Prelude to Baltic Linguistics: Baltic Languages and Nations in Renaissance Europe

Pietro U. Dini (Università di Pisa)

In my speech, I intend to draw up the guidelines of an inquiry into
linguistic historio­graphy within Baltology. The 16th century has
notoriously been the saeculum mirabile in the field of Baltistics because
written languages emerged at that time. Linguistic ideas, however, were
already present in the Baltic area before the first written monuments.
Balticists have investigated the documents, but have disregarded the
contemporary linguistic ideas which were well diffused both in the
Central-Eastern and in Central-Western Europe.

The speech draws attention to the linguistic theories on the Baltic language
known and circulating prior to the 16th century during the so-called
pre-scientific linguistics (Paleocomparativism and/or Pre-comparativism). It
focuses on the origin of Baltic Linguistics and comments on the
multiplicity, variety, simultaneousness and sincretism in linguistic
theories. The speech covers each specific aspect and the relationships
among them. I will present a comparative synopsis of each of the three main
theories about the Baltic languages expressed by authors of the 16th
century, namely: 1) the Slav and the Illyrian theories; 2) the Roman theory
and its variants, 3) the so-called Quadripartite theory. I also mention
minor theories as the Prussian theory and the Hebrew Theory. Finally, I will draw some general conclusions.

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