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“Sanskrit has brought me to my Finnish
      language and fatherland”
               Herman Kellgren:
  a Fennoman in Berlin, a Humboldtian in Helsinki


                    Łukasz Sommer
                  University of Warsaw
Research context
• Ideologies of Fenno-Ugricity
  – a comparative study in the history of ideas
  – various notions of Fenno-Ugric kinship
  – their roles in identity building projects
  – philosophical background and ideological
    entanglements of linguistics
Herman Kellgren (1822–1856)
• son of a Swedish-speaking pharmacist from Kuopio
• joined the Fennoman movement as a student in
  Helsinki
• friend and disciple of J.V. Snellman
• turned to philology and linguistic studies
• academic visits to Germany:
    – Berlin 1843 (Franz Bopp’s lectures on Sanskrit)
    – Leipzig 1846 (collaboration with Hermann
      Brockhaus)
• 1854 professorship in Oriental languages and
  literatures at the University of Helsinki
• pioneer of Indian studies andcomparative linguistics
  in Finland
Oriental studies and Fennomania
•   from a letter to Snellman (October 1843)
     – I must thank you, Brother, for the advice to go abroad and study Sanskrit:
       now I have a cause to live for, because Sanskrit has brought me to my
       Finnish language and fatherland.

linguistics + romantic nationalism – prominent examples in 19th century Finland:
     • E.Lönnrot
     • J.A. Sjögren              all focused on Finnish and/or related languages
     • M. A. Castrén
     • A. Ahlqvist

     H.Kellgren’s uniqueness:
          → non-Fennicist background
          → extra theoretical awareness
          → tried to analyze Finnish with the tools tested in Sanskritic studies:
                • comparative method
                • language philosophy of Wilhelm von Humboldt
Kellgren’s works on Finnish
• ”I hvad förhållande står språket till nationaliteten?”
    – in Fosterländskt album II, utgifvet af H. Kellgren, R. Tengström, K.
      Tigerstedt. Helsingfors 1845, pp. 33–59
• ”I hvad mån uppfyller Finska språket fordringarne af ett
  språkideal?”
    – in Fosterländskt album II pp. 118–188.
• Die Grundzüge der finnischen Sprache mit Rücksicht auf
  den ural-altaischen Sprachstamm, Berlin 1847, 95 pp.
• „Das Finnische Volk und der Ural-Altaische Völkerstamm“
    – in Jahresbericht der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft für das
      Jahr 1846, Leipzig 1847, pp. 180–197.
• “Kirjoittajat ja kieli”,
    – Suometar 23 08.06.1852.
Humboldt’s linguistic theory (1)
• opus magnum: Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaus und
  ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts, 1836.
  (On the diversity of human language structure and its influence on
  mankind’s mental development)

• philosophical relevance of language diversity
    – unity of language and thought
    – thinking patterns conditioned by particular language structures
• language formed by two principles, material and
  intellectual
    – Humboldtian language ideal: a synthesis of the two, neither
      principle dominant
       • some language structures closer to the ideal than others
       • better language structure → better stimulation of mental
          development
Humboldt’s linguistic theory (2)
• typology of grammatical structures:
   – isolation (e.g. Classical Chinese):
      • the intellectual dominating over the material: no inflection, bare word
        roots organized only by sentence structure
   – incorporation (e.g. Native American languages)
      • the material dominating over the intellectual: uniform syntactic wholes
        ruled by the verb
   – inflection (Indo-European and Semitic languages)
      • a synthesis of the material and the intellectual: internal transformation
        of word roots or suffixation

    „Sanskritic” (= Indo-European) languages superior to all
     others – structurally, intellectually and aesthetically
Finnish in the light of Humboldt’s theory
• very few references to Finnish (or any other Uralic or
  Altaic language) in Humboldt’s works
• Indo-Eurocentric language ideal
• open disregard for agglutinative structures
   – agglutination = every grammatical category is marked by a
     separate suffix of its own, e.g.
      • number and case in talo-i-ssa
      • tense and person in istu-i-tte
   – by Humboldt’s standards agglutination = failed inflection:
      • „mechanical adding, not a truly organic accretion”
      • indicates “a weakness of the inwardly organizing sense
        of language”
Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of
              Humboldtianism (1)
I hvad mån uppfyller Finska språket fordringarne af ett
   språkideal? ( To what degree does Finnish fulfill the
   requirements of a language ideal?, 1845)

