I happened upon this on r/asklinguistics that, being 9 months old, has time-barred comments. I've a shade rectified some mistakes and rewritten it.

Noam Chomsky, in some interview, said that scholars in the 19th or even 18th century decided that French would be the language of science and English the language of literature.

  1. Where did Chomsky contend this?

  2. Why did these scholars reckon that French befits science, rather than English?

  3. And why English for literature, and not e.g.German or Italian?

  • 4
    I don't knw the Chomsky reference, but there's a chapter on this idea in Trudgill and Bauer, Language Myths (I can't find my copy right now). Typically it was French natural philosophers (scientists) who argued that French was especially logical, and Italian poets who argued that Italian was especially poetical etc.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 8, 2019 at 8:57
  • No Chomsky reference either but your question triggered a very dim recollection of someone's famous quotation listing several languages, along the lines of "..I would use lang1 for this, lang2 for that.." and so on. Unfortunately, i can't recall it properly and will have to try to google it up.
    – tum_
    Jun 8, 2019 at 18:51
  • Got it, completely irrelevant to the question. It was Lomonosov's quote with a reference to Charles V who allegedly also coined a similar phrase (some believe this to be a myth, though).
    – tum_
    Jun 8, 2019 at 19:18
  • Related: 18th century attitudes, focusing on French perspectives from the Académie française.
    – Michaelyus
    Jun 10, 2019 at 11:05


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