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Philology (term formed in the 16th century from Greek φιλολογία philología , Latin philologia , to φίλος phílos and λόγος lógos , literally "love of language") is the summary term for the linguistic and literary studies of a language or a branch of language. A distinction is made between ancient philology ( Classical Philology ), which deals with ancient Greek and Latin (as well as ancient oriental philology , initially mainly for ancient Hebrew), and modern philology, the study of modern languages. In many languages, their philology deals with the older and modern languages: Sinology , Japanology ; Iranian Studies .

Is sometimes called philology exclusively linguistics or only the scientific study of an author and his literary work ( "Goethe philology") refers.


The term was first used in modern times in 1575 in Johann Fischart's translation of the novel Gargantua by Rabelais , which introduced the French Classical period . In ancient times the philologist was still called γραμματικός grammatikós or κριτικός kritikós . But there is ancient Greek φιλολογός philologos and of it Latin philologus in the sense of a literature lover or a diverse interested reader. The typical philological activities (collecting, commenting, editing) certainly existed: The poet and librarian of Alexandria Callimachos in the 3rd century BC is considered the high point of ancient philology . BC Varro has already established rules for the improvement ( emendation ) of transcription errors among the Romans .

The philology of the humanists began in the 14th century with Petrarch and others, including Boccaccio , Salutati , Lorenzo Valla , with the work on the original Livy text of Ab urbe condita , the later Codex Harleianus  2493. The humanists asked both the question of the true Text in the sense of the original as well as the actual sense of the text, which must be made understandable through explanations. In 1397 Manuel Chrysoloras was called to Florence as the first Graecist . The German philologists of humanism were theologians with an interest in the “ three holy languages ”, above all Johannes Reuchlin , who promoted Hebrew studies , Philipp Melanchthon , Erasmus von Rotterdam , who revised the Vulgate , or humanists critical of the church like Ulrich von Hutten , who promoted Germania popularized by Tacitus . From Italy the centers migrated to France ( Budé , Scaliger , Casaubonus ) and to the University of Leiden ( Lipsius , Voss ). In the 18th century Richard Bentley stood out in England, the lexicographer Gesner in Göttingen, Germany. In Spain, Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada also dealt with the various languages ​​early on, followed by Andrés de Poza (1587).

The original task of philology, in addition to collecting, was textual criticism , i.e. the production of a text that was as authentic as possible, derived from various different manuscripts . This edition philology is still a sub-area of ​​philology today. In addition, there was the commentary through marginal notes or independent writings, from which the contextual explanatory literary history in the broader sense emerged.

The oldest philology is considered to be Classical Philology , which deals with Greek and Roman antiquity, understood as classical. Most of the other philologies arose from it. The so-called new philologies, which include English , German , Slavic and Romance studies , developed primarily during the Enlightenment and Romanticism and formed the basis for the development of further offshoots, for example Lusitan and Romanian studies .

German Philology

German philology begins with the edition of Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach in 1753 by Johann Bodmer . A little later, in 1765, Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry appeared in England ; James Macpherson recalled (through forgeries) the Scots Ossian . At German universities, Georg Friedrich Benecke first dealt with Middle High German texts in the 18th century , followed by von der Hagen in Berlin in 1810 with a critical edition of the Nibelungenlied . Behind this was Herder's interest in folk culture and the romantic interest in the Middle Ages. The first chair for English was created at the Georg-August University of Göttingen, which was founded by Georg II and opened in 1737 . The anti-Napoleonic fighter of the Wars of Liberation, Friedrich Christian Diez , first taught Romance studies in Bonn in 1830. But at the same time, in the context of increasing globalization, non-European philology emerged: Georg Friedrich Grotefend deciphered the cuneiform script , Champollion the hieroglyphs . Josef von Hammer translated the Persian poet Hafis in 1812 , August Wilhelm Schlegel dealt with Sanskrit . A little later, German Slavic Studies began in 1874 with the professorship Vatroslav Jagić 'at the Berlin University. Much earlier, however, there was a "Lithuanian seminar" at the University of Königsberg since 1718, which examined the close relationship with the Baltic region .

See also for development: History of Classical Philology ; History of German studies ; English studies , Romance studies etc.

In the context of Oriental Studies , numerous small philologies were created that continue to exist as orchid subjects at larger university locations. For theology, however, Hebraistics is a necessary subject in biblical studies .

The tendency to split a larger philology into many sub-philologies is also known as orchidization .

Subjects (selection)

Overarching philologies

Classical Philology (Classical Philology)

Ancient Near Eastern Studies ( Ancient Near Eastern Languages )

New Philology - Europe

Philologies - Middle East, Asia

Philologies - Africa

Philological program documents

Web links

Commons : Philology  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Classical Philology  - Sources and Full Texts
Wikisource: Journals (Philology)  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Philology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German School and Handbook. G. Freytag Verlag / Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Munich / Vienna 1965.
  2. Philology . Koninklijke Brill NV, doi : 10.1163 / 1574-9347_dnp_e921170 ( [accessed April 12, 2020]).