On 20 October 1945 Professor Jac. van Ginneken died at the age of 68 years. Van Ginneken was since 1923 professor of Dutch language and literature, Indo-Germanic linguistics and Sanskrit at Nijmegen University, the only Catholic university in The Netherlands. His thesis on language philosophy (1907) and his Handboek der Nederlandsche Taal (1913-1914) had given Van Ginneken national and international esteem: Van Ginneken's personality and work set the features of linguistic science in The Netherlands during the first half of the century. Now, however, little remains of his reputation and to the young linguists he is completely unknown. On 20 October 1995 the General Linguistics and Dialectology Department of Van Ginneken's university held a one-day symposium on Jacques van Ginneken in co-operation with the Dutch Society for the History of Linguistics. It was a great success. The present publication is a fine edition of the lectures delivered that day: De taal is kennis van de ziel [Language is knowledge of the soul] - Essays on Jac. van Ginneken (1877-1945).
In the history of linguistics the figure of this Jesuit priest is remarkable. He was a great organiser of all kinds of activities in the field of Catholic life; he was the life and soul of the periodical Onze Taaltuin; he was active in an enormously broad field of linguistics; also as a person he was a fascinating man. In the volume we find the lecture of the elderly dialectologist A. Weijnen, his successor at Nijmegen, titled 'Herinneringen aan Jacques'. With nostalgia and gratitude he sketches a portrait of an unforgettable master and formidable scientist, but also of a very demanding and authoritative personality.
Els Elffers gives an analysis of this linguist as a psycho-syntheticus. Van Ginneken's thesis Principes de linguistique psycologique - essay synthétique (1907) made him an internationally renowned linguist. In this impressive work Van Ginneken tried to develop a firm psychological basis for linguistics. According to Van Ginneken there are for instance links between grammatical and psychological categories. Elffers explains the theory and makes interesting historiographical remarks on its reception. Shortly after the publication of his dissertation, Van Ginneken surprisingly produced a voluminous Handbook of the Dutch Language, a sociological approach, in two parts. He attributed his interest in the 'social aspects' to the influence of Antoine Meillet. The work contains a description of the varieties of Dutch along three 'circles': local circles (dialects), familial circles (family, sex and age) and social circles (class, profession, political and religious groups). In a critical essay the sociolinguist Hagen comes to an overview, in which he pays attention to Van Ginneken's comments on the language of Jews and Socialists. For an understanding of Van Ginneken's sociology of language Hagen refers to a short monograph on the causes of linguistic changes (1930).
From 1925 until his death Van Ginneken worked on the development of a theory of language biology without neglecting language psychology and sociology. In his language biology Van Ginneken coupled phonology with genetics and anthropology. Van Ginneken thought the articulation base differed from race to race. In a bewildering exploration of phonemic statistics he came to the conclusion that Mendelian numerical ratios recurred. Primitive consonant and vocal systems are to be attributed to a hybrid crossing of parents with different articulation bases. Van Ginneken felt that his insights opened grand perspectives on linguistic affinity. In a fine contribution Gerrold van der Stroom explains the theory and gives nuanced insights into the implications and reception of Van Ginneken's approach. After the Second World War language biology was seen as a rather absurd theory that could only have been developed in the pre-War climate. But Van der Stroom argues that the link between biology and linguistics has again been recognised in recent publications.
This book about Jacques van Ginneken closes with three studies: Anneke Neijt explores Van Ginneken's curious positions in the reform movement of the Dutch orthography, Hulshof writes on Van Ginneken's language didactics, and Kempen and Wagenaar literally show how wonderful a book the scholar Van Ginneken made for teaching colleges: the grammatical structure of a sentence is represented by pyramids drawn by children and by so doing he showed the language evolution of a child.
This volume, containing essays on Jac. van Ginneken, is a magnificent book. It opens with an introductory essay by Jan Noordegraaf and Ad Foolen under the significant title Bezieling en conflict [Inspiration and conflict]. This gives an overview of all Van Ginneken's activities, supplying the necessary background for the various detailed studies. Partly due to this the volume of lectures is extremely successful. Its composition is coherent. The essays are not only for specialists, which is rather rare in this sort of collected volume. All the essays have English summaries and extended bibliographies. This also makes the work an excellent introduction to Van Ginneken's ideas. We meet him as a source of inspiration and conflict for his colleagues, students and publishers. In his theoretical orientation, he distanced himself from the Junggrammatiker, but at the same time he was not a structuralist at heart either. He was not very impressed by De Saussure's Cours (1916). Van Ginneken felt affinity with the 'neo-linguists' who, in the period between the Junggrammatiker and Structuralism, tried to find a new orientation in linguistics which tended to revert to early nineteenth-century ideas like those of von Humboldt's.
L. van Driel, Middelburg