S. G. BOLOTOV, I. A. PIL’SHCHIKOV
ON “SEMANTIC RECONSTRUCTION”
(Critical Remarks on Iurij Stepanov’s Article)
Iurij Stepanov’s article is an attempt at a reconstruction of a pre-history, and an outline of the further semantic evolution of the “concept” of ‘The Word’. From the author’s point of view, the meaning of a particular Indo-European root unifies meanings of related or cognate words. However, etymological reconstruction should be a reconstruction of the evolution of both form and meaning: there may be semantic divergences, and sometimes the variety of meanings is limited to a particular group of languages or even only one language.
The description of semantic fields as “separate” and “connected” is by definition arbitrary: within the semantic continuum no boundaries can be found, and everything is linked with everything else.
Similarly, Stepanov’s interpretation of historical material is based on an arbitrary selection and combination of facts. For instance, when discussing the evolution of the word philology, he disregards Roman culture (cf. Cic. Att. 2. 17. 1, Q. fr. 2. 810. 3; Suet. Gram. 10); incidentally, some examples contradict his hypotheses (cf. Sen. Epist. mor. 108).
Stepanov’s model is a kind of achrony (European diachrony being reduced to Indo-European panchrony, and Russian synchrony lost). He makes no distinction between the specific characteristics of Russian culture and those of other cultures. Given that philology aims at the elucidation of cultural facts and the explanation of their historical peculiarity, such an approach is antiphilological.