Writing in English, German or French, more than 300 authors provide a historical description of the beginnings and of the early and subsequent development of thinking about language and languages within the relevant historical context. The gradually emerging institutions concerned with the study, organisation, documentation, and distribution are considered as well as those dealing with the utilisation of language related knowledge. Special emphasis has been placed on related disciplines, such as rhetoric, the philosophy of language, cognitive psychology, logic and neurological science.
Volume 2 treats, in great detail and, at times quite innovatively, the individual stages of development of the study of language as an autonomous discipline, from the growing awareness in 17th and 18th century Europe of genetic relationships among a host of languages to the establishments of comparative-historical Indo-European linguistics in the 19th century, from the generation of the Schlegels, Bopp, Rask, and Grimm to the Neogrammarians and the application of the comparative method to non-Indo-European languages from all over the globe.
Typological linguistic interests, first synthesized by Humboldt, as well as the development of various other non-historical endeavours in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, such as language and psychology, semantics, phonetics, and dialectology, receive ample attention.