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International Conference on Historical Linguistics

Frontiers of Language: Texas, Germans, and the Development of Shoshonean Linguistics



Daniel J. Gelo


In 1851 an article appeared in the Geographisches Jahrbuch (Geographic Yearbook, Gotha) claiming to establish definitive connections, using language observations, among the Comanches, Shoshones, and Apaches. The author of the article, Heinrich Berghaus, was a well-established cartographer but had no history of original anthropological research. Titled “Über die Verwandtschaft der Schoschonen, Komantschen und Apatschen” (“On the relationship of the Shoshones, Comanches and Apaches”), the article was based on lexical data gathered by Emil Kriewitz, a young German settler in Texas,and included a list of 366 Comanche words and their German translations, along with much valuable ethnographic detail. It appeared at a time when geography, ethnology, and linguistics were forming and differentiating as modern disciplines. Here we consider, for the first time, Berghaus’s and Kriewitz’s influence on the course of ethnology and linguistics in North America.

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