The Genius of Language

Rudolf Steiner

Translated by Gertrude Teutsch and Ruth Pusch
Geisteswissenschaftliche Sprachbetrachtungen
GA 299

Schmidt Date   Comments
3942 December 26, 1919    Language from an Historical Standpoin
3946 December 28, 1919    The Evolution of Language from an Organic Point of View
3948 December 29, 1919    The Transforming Powers of Language in Relation to Spiritual Life
3952 December 31, 1919    History of Language in Its Relation to the Folk Souls
3957 January 2, 1919    Language and the Sense for Reality or Its Lack
3959 January 3, 1919    The Inner Path of the Genius of Language


December 26, 1919
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Language from an Historical Standpoint
Relation of a people's language to its soul life. Coining new words for the present age still possible in German, less so in the West. The "genius of language." Historical entrance of Greek and then more strongly the ideas and vocabulary of Christianity into Germanic areas. Language-forming power and how it dwindled. Influence of French, Italian, Spanish, and finally English on the German language. The inmost kernel of language: penetration of sense into sound.

December 28, 1919
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The Evolution of Language from an Organic Point of View
Importance of ideas, images, and vocabulary brought to Central Europe from the South with Christianity. The waning of language-forming power, though still alive in the dialects. Consonants imitate outer happenings; the inward nature of vowels. False theories of language. Speech sounds and soul qualities; Ulfilas's language. Metamorphoses of sound and meaning.

December 29, 1919
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The Transforming Powers of Language in Relation to Spiritual Life
The foreign components of German and its connection to other European languages. Indo-European: the original language. The wave movement of human development; alienation of social relationships and isolation. Differentiations of language according to geographical conditions. Consonants shifts (1500 B.C. - 500 A.D.); three language steps; Greco-Latin to Anglo-Saxon to German. The folk soul element; expletives. Inner wordless thinking.

December 31, 1919
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History of Language in Its Relation to the Folk Souls
Elements from the past in our own words. Earlier musical qualities of language now abstract, with no connection to our feeling life. The emotional, perceptive characteristic of language should be fostered. Shifts of meaning.

January 2, 1920
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Language and the Sense for Reality or Its Lack
Use of language in the Middle Ages: nuances of feeling. Shifts of word meanings. The gradual separation of sound-perception and meaning (concept). Hazy sense of reality expresses itself in abstract language.

January 3, 1919
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The Inner Path of the Genius of Language
Elements of our feeling life and our will expressed by vowel qualities of words. Three steps of language development: consonants, vowel formation, reappearance of consonant emphasis. Concrete advice for teachers.