James Burnett—Also known as Lord Monboddo


Portrait of James BurnetJames Burnett, known as Lord Monboddo, was a Scottish judge, a researcher of language evolution, and a philosopher. In 1774 he wrote a six volume book entitled Of the origin and progress of language (1773-1792). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Monboddo

In his book he analyzed the structure and evolution of different languages. He discovered that primitive languages such as Eskimo used multisyllabic words for rather simple concepts. He explained this by arguing that when developing language there was a concern for clarity in that they were used to communicate the presence of danger. He had a pragmatic concept of language development seeing language skills to be a function of context. Monboddo also formulated what is now known as the single-origin hypothesis, the theory that all human origin was from a one region of the earth.

Writings by Lord Monboddo

Monboddo (1773-1792) The origin and progress of man and language (6 volumes).

Monboddo (1738-1760) Decisions of the Court of Session

Monboddo (1779-1799) Ancient metaphysics or Of the origin and progress of language.

Writings about Lord Monboddo

Aarsleff, Hans (1983) The study of language in England, 1780-1860 (London, 1983).

Cloyd, Emily L. (1969) Lord Monboddo, Sir William Jones, and Sanskrit, American Anthropologist 71 (1969): 1134-35.

Cloyd, E. L. (1972). James Burnett, Lord Monboddo.

Hobbs, Catherine (1992). Rhetoric on the margin of modernity, Vico, Condillac, Monboddo. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Jooken, Lieve (1999) The linguistic conceptions of Lord Monboddo Leuven.

Knight, William Angus (1900). Lord Monboddo and some of his contemporaries. London: John Murray.

Land, Stephen (1986) The philosophy of language in Britain: Major theories from Hobbes to Thomas Reid. New York.

Lovejoy, Arthur O. (1948). Monboddo and Rousseau. Essays in the history of ideas. Baltimore.

Nichols, W. L. (1853). Lord Monboddo. Notes and Queries, 7, 281.