Historical Semantics in Medieval Studies

New Means and Approaches

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
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  • 1 Goethe University of Frankfurt m.hahn@em.uni-frankfurt.de
  • | 2 Goethe University of Frankfurt g.rohmann@em.uni-frankfurt.de
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Between 1972 and 1992 Reinhart Koselleck, Otto Brunner, and Werner Conze published the famous seven volumes of Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur Politisch-Sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. The handbook was, in its day, a milestone for any historian interested in turning from the history of ideas to the history of semantics, of the verbal (and non-verbal) production of meaning. In his introduction, published in 1972, Reinhart Koselleck had directed the authors’ attention to the understanding that Historical Semantics stands and falls with defi ning corpora. In the pursuit of orientation about the quantity and dissemination of semantic figurations, but also of comparability of the articles’ findings, all authors were expected to use predefined text corpora. In conversations with his Bielefeld colleagues Koselleck often complained later that too many authors did not follow his rule and that too many of the handbook’s articles had just continued to work with approaches rooted in the history of ideas.


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