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Fade to Silence: Indians and the Study of Language

Fade to Silence: Indians and the Study of Language

Chapter:
(p.79) 3 Fade to Silence: Indians and the Study of Language
Source:
History's Shadow
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226115115.003.0003

In the years before the Civil War, people pursued the study of the Indians' languages with enthusiasm. The scholars who did so believed that understanding Indian languages would unlock the answers to a host of questions about their origins, interrelationships, the degree of social advancement they had attained, and their history. Furthermore, some of these students of language at the turn of the nineteenth century believed that the study of Indian languages would form the foundation upon which a new and distinctly American science of language would be built. It did not turn out precisely that way. By the end of the nineteenth century, the study of Indian languages, rather than being a field unto itself, had become one of the four legs upon which the “chair” of anthropology sat.

Keywords:   Indian languages, social advancement, anthropology, science of language, nineteenth century, science of language

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