Franz Bopp

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Franz Bopp
Franz Bopp, 1866. Graphic by A. Neumann.

Franz Bopp (born September 14, 1791 in Mainz , † October 23, 1867 in Berlin ) was a German linguist and Sanskrit researcher . He is considered the founder of historical-comparative Indo-European linguistics ; Bopp preferred the term "Indo-European".

life and work

Bopp was the son of Andreas Bopp (around 1765-1840), a feed and wagon clerk at the Kurmainzischer Hof, who originally came from Stockstadt am Main , and his wife Regina Linck († 1820), a Mainz citizen's daughter.

Bopp moved with his parents from Mainz to Aschaffenburg , where his high school teachers Karl Windischmann and the librarian Joseph Merkel (1788–1866) aroused his interest in oriental studies. Windischmann and Bopp read Friedrich Schlegel's On the Language and Wisdom of the Indians , which caused a sensation. In 1812 Franz Bopp went to Paris. There, in contact with Antoine-Léonard de Chézy , Silvestre de Sacy , August Wilhelm Schlegel and others, using the local book and manuscript collections, his pioneering work About the conjugation system of the Sanskrit language matured in comparison with that of the Greek , Latin , Persian and Germanic Language that appeared in Frankfurt am Main in 1816 with a preface by his teacher Windischmann. This writing of less than 160 pages marked the beginning of Indo-European studies as a science; Franz Bopp is considered to be its founder.

In the conjugation system, Bopp used the verbal structures of these languages ​​to provide methodological evidence of their genetic relationship, which the English orientalist William Jones had first postulated. He later expanded the range of Indo-European languages ​​to include Slavic , Lithuanian , Albanian and Armenian .

From King Maximilian I of Bavaria he received the means to go to London. Here he made the acquaintance of the then Prussian ambassador Wilhelm von Humboldt , who became his student in Sanskrit. Bopp expanded his conjugation system to include an English representation including the declination and published the text with a Latin translation of Nala , an episode from the Mahabharata (London 1819).

After Bayern returned, he received on Humboldt's instigation in 1821 an extraordinary professor at the University of Berlin , was in 1822 a member of the local Academy of Sciences and in 1825 full professor of Oriental literature and general philology in Berlin. In the same year he married Luise Matthies († 1879), the Protestant daughter of a Hildesheim councilor. He and his family moved into an apartment at Behrenstrasse  64 in Berlin's Friedrichstadt district .

His extensive activity, which conquered one linguistic area after the other in numerous individual writings , culminated in the publication Comparative Grammar of Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, Gothic and German (Berlin 1833-52, 6 vols .; 3rd ed. 1868–71, 3 vol .; translated into English by EB Eastwick in 1845 and into French by Michel Bréal in 1866 ).

In addition, Bopp wrote a detailed textbook of the Sanskrit language (Berlin 1828), based on which the Latin Grammatica critica linguae sanscritae (Berlin 1829–32) and the critical grammar of the Sanskrit language, which is also distinguished by its practical arrangement, in a shorter version (Berlin 1834, 4th ed. 1868).

The Glossarium sanscritum (Berlin 1830, 3rd edition 1866) provided sufficient material for the first reading of the Sanskrit and a corresponding glossary for comparing languages. In addition to Nalas and Damajanti , he took from the Mahābhārata the carefully edited episodes Indralokāgamanam. Arjuna's Journey to Indra's Heaven and The Flood along with three other of the most important episodes of the Mahâbhârata .

Franz Bopp's grave with honorary grave markings

May 16, 1866 was celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the appearance of his conjugation system . At the same time, the day served to set up a special foundation, the Bopp Foundation . They were financed by contributions from the German princes, the philologists from the German states, but ultimately from all over the world.

He was buried in the Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof II in Berlin-Kreuzberg . His final resting place is preserved as an honor grave of the state of Berlin . There is a portrait relief by Bopp on the tombstone.


Franz Bopp was one of the first thirty knights of the civil class of the Pour le Mérite ( Pour le Mérite for science and art ), which was donated by Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In 1842.
Since 1850 he was a foreign member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and since 1854 of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . In 1855 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1863 to the American Philosophical Society . From 1857 he was a foreign member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres . In 1865 he received the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art .

In Aschaffenburg, Berlin-Kreuzberg and Mainz-Neustadt , the Boppstrasse were named after him.

Works (selection)

His other writings include:

  • About the conjugation system of the Sanskrit language in comparison with that of the Greek, Latin, Persian and Germanic languages. Andreasche bookstore, Frankfurt am Main 1816 ( digitized ).
  • Extensive teaching structure of the Sanskrita language. 1827 ( digitized ).
  • Vocalism, or comparative language reviews. Berlin 1836 ( digitized ).
  • About the Celtic languages. Berlin 1839.
  • About the relationship between the Malay-Polynesian languages ​​and Indo-European. Berlin 1841.
  • About the Caucasian members of the Indo-European language tribe. Berlin 1847.
  • About the language of the old Prussians. Berlin 1853.
  • Comparative Accentuation System. Berlin 1854.
  • About Albanian in its family relationships. Berlin 1855.


  • Catalog of the library for sale from the estate of Professor Franz Bopp, who died in Berlin. Berlin 1868 ( digitized ).
  • Salomon Lefmann : Franz Bopp, his life and his science. Berlin 1891–1897.
  • Roland Hoffmann: A world-famous linguist from Mainz: Franz Bopp in memory. In: Vierteljahreshefte Mainz , September 2017, pp. 62–67.
  • Wolfgang Morgenroth: Franz Bopp as an Indologist. In: Reinhard Sternemann (Ed.): Bopp Symposium 1992 of the Humboldt University in Berlin. Heidelberg 1994, ISBN 3-8253-0193-1 , pp. 162-172.
  • Reinhard Sternemann: Franz Bopp and the comparative Indo-European linguistics. Observations on Bopp's language comparison on the basis of erroneous interpretations in linguistic literature. Innsbruck 1984, ISBN 3-85124-579-2
  • Rudolf Sommer: Linguist Franz Bopp - What does King Suppiluliuma from Hatuscha have to do with Franz Bopp from Aschaffenburg? In: Spessart: Monthly magazine for the Spessart cultural landscape , June 2007, ISSN  1613-9518
  • Harald Wiese: A journey through time to the origins of our language. How Indo-European Studies explains our words. Logos, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-8325-1601-7 .
  • August LeskienBopp, Franz . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 3, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1876, pp. 140-149.
  • Walther WüstBopp, Franz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 453 f. ( Digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Franz Bopp  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Franz Bopp  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Der Futterschreiber , [381–382] des -s, plur. ut nom. sing. at farms, a clerk at the feed office, a clerk who is subordinate to the feed marshal or feed master. Adelung - Grammatical-critical dictionary of the High German dialect
  2. Walther Wüst:  Bopp, Franz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 453 f. ( Digitized version ).
  3. ^ Aschaffenburg Court Library, History. University of Göttingen
  4. Bopp, F. In: General housing gazette for Berlin, Charlottenburg and surroundings , 1850, part 1, p. 48.
  5. ^ Berlin 1838
  6. Berlin 1824 Berlin 1829
  7. ^ Member entry by Franz Bopp at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on December 26, 2016.
  8. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 45.
  9. Boppstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )