Towards Franz Boas’s linguistic views

2023. №3, 143-157

Igor V. Kuznetsov
Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia;


Franz Boas (1858–1942) is recognized as the founding father not only in modern anthropology (cultural, biological), but also in anthropological linguistics. Starting with geographical and physical studies at several German universities, he later got insterested in the culture and languages of the indigenous peoples of North America. Boas was particularly interested in the role of apperception in language acquisition. Eventually, he transferred the results of his observations on language perception to the wide field of culture, developing the notion of acculturation analogical to apperception. Already the early Boas’s publications contain the origins of the idea of linguistic relativity, which later will be formulated in the shape of the so-called “Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis”. Extremely interesting and original was Boas’s attitude to the concept of phoneme, which was formed precisely during the years of creative activity and the most striking achievements of Boas’s school. Finally, the peculiarities of the fieldwork style of this American scholar, as well as his “analytism” in work on the grammars of Native American languages, certainly influenced the development of descriptive linguistics in general.

For citation:

Kuznetsov I. V. Towards Franz Boas’s linguistic views. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2023, 3: 143–157.


The work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (grant No. 20-18-00159).