  • numerous references to Humboldt
  • agglutination mentioned with no reference to Finnish
  • Finnish characterized (without further explanation) as a
    „markedly inflectional language”
  • apart from minor imperfections in the phonetic system,
    Finnish comes close to the high „Sanskritic” standards
Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of
                 Humboldtianism (2)
Die Grundzüge der finnischen Sprache mit Rücksicht auf den ural-
   altaischen Sprachstamm (Main characteristics of the Finnish
   language with regard to the Uralo-Altaic family, 1847)
  • Finnish analyzed in a comparative perspective, along withTurkic,
    Mongol and Tungusic languages
      » presented as the most characteristic member of the „Uralo-
        Altaic” family – least influenced by other languages
  • a defense of Finnish as an inflected language
      » no direct references to Humboldt
      » main polemical reference: Wilhelm Schott’s Versuch über die
        Tatarischen Sprachen (1836) →
Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of Humboldtianism
                        (2.1)
• Schott:
 – in the “High Asian” (= Altaic and Uralic) languages the word root
   […] tolerates no modification by any grammatical ending”;
   therefore there is only adhesion and no true cohesion to be
   observed.
• Kellgren:
 – true, many Uralo-Altaic languages have not elevated themselves
   to true inflection, or cohesion, but this does not apply to
   Finnish:
  » a Finnish word root remains dominant in all grammatical
     forms, retaining the initial stress and assimilating the suffixes’
     qualities
  » this means succesful blending of stem and suffix  inflection
Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of Humboldtianism (2.2)
 I do not t know what more a language could do to blend the stems and suffixes
 together! In the better known languages the root is indeed more flexible and not as
 stiff as in Finnish, but the ending is firmer; Finnish concentrates its blending capability
 in the end of the stem, while other tongues stretch out the entire word, including the
 root. Is the former way less legitimate just because the latter is more familiar?

 Why is Kellgren’s defense of Finnish unconvincing from a
                 Humboldtian perspective?
 • according to Humboldt, suffixation is a secondary mechanism
   of inflection, inferior to internal change of word roots
 • even Finnish suffixation does not meet the Humboldtian
   standards
     – in proper inflectional suffixation, the inflected word remains
       an organic whole
     – in Finnish, distinct grammatical functions remain visible
Concluding remarks
• Kellgren’s struggle for the reputation of Finnish as an
  illustration of a more general mechanism of intellectual
  import:
   – a peripheral intellectual engaged in an identity-building
     project
   – powerful stimuli from a foreign center: simultaneously a
     source of inspiration and threat, a tool of emancipation and
     self-denial
      – (cf. East European Herderians, Hegelians, Marxists etc.)

• relevance in analyzing the concept of Fenno-Ugricity:
   – an imported concept that became part of the Finns’ (and
     other „Fenno-Ugric nations’”) self-definition

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Kellgren presentation łukasz sommer

