director).
1) Objectives of the research laboratory
The HTL research group is the site of the development and dissemination of research on the history of thought about language and languages, across a number of cultural zones. The laboratory brings together mainly linguists, specialists in very different languages (from Tamil to Hebrew, via Ancient Greek and French) and historians and philosophers of science.
Internationally, HTL is at the heart of a network which it contributed to creating and which it helps grow and prosper. Cooperations are mainly lead with Germany (University of Potsdam), Australia (University of Sydney), Brazil (University of Sao Paulo, Campinas, University Mac Kenzie), Spain (University of Salamanque, Barcelona), USA (Illinois University at Urbana Champaign), India (EFEO, IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur), Italy (Univ. La Sapienza, Univ. of Brescia, of Salerne, of Cosenza, of Palerme, the Scuola Normale in Pisa), United Kingdom (Univ. of Cambridge, Oxford, Sheffield), Russia (Academy of Sciences, Univ. of Mosco, Univ. of Saint-Petersburg), Slovenia (Univ. of Novy Sad), Ukraine (Univ. of Kharkiv). The journal Histoire Epistémologie Langage is one of the four main international journals in the field of the history and epistemology of linguistics with Historiographia Linguistica (John Benjamins), GS (Münster) et Language & History (London).
The research group has three main goals:
More specifically, members of staff are involved in operations that are organized in 3 complementary directions :
2) Results of the laboratory
By “result” in history of linguistic theories we mean :
Significant results have been gained both on electronic and paper supports. Some of the major results between 2012 and 2017 are :
A. Five main publications
1. S. Archaimbault, J.-M. Fournier et V. Raby (éds.), Penser l'histoire des savoirs linguistiques. Hommage à Sylvain Auroux, Lyon, ENS éditions, 2014, coll.: Langages (716 p.)
Brought together in a tribute to Sylvain Auroux, philosopher and historian of language sciences, the fifty contributions of this volume come from specialists in different languages and / or different historical periods. Each of them demonstrates a part of the work of the historian of the languages sciences by mobilizing all the conceptions he constructed : describing theories, studying the circumstances in which the disciplines dedicated to language and languages appeared, reconsidering developments, measuring the impact of linguistic ideas on cultural and human development.
2. B. Colombat et A. Lahaussois (dir.), Histoire des parties du discours, Leuven, Peeters, Orbis/Supplementa, upcoming (env. 800 p.)
Research conducted for many years in the DHTL program resulted in this book. Made up of 15 chapters, this volume is dedicated to the history of word categories in the Western tradition from Greek Antiquity to the beginning of the XXe century passing through Arab tradition and Sanskrit traditions. The book aims at renewing the vision of concepts which look familiar, but whose elaboration is in fact very complex, in the perspective of long-term history.
3. É. Aussant (ed.), La traduction dans l’histoire des idées linguistiques, représentations et pratiques, Paris, Geuthner, 2015 (276 p.)
The book, made from a collective research program conducted over four years, brings together 12 contributions. The idea of “translation” is approached through an epistemological and transcultural approach, which is a double perspective that had not been previously used. The specifity of the understanding of “translation” by language theoreticians, not much studied, is given detailed analysis, with many diverse case studies.
4. F. Cinato, L’ars grammatica de Priscien vue à travers les gloses carolingiennes, Turnhout, Brepols, 2015 (753 p.)
This book constitutes the first monograph dedicated to the study of the glosses contained in the oldest manuscripts of Priscian’s grammar. Most of the material is published for the first time. An overview and state of the art description of the Carolingian reception of Priscian, the volume aims to analyse the stages of its reception in monasteries, first from the point of view of the books disseminating it, then from the point of view of masters that used it, showing the pedagogical context and the cultural environment. For this purpose, glosses, which constitute the fundamental evidence, are the subject of a triple investigation: typological, textual and historical.
5. N. Riemer (ed.), The Routledge handbook of semantics, Abingdon, Routledge, 2016 (534 p.)
The book, made up of about 30 chapters written by an international team, shows an assessment of contemporary semantic research, studied in not only a descriptive perspective, but also an epistemological and historical one. Different branches are equally represented with two main goals : transcending the formal/cognitive-functional division and giving researchers access to a critical overview of research on meaning informed by the most up-to-date contributions from related disciplines.
B. 6 major documents
1. Corpus des Textes Linguistiques Fondamentaux (Resp. B. Colombat)
CTLF is an electronic portal made to give access to the main works in linguistics from the origin of the discipline. It is continually updated. It is composed of 5 websites : (1) descriptive records (702 records) ; (2) a specialized bibliography (4237 records) ; (3) texts in image mode (170 books) ; (4) texts in text mode (765 texts representing 65483 pages) ; (5) a group of articles about the domain. It is associated to a related website, Frantext-CTLF that allows combined researches on all of the texts. The database is widely used by people all over the world (as we know thanks to statistics provided by Google Analytics) interested in the development of linguistics theories.
