Home    Number 4, 2022

At the Origins of Linguistic Anthropology: Franz Boas

[U istokov lingvisticheskoi antropologii: Frants Boas]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954152204008X


Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 07.11.2021

Accepted: 07.04.2022

About author(s)

Igor Kuznetsov | https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6947-244X | igorkuznet@gmail.com | Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences (1 bld. 1 Bolshoy Kislovsky Lane,
125009, Moscow, Russia)


Boas, linguistic anthropology, fieldwork, Amerindian languages, apperception, linguistic relativity


From the point of view of the history of anthropology, Boas’s work “On Alternating Sounds” (1889) likes a milestone. It was written during the years of an active search for a stable academic position by its author and on a particular problem – experimental studies of the effect of so-called “sound blindness”. At the same time, it absorbed both the current achievements of Boas in physics, psychology, and ethnology, as well as his laboratory work at the University of Kiel, and the first results of his fieldwork research among the Eskimos and Indians of the Pacific Northwest. It is characteristic that it already contained a message against the then widespread prejudice about the evolutionary underdevelopment of the languages of a non-European human and that the author refuted these prejudices by criticizing the method, thereby anticipating his and his followers’ forthcoming struggle against racism in physical anthropology and even modern relativistic understanding of culture. In the future, the results of observations of the perception of language will be transferred by Boas to a wide field of culture, and the process of acculturation is likened to the action of apperception – the instilling of cultural norms and values to each member of society.

Funding Information

This research was supported by the following institutions and grants: Russian Science Foundation, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100006769 [grant no. 20-18-00159]


Kuznetsov, I.V. 2022. U istokov lingvisticheskoi antropologii: Frants Boas [At the Origins of Linguistic Anthropology: Franz Boas]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 4: 144–161. https://doi.org/10.31857/ S086954152204008X EDN: HXVNCB

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