Antonio Gramsci studente di linguistica

ANNO 52 2011
Giancarlo Schirru

Antonio Gramsci the linguistics scholar
This article investigates Antonio Gramsci’s commitment to linguistic studies between 1911 and 1915, in the context of the scientific debate of that time. After an introduction (section 1), where the letter from prison of 19 March 1927 is analyzed, section 2 is dedicated to discovering Gramsci’s scientific past through the contributions of Luigi Russo, Vittorio Santoli, Giuseppe Vidossi, Benvenuto Terracini, Benedetto Croce and Palmiro Togliatti, in 1947-1949. The relationships between the young Gramsci and the linguists Francesco Ribezzo and Matteo Bartoli are illustrated in sections 3 and 4, where the lecture notes from academic year 1912-1913 (Matteo Bartoli, Course of Historical Linguistics, University of Turin), taken down by Gramsci, are examined.
Then, section 5 illustrates Gramsci’s Sardinian studies, and his likely contribution
to Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke’s Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, with the task of checking its Sardinian lexical material. Gramsci’s studies in Greek, Latin and Sanskrit comparative grammar, and his interest in the methodological writings of Antoine Meillet (particularly in the topics of the social conception of language, the regularity of linguistic change and the descriptive value of sound laws, language contact and the relationships among European linguistic traditions), are illustrated in section 6. Section 7 underlines the unique nature of the Italian school of dialectology, in which Gramsci was educated, and the scientific debate on Romance and Indo-European etymology at the beginning of 20th century, and illustrates the specific positions of Meyer-Lübke and Meillet, along with their differences from those of Jules Gilliéron and Hugo Schuchardt (as well as Croce’s). Possible theoretical analogies between such a debate and Antonio Labriola’s reflections on linguistic methodology, on the «genetic» conception of history, and on Marxism are suggested.

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