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Alexander von Humboldt: „Man – races – language“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 15.07.2024].

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Titel Man – races – language
Jahr 1853
Ort Edinburgh
in: J. H. Aitken, A Class Book of Elocution, Embracing Principles and Exercises, and a Copious Selection of Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from Distinguished Modern Authors; Designed Alike for Private Study and Public Tuition, Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter 1853, S. 172–175.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung, Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: VI.50
Dateiname: 1845-Alex_v_Humboldt-12-neu
Seitenanzahl: 4
Zeichenanzahl: 6647

Weitere Fassungen
Alex. v. Humboldt über das Menschengeschlecht (Augsburg, 1845, Deutsch)
Volksstämme (Wien, 1845, Deutsch)
Sur les races humaines et sur les langues, aperçus ethnographiques, extraits du Cosmos ou Essai d’une description physique du monde, par M. A. de Humboldt, tome Ier, dont la traduction française par M. Faye, revue par l’auteur et par MM. Arago, Élie de Beaumont et Guigniaut, paraîtra prochainement chez Gide (Paris, 1845, Französisch)
De l’unité native de l’espèce humaine (Paris, 1846, Französisch)
The Universal Brotherhood of Man (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1849, Englisch)
On the Races of Man (Hartford, Connecticut, 1850, Englisch)
On the races of man (London, 1850, Englisch)
The univseral brotherhood of man (Edinburgh, 1850, Englisch)
The universal brotherhood of man (London, 1850, Englisch)
[Kurzer Textauszug] (Sheffield, 1851, Englisch)
Die Einheit des Menschengeschlechts (Breslau, 1852, Deutsch)
Man – races – language (Edinburgh, 1853, Englisch)


The present races of animals have been produced bythe combined action of many different internal, as well asexternal conditions, the nature of which cannot in all casesbe defined, the most striking varieties being found in thosefamilies which are capable of the greatest distribution overthe surface of the earth. The different races of mankindare forms of one sole species, by the union of two of whosemembers descendants are propagated. They are not dif-ferent species of a genus, since in that case their hybriddescendants would remain unfruitful. But whether thehuman races have descended from several primitive races ofmen, or from one alone, is a question that cannot be deter-mined from experience.Languages, as intellectual creations of man, and as closelyinterwoven with the development of mind, are, indepen-dently of the national form which they exhibit, of thegreatest importance in the recognition of similarities ordifferences in races. This importance is especially owingto the clue which a community of descent affords in treadingthat mysterious labyrinth in which the connection of physicalpowers and intellectual forces manifests itself in a thousanddifferent forms. The brilliant progress made within the lasthalf century, in Germany, in philosophical philology, hasgreatly facilitated our investigations into the national cha-|173| racter of languages, and the influence exercised by descent.But here, as in all domains of ideal speculation, the dangersof deception are closely linked to the rich and certain profitto be derived.Positive ethnographical studies, based on a thoroughknowledge of history, teach us that much caution shouldbe applied in entering into these comparisons of nations,and of the languages employed by them at certain epochs.Subjection, long association, the influence of a foreign re-ligion, the blending of races, even when only including asmall number of the more influential and cultivated of theimmigrating tribes, have produced, in both continents, simi-larly recurring phenomena; as, for instance, in introducingtotally different families of languages amongst one and thesame race, and idioms, having one common root, amongstnations of the most different origin. Great Asiatic con-querors have exercised the most powerful influence on phe-nomena of this kind.But language is a part and parcel of the history of thedevelopment of mind; and, however happily the humanintellect, under the most dissimilar physical conditions, mayunfettered pursue a self-chosen track, and strive to freeitself from the dominion of terrestrial influences, this eman-cipation is never perfect. There ever remains, in the naturalcapacities of the mind, a trace of something that has beenderived from the influences of race or of climate, whetherthey be associated with a land gladdened by cloudless azureskies, or with the vapoury atmosphere of an insular region.As, therefore, richness and grace of language are unfoldedfrom the most luxuriant depths of thought, we have beenunwilling wholly to disregard the bond which so closelylinks together the physical world with the sphere of intellectand of the feelings, by depriving this general picture ofnature of those brighter lights and tints, which may be bor-rowed from considerations, however slightly indicated, ofthe relations existing between races and languages.Whilst we maintain the unity of the human species, weat the same time repel the depressing assumption of superiorand inferior races of men. There are nations more suscep-tible of cultivation, more highly civilised, more ennobled bymental cultivation than others—but none in themselvesnobler than others. All are in like degree designed forfreedom — a freedom which in the ruder conditions of|174| society belongs only to the individual, but which in socialstates enjoying political institutions appertains as a right tothe whole body of the community. If we would indicatean idea which throughout the whole course of history hasever more and more widely extended its empire—or which,more than any other, testifies to the much contested andstill more decidedly misunderstood perfectibility of the wholehuman race—it is that of establishing our common hu-manity—of striving to remove the barriers which prejudiceand limited views of every kind have erected amongst men,and to treat all mankind without reference to religion, na-tion, or colour, as one fraternity, one great community,fitted for the attainment of one object, the unrestraineddevelopment of the moral faculties. This is the ultimateand highest aim of society, identical with the direction im-planted by nature in the mind of man towards the indefiniteextension of his existence. He regards the earth in all itslimits, and the heavens, as far as his eye can scan theirbright and starry depths, as inwardly his own, given to himas the objects of his contemplation, and as a field for thedevelopment of his energies. Even the child longs to passthe hills or the seas which enclose his narrow home; yetwhen his eager steps have borne him beyond those limits,he pines, like the plant, for his native soil; and it is by thistouching and beautiful attribute of man—this longing forthat which is unknown, and this fond remembrance of thatwhich is lost—that he is spared from an exclusive attach-ment to the present. Thus deeply rooted in the innermostnature of man, and even enjoined upon him by his highesttendencies, the recognition of the bond of humanity be-comes one of the noblest leading principles in the historyof mankind.With these words, which draw their charm from the depthsof feeling, let a brother be permitted to close this generaldescription of the natural phenomena of the universe. Fromthe remotest nebulæ, and from the revolving double stars,we have descended to the minutest organisms of animalcreation, whether manifested in the depths of ocean or onthe surface of our globe, and to the delicate vegetable germswhich clothe the naked declivity of the ice-crowned moun-tain summit; and here we have been able to arrange thesephenomena according to partially known laws; but otherlaws of a more mysterious nature rule the higher spheres of|175| the organic world, in which is comprised the human speciesin all its varied conformation, its creative intellectual power,and the languages to which it has given existence. Aphysical delineation of nature terminates at the point wherethe sphere of intellect begins, and a new world of mind isopened to our view. It marks the limit, but does not passit.—Humboldt.