From Cosmopolitan to Vernacular in the Language Sciences: A Global History Perspective

Berichte Zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 46 (1):18-37 (2023)
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Abstract

Sheldon Pollock's justly famous work on cosmopolitan orders and processes of vernacularization in the worlds of Latinity and Sanskrit invites questions of a comparative and global‐historical character. I will raise such questions in the context of the Persianate cosmopolitan order, especially as exemplified by the early modern Ottoman Empire, focusing on the wave of vernacularizations this empire witnessed in the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries. In this process of vernacularization, new vernacular forms of philological learning appear to have played a crucial role. Building on Bourdieu's work, I will try to analyze the Ottoman cosmopolitan as a pre‐modern form of linguistic domination, and vernacularization as a form of resistance. Moving beyond Bourdieu, I will be arguing for a genealogical approach that is alive to premodern non‐European philological traditions, and to the historically variable relation between (philological) knowledge and power.

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Michiel Leezenberg
University of Amsterdam

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