Humboldt’s innere Sprachform: Its contribution to the lexicographical description of language diversity

Anne-Marie Chabrolle-Cerretini, Savina Raynaud

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The concept of innere Sprachform (inner form of language) condenses Humboldt’s commitment in holding together his theory of the unity of language and of the individuality of languages. It can act as a guide in describing languages based on the creative driving forces of linguistic features. It guided Humboldt’s empirical, descriptive work on languages, as is now clear, as his unpublished writings have begun to be edited (Humboldt, 1994–). We are therefore no longer compelled to stop at his theoretical claims. The paper is divided into two parts. The first part (§1) explores the concept of Sprachform (language form) in Humboldt’s writings, while the second part (§§ 2–42-4) is devoted to its procedural aspects and is intended to update his project using devices available in computational linguistics (Stemming, Snowball, and WordManager), especially computational lexicography, and finally evaluating what we still owe to Humboldt’s vision. The focus is especially on Humboldt’s Auswahl Vaskischer Wörter in alphabetischer Ordnung (ed. Hurch, 2012) and on the Racines mexicaines (ed. 2000). Our claim is that Humboldt’s perspective foreshadows a great deal of recent research, carried out on large amounts of linguistic data exploiting computational linguistic tools.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)95-110
Numero di pagine16
RivistaLanguage and History
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015


  • Stemming
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt
  • WordManager
  • computational linguistics
  • forma linguistica interna
  • inner form of language
  • lessicografia
  • lexicography
  • linguistica computazionale
  • morfologia
  • morphology
  • semantica
  • semantics


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