Leibniz's rational grammar

G.W. Leibniz (1646-1716) is well-known as a mathematician and as a philosopher. He also famously envisaged the construction of what he often called a 'philosophical language' (and sometimes a 'characteristica universalis') - a miraculous tool not only for communication but also for thinking, enabling its users to find new insights and even to put an end to disputes.

One part of this grand project was the elaboration of 'rational grammar', which was to describe the basic patterns underlying all languages, and therewith the structure of human knowledge and thought. Carrying out this project, Leibniz undertook a painstaking analysis of the grammar and idioms of various languages, focusing however on Latin.

Although this type of analysis was a central element of Leibniz's linguistic work, it has not yet been subjected to thorough study. This is primarily due to the fact that, until recently, only a small selection of the relevant texts had been published. Fortunately, in the last decades a series of texts has become available in complete form for the first time, although a number of important texts are still accessible in manuscript form only.

I am currently writing a book which describes Leibniz's rational grammar project, and interprets it in the light of its intellectual background. Furthermore, the book contains annotated English translations of a number of key texts (which Leibniz wrote in Latin), so as to make them accessible to a wider audience.

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