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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Linguists trying to classify languages find it difficult to specify what in fact they intend to classify with any degree of precision. This is due to the fact that definitions of the concept of “language” that have been formulated in the history of linguistics are greatly at variance with one another. This chapter gives a brief overview of studies in African linguistic classification. It begins with a discussion of different kinds of linguistic relationship and classification (genetic, typological, areal, practical, geographic) and shows how and to what extent these were frequently confused in the course of the history of research far into the last century. Against the background of the era of Enlightenment and romanticism, the emergence of comparative linguistics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is worked out in the second part of the chapter.

Keywords: linguistic relationship, genetic, typological, areal, linguistic classification, comparative linguistics, history of research

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