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From Grammatical to Didactic Modelization: A Comparative Analysis of Early Romance Grammaticography (up to 1600) (French, Occitan, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese)

My research concerns the historiography of grammar as the descriptive 'hard core' (Swiggers 2012) of the history of linguistics, more specifically the earliest grammatical descriptions of the Romance languages. The time span chosen (13th century-1600), corresponding to the foundation of the vernacular traditions, provides us with a primary corpus of some 50 titles, representing 5 language areas (viz., Occitan, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese).  

Compared to the current status quaestionis, my research projects innovates in several respects. First, I introduce a comparative dimension, whereas most analyses in this field limit themselves to one linguistic tradition. Moreover, I enrich the current research by including a particularly rich and original tradition, Occitan, which is often neglected in comparative studies of early Romance grammaticography.  

Subscribing to a well-established methodology within Louvain linguistic historiography, I submit the texts from this primary corpus to an analysis based on an interpretive framework, combining an ecolinguistic reading (Haugen 1972, Steffensen-Fill 2014) with an analysis of the grammarians’ descriptive approach, focusing on two specific cases, viz. the treatment of 'l'assiette du nom' (Damourette & Pichon) and the conjunction. The conjunction case study is meant to complement the existing research (which mainly focuses on the variable word classes), and to explore to what extent these early grammarians incorporated the syntactic dimension in their description of the vernacular.  

At a later stage, grammatical and didactic modelization will be linked to ascertain if, and to what extent, didactic strategies contributed to the descriptive validity of the grammar. This coupling of didactic and grammatical modeling constitutes another potentially innovative dimension within my research.  

The cross-sectional analysis of texts from different traditions will yield a synthetic overview of the various strategies used by the earliest grammarians to solve descriptive and didactic problems. These strategies most often apply some version of the “Extended Latin Grammar” framework, thereby, logically, crossing 'national' and linguistic boundaries. The results will refine the currently available data with respect to national traditions, replacing these within a broader framework, and provide the history of ideas with a more accurate, because less fragmented, picture of the 'second linguistic technological revolution' (Auroux 1992) that constituted the massive 'grammatization' of the vernaculars in the Early Modern period.  


Auroux, Sylvain. 1992. “Introduction [:] Le processus de grammatisation et ses enjeux”. Ab eod. éd. Histoire des idées linguistiques. Tome 2. Le développement de la grammaire occidentale, 11-64. Liège - Bruxelles: Mardaga. 

Desmet, Piet. 1996. La linguistique naturaliste en France (1867-1922): nature, origine et évolution du langage. Leuven: Peeters (= Orbis/Supplementa 6). 

Díaz Villalba, Alejandro. 2013. Le participe dans les grammaires des langues romanes (XVe – XVIIIe siècles). Histoire comparée d’une classe grammaticale. Paris: Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, thèse de doctorat. 

Haugen, Einar. 1972. The Ecology of Language. Essays by Einar Haugen. Selected and Introduced by Anwar S. Dil. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

Lauwers, Peter. 2004. La description du français entre la tradition grammaticale et la modernité linguistique: étude historiographique et épistémologique de la grammaire française entre 1907 et 1948. Leuven: Peeters (= Orbis/Supplementa 24). 

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Peetermans, Andy. 2020. The Art of Transforming Traditions. Conceptual Developments in Early Modern American Missionary Grammar Writing. PhD Dissertation, Leuven. 

Schäfer-Prieß, Barbara. 2000. Die portugiesische Grammatikschreibung von 1540 bis 1822. Entstehungsbedingungen und Kategorisierungsverfahren vor dem Hintergrund der lateinischen, spanischen und französischen Tradition. Tübingen: Niemeyer [= Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 300]. 

Steffensen, Sune Vork - Fill, Alwin. 2014. “Ecolinguistics: The State of the Art and Future Horizons”. Language Sciences 41. 6‑25. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2013.08.003.  

Swiggers, Pierre. 2012. “L’homme et la matière grammaticale: historiographie et histoire de la grammaire”. In Colombat, Bernard – Fournier Jean-Marie – Raby, Valéry (éds), Vers une histoire générale de la grammaire française. Matériaux et perspectives. Actes du colloque de Paris (HTL/SHESL, 27-29 janvier 2011), 115-133. Paris : Champion. 

Szoc, Sara. 2013. Le prime grammatiche d’italiano nei Paesi-Bassi (1555-1710). Struttura, argomentazione e terminologia della descrizione grammaticale. PhD Dissertation, Leuven. 

Vallance, Laurent. 2019. Les grammairiens italiens face à leur langue (XVe-XVIe s.). Berlin: de Gruyter (= Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 397). 

Van Hal, Toon. 2010. ‘Moedertalen en taalmoeders’. Het vroegmoderne taalvergelijkende onderzoek in de Lage Landen. Brussel: Paleis der Academieën (= Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, Nieuwe  Reeks, nr. 20). 

Van Rooy, Raf. 2020. Language or Dialect? The History of a Conceptual Pair. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Verleyen, Stijn. 2008. Fonction, forme et variation – analyse métathéorique de trois modèles du changement phonique au XXe siècle (1929-1982). Leuven & Paris: Peeters (= Orbis/Supplementa 30). 


Date:26 Feb 2021 →  Today
Keywords:linguistics - historiography of linguistics
Disciplines:History and historiography of linguistics
Project type:PhD project