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James Burnett, Scottish linguist

James Burnett, Scottish linguist

H402/0571

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Credit

GEORGE BERNARD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GEORGE BERNARD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799), Scottish linguist and judge. Burnett adopted the title Lord Monboddo when he became a judge in the Court of Session in 1767. In his book "The Origin and Progress of Man and Language" (1773-1792) Burnett analysed the structure of primitive and modern languages, arguing that man had evolved language skills in response to a changing environment and altering social structures. This view of the evolution of language was ridiculed at the time, but is now considered as preceding the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. Illustration first published in 1784.

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