  • 1. “Sanskrit has brought me to my Finnish language and fatherland” Herman Kellgren: a Fennoman in Berlin, a Humboldtian in Helsinki Łukasz Sommer University of Warsaw
  • 2. Research context • Ideologies of Fenno-Ugricity – a comparative study in the history of ideas – various notions of Fenno-Ugric kinship – their roles in identity building projects – philosophical background and ideological entanglements of linguistics
  • 3. Herman Kellgren (1822–1856) • son of a Swedish-speaking pharmacist from Kuopio • joined the Fennoman movement as a student in Helsinki • friend and disciple of J.V. Snellman • turned to philology and linguistic studies • academic visits to Germany: – Berlin 1843 (Franz Bopp’s lectures on Sanskrit) – Leipzig 1846 (collaboration with Hermann Brockhaus) • 1854 professorship in Oriental languages and literatures at the University of Helsinki • pioneer of Indian studies andcomparative linguistics in Finland
  • 4. Oriental studies and Fennomania • from a letter to Snellman (October 1843) – I must thank you, Brother, for the advice to go abroad and study Sanskrit: now I have a cause to live for, because Sanskrit has brought me to my Finnish language and fatherland. linguistics + romantic nationalism – prominent examples in 19th century Finland: • E.Lönnrot • J.A. Sjögren all focused on Finnish and/or related languages • M. A. Castrén • A. Ahlqvist H.Kellgren’s uniqueness: → non-Fennicist background → extra theoretical awareness → tried to analyze Finnish with the tools tested in Sanskritic studies: • comparative method • language philosophy of Wilhelm von Humboldt
  • 5. Kellgren’s works on Finnish • ”I hvad förhållande står språket till nationaliteten?” – in Fosterländskt album II, utgifvet af H. Kellgren, R. Tengström, K. Tigerstedt. Helsingfors 1845, pp. 33–59 • ”I hvad mån uppfyller Finska språket fordringarne af ett språkideal?” – in Fosterländskt album II pp. 118–188. • Die Grundzüge der finnischen Sprache mit Rücksicht auf den ural-altaischen Sprachstamm, Berlin 1847, 95 pp. • „Das Finnische Volk und der Ural-Altaische Völkerstamm“ – in Jahresbericht der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft für das Jahr 1846, Leipzig 1847, pp. 180–197. • “Kirjoittajat ja kieli”, – Suometar 23 08.06.1852.
  • 6. Humboldt’s linguistic theory (1) • opus magnum: Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaus und ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts, 1836. (On the diversity of human language structure and its influence on mankind’s mental development) • philosophical relevance of language diversity – unity of language and thought – thinking patterns conditioned by particular language structures • language formed by two principles, material and intellectual – Humboldtian language ideal: a synthesis of the two, neither principle dominant • some language structures closer to the ideal than others • better language structure → better stimulation of mental development
  • 7. Humboldt’s linguistic theory (2) • typology of grammatical structures: – isolation (e.g. Classical Chinese): • the intellectual dominating over the material: no inflection, bare word roots organized only by sentence structure – incorporation (e.g. Native American languages) • the material dominating over the intellectual: uniform syntactic wholes ruled by the verb – inflection (Indo-European and Semitic languages) • a synthesis of the material and the intellectual: internal transformation of word roots or suffixation  „Sanskritic” (= Indo-European) languages superior to all others – structurally, intellectually and aesthetically
  • 8. Finnish in the light of Humboldt’s theory • very few references to Finnish (or any other Uralic or Altaic language) in Humboldt’s works • Indo-Eurocentric language ideal • open disregard for agglutinative structures – agglutination = every grammatical category is marked by a separate suffix of its own, e.g. • number and case in talo-i-ssa • tense and person in istu-i-tte – by Humboldt’s standards agglutination = failed inflection: • „mechanical adding, not a truly organic accretion” • indicates “a weakness of the inwardly organizing sense of language”
  • 9. Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of Humboldtianism (1) I hvad mån uppfyller Finska språket fordringarne af ett språkideal? ( To what degree does Finnish fulfill the requirements of a language ideal?, 1845) • numerous references to Humboldt • agglutination mentioned with no reference to Finnish • Finnish characterized (without further explanation) as a „markedly inflectional language” • apart from minor imperfections in the phonetic system, Finnish comes close to the high „Sanskritic” standards
  • 10. Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of Humboldtianism (2) Die Grundzüge der finnischen Sprache mit Rücksicht auf den ural- altaischen Sprachstamm (Main characteristics of the Finnish language with regard to the Uralo-Altaic family, 1847) • Finnish analyzed in a comparative perspective, along withTurkic, Mongol and Tungusic languages » presented as the most characteristic member of the „Uralo- Altaic” family – least influenced by other languages • a defense of Finnish as an inflected language » no direct references to Humboldt » main polemical reference: Wilhelm Schott’s Versuch über die Tatarischen Sprachen (1836) →
  • 11. Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of Humboldtianism (2.1) • Schott: – in the “High Asian” (= Altaic and Uralic) languages the word root […] tolerates no modification by any grammatical ending”; therefore there is only adhesion and no true cohesion to be observed. • Kellgren: – true, many Uralo-Altaic languages have not elevated themselves to true inflection, or cohesion, but this does not apply to Finnish: » a Finnish word root remains dominant in all grammatical forms, retaining the initial stress and assimilating the suffixes’ qualities » this means succesful blending of stem and suffix  inflection
  • 12. Kellgren vs. the inconveniences of Humboldtianism (2.2) I do not t know what more a language could do to blend the stems and suffixes together! In the better known languages the root is indeed more flexible and not as stiff as in Finnish, but the ending is firmer; Finnish concentrates its blending capability in the end of the stem, while other tongues stretch out the entire word, including the root. Is the former way less legitimate just because the latter is more familiar? Why is Kellgren’s defense of Finnish unconvincing from a Humboldtian perspective? • according to Humboldt, suffixation is a secondary mechanism of inflection, inferior to internal change of word roots • even Finnish suffixation does not meet the Humboldtian standards – in proper inflectional suffixation, the inflected word remains an organic whole – in Finnish, distinct grammatical functions remain visible
  • 13. Concluding remarks • Kellgren’s struggle for the reputation of Finnish as an illustration of a more general mechanism of intellectual import: – a peripheral intellectual engaged in an identity-building project – powerful stimuli from a foreign center: simultaneously a source of inspiration and threat, a tool of emancipation and self-denial – (cf. East European Herderians, Hegelians, Marxists etc.) • relevance in analyzing the concept of Fenno-Ugricity: – an imported concept that became part of the Finns’ (and other „Fenno-Ugric nations’”) self-definition