Meillet, Weinreich etc.

Nicholas Ostler nostler at
Sat Mar 13 09:54:44 UTC 2004

spolsb at wrote:
> It would help if someone could offer the reference to Meillet that will h=
> elp
> identify the young Yiddish learner who coined or passed on the phrase tha=
> t
> Max Weinreich (and all of us) find so fascinating.  Is it indeed the firs=
> t
> striking assertion of the significance of power in language?
> Bernard Spolsky

Not exactly: this is what the most influential linguists were saying in the 15th century...

Quando bien comigo pienso mui esclarecida Reina: i pongo delãte los ojos el antiguedad de todas las cosas: que para nuestra recordacion & memoria quedaron escriptas: una cosa hállo & sáco por conclusion mui cierta: que siempre la lengua fue compañera del imperio: & de tal manera lo siguió: que junta mente començarõ. crecieron. & florecieron. & despues jũta fue la caida de entrambos.

When I consider well, most illustrious Queen, and set before my eyes the antiquity of all the things which remain written down for our record and memory, one thing I find and draw as a most certain conclusion, that always language was the companion of empire, and followed it in such a way that jointly they began, grew, flourished; and afterwards joint was the fall of both.

Antonio de Nebrija, opening words of the preface to his Gramatica de la lengua castellana, 1492

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