ABSTRACT

Humboldt has had a complex reception in the English-speaking world. The thesis-antithesis-synthesis rhetorical structure he inherited from Fichte has contributed to misunderstanding of his views. In the later nineteenth century he was depicted as an evolutionist, including by his prominent American disciple Brinton. His thought helped to shape twentieth-century anthropology in the USA through the work of Boas, who, however, cited him only once, and it had an impact on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, though how much of one is debated. If Noam Chomsky’s claim to be his intellectual heir is dubious, Humboldt’s shadow looms over current work on embodied language, and is central to Taylor’s (2016) attempt to redirect the Anglophone philosophical tradition towards a conception of man as ‘the language animal’.

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