Germanic philology

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This article is about the history of the discipline, for linguistic phenomena, see Germanic languages and the navigation template below.

Germanic philology is the philological study of the Germanic languages particularly from a comparative or historical perspective.

The beginnings of research into the Germanic languages began in the 16th century, with the discovery of literary texts in the earlier phases of the languages. Early modern publications dealing with Old Norse culture appeared in the 16th century, e.g. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (Olaus Magnus, 1555) and the first edition of the 13th century Gesta Danorum (Saxo Grammaticus), in 1514. In 1603, Melchior Goldast made the first edition of Middle High German poetry, Tyrol and Winsbeck, including a commentary which focused on linguistic problems and set the tone for the approach to such works in the subsequent centuries. He later gave similar attention to the Old High German Benedictine Rule. In England, Cotton's studies of the manuscripts in his collection marks the beginnings of work on Old English language. The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin translations of the Edda (notably Peder Resen's Edda Islandorum of 1665).

Germanic philology together with linguistics as a whole emerged as a serious academic discipline in the early 19th century, pioneered particularly in Germany by such linguists as Jacob Grimm. Important 19th century scholars include Henry Sweet and Matthias Lexer.

The structure of the modern university means that for the most part work on the field is focussed on medieval English studies, medieval German studies, etc. Only relatively few universities can afford to offer Comparative linguistics as a discrete field.

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