2. Electronic critical edition of the Liber Glossarum (http://liber-glossarum.huma-num.fr/index.html), ERC LibGloss (Resp. A. Grondeux)
The LibGloss project (ERC Stg 263577) , led by Anne Grondeux, with the collaboration of Franck Cinato, took place between 2011 and 2016. The ERC funding helped set up a team that, in 5 years, produced an electronic edition of the Liber Glossarum with 56.000 records, which is now available online on a website http://liber-glossarum.huma-num.fr/index.html
3. Les Notae Dunelmenses (Durham C.IV.29). Priscien lu par Guillaume de Champeaux et son école, A. Grondeux, I. Rosier-Catach (eds.), Turnhout, Brepols, 2017 (2 vols, 1200 p.)
These two volumes are the result of about 10 years of research that provided material for many articles and talks in France and abroad. The second one gives a critical edition of a group of notes about Priscian, which can be attributed to Guillaume de Champeaux. Guillaume is the first teacher of the Parisians schools and the “private tutor” of Abélard, previously known almost exclusively through secondary and indirect mentions. The first volume is a historical and doctrinal introduction that aims at reconstructing his teaching and his school and identifying his students. This works shows how important his teaching is, not only for an understanding of Abélard’s logico-linguistic theories, but also for the history of semantics in general, based on the study of essential themes (predication, the verb be, syncategoremes, the difference between meaning and reference, adjective and paronymy).
4. Mauger, Claude (1688) Grammaire française / French Grammar, éd. critique par V. Raby, Garnier, 2014 (651 p.)
This textbook of French written for English speakers was remarkably widely available in England, France and the Netherlands between 1653 and the end of the XVIIIth century. It helped with the extension of the Latin grammatical model across three languages (Latin, French, English), by bringing the languages face to face. This edition inaugurates the collection “Descriptions et theories de la langue française”.
5. Website TUL Quest (Resp. A. Lahaussois)
Developped with the support of the FR « Typologie et universaux linguistiques », the website (http://tulquest.humanum.fr/) is an archive of typological questionnaires collected in order to construct the first epistemological analysis of these descriptive tools. The website is public with 2 possible modes of access : one allowing external users to enrich the databse with new questionnaires (with metadata and associated documents), the other one allowing the consultation of the archive using a detailed taxonomy of tools found in the database.
6. Modélisations et sciences humaines. Figurer, interpréter, simuler, C. Blanckaert, J. Léon et D. Samain (dir.), Paris, L’Harmattan, 2016 (468 p.)
This work brings together a selection of papers delivered during the SHESL-HTL conference in 2014, in association with Koyré Center. Its originality is to offer a reflection both historical and epistemological on models and modelling within a wide documented range of the language and human sciences (linguistics, history ofgrammar , language philosophy, but also geography, psychology, economy, art history, etc). By opening up a common space for these disciplines, it does not limit their possible interactions (transfers, similarities) but initiates at the same time interaction between the history of language sciences and the history of the social and human sciences.
3) Principles and methods in the laboratory
The goals pursued by the laboratory and the results it obtains are the result of the implementation of several methodological principles that emerged in work over recent years. These principles are shared by its members, who adapt them freely in accordance with the range of objects on which they work. We think that the history of linguistics ideas presupposes the assumption of a commensurability of linguistic representations in time and space, whether we are talking of empirical descriptions, prescriptive grammars or more “speculative” theorization.
It is that commensurability (to be constructed through special expertise) that will help to most accurately evaluate constants and changes, traditions and events, ruptures and continuities regardless the time period studied (from Antiquity to modernity the most contemporary) and no matter the degree of proximity or remoteness (geographical and cultural) of the traditions considered.
A rigorous conception of historical temporality results from this: the past is not history, time is not just a “medium”, the “historicity systems” of linguistic ideas are constructions (not all of them equal) that must be tested again and again.
In that way, erudition seems an absolutely necessary but never sufficient condition for historical work. Many domains of the history of linguistic representations still need to be systematically documented in a reliable way. The most rigorous philological investigation, the establishment of corpora in accordance with the most modern techniques are thus essential. But what gives them meaning is an epistemological perspective. That is to say that the team’s methods are set in the tradition of historical epistemology, the history of sciences.
The history of linguistic ideas is not a “curiosity cabinet” or an antique shop gathering picturesque but totally out of date facts in order to exhibit them. We think that the historian’s activity takes on a wider responsibility and purpose with regard to the language sciences as they are currently developing : that of giving them a historical knowledge only so far available in the natural sciences and formal disciplines, which benefit from the consequences of this situation, as much for their the recognition as for their management, their epistemological reflection, their didactics and the training of their researchers.
Finally, we could certainly grant that the edition of a treatise by a Greek grammarian might be the work of a team of philologists also working on tragedies; that links between grammar and theology during the Middle Age might be studied by a team of philosophers, that the study of links between language and the nation might be conducted by historians of ideas, that linguists working on such or such a topic could devote part of their time to establishing historical information. But distributed efforts such as these would probably be less interesting than the unified and coordinated framework that the laboratory tries to constantly foster, maintaining regular dialogue with other disciplines. This is the framework which, in the view of the team’s members, must create a really existing scholarly domain (with its own concepts and practices) dedicated to languages sciences in historical perspective.