We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Philologist?

Niki Acker
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A philologist is a type of linguist, though the exact meaning of the term has changed over the years. Philology literally means "love of words," and the field often deals with literature more than other branches of linguistics do. In the modern academic world, the term is usually understood to mean the study of written texts, usually ancient ones.

It was much more common in the 19th century than it is today for a linguist to be called a philologist. Philology was the precursor to today's linguistics, which has changed to favor spoken data over written data. Comparative and historical linguistics, in which words from different languages are compared and contrasted to determine the current or historical relationships between languages, have their roots in the 19th century field.

In an earlier era, this person focused his or her study on language as it pertains to literature and culture. Individual words, their history, and the common history of words in different languages were also of interest. Literary interpretations and the study of language went hand in hand; in this respect, the modern field of comparative literature can also be seen as having its roots in philology.

Today, the field is no longer concerned with literary interpretation but is instead concerned with deciphering texts and understanding language through texts — not understanding literary texts through language. A philologist may work with little understood languages that are no longer spoken, such as when a textual record is all that is known of the language.

The modern methods of philology also began in the 19th century, notably with the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in 1822, which paved the way for the translation of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Deciphering ancient texts is complicated by the poor physical quality of many records and the lack of consistency in the spelling and writing styles of many ancient authors and scribes. Work is ongoing on some writing systems, such as those of the ancient Mayans and the Etruscans, and some, like the notorious Linear A of the ancient Minoans, remain a complete mystery.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker , Writer
"In addition to her role as a Language & Humanities editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "

Discussion Comments

By anon289065 — On Sep 02, 2012

Well, for example I am studying Modern Greek Philology where we study everything, from Modern Greek (which is our major) to Ancient Greek,Byzantine Greek, authors, literature, again ancient, byzantine, modern history, culture, linguistics, translation, other languages and much more. I am a student of the University of Sofia, a highly prestigious university with languages among all European universities.

By anon261777 — On Apr 17, 2012

Or see the Israeli movie "Footnote" and then pick another field of study.

By anon242277 — On Jan 22, 2012

"Today, philology is no longer concerned with literary interpretation." As a philologist, I must note that this statement is patently wrong. Philologists are concerned with the study of the written text at every level of study, from description, to interpretation, to evaluation.

The philological method does not preclude literary interpretations, rather it is especially suited for such analyses since it relies upon close study of the language that brings the non-native reader closer to understanding the meaning of the text.

By anon133147 — On Dec 09, 2010

look up one Tom Shippey. He can best direct one to a course of study in this area.

By anon106362 — On Aug 25, 2010

One very famous philologist was J.R.R.Tolkien, the writer of "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Some of the original works he undertook which helped lay the groundwork for the stories was the construction of new languages, which you can see evidence of all throughout, from Elven to Orcish dialects.

By anon104286 — On Aug 16, 2010

RE Anon98973 and about a philologist working with languages that are no longer spoken.

Perhaps one could find employment with Congress.

Or am I thinking of Etymology? Meanings change with common usage. It would be copacetic if my senator was cool enough to dig it when I ask a Constitutional question. --ed

By anon98973 — On Jul 24, 2010

Is there much of a job market for philologists?

By anon52314 — On Nov 12, 2009

You might also consider studying comparative literature, which does stem from philology (as the article says), and/or take courses in biblical literature and philosophy, both of which may contain elements of hermeneutics, which concerns the interpretation of a text. Good luck!

By anon49652 — On Oct 22, 2009

try getting a degree in classics, in a programme that has a strong philological bent (other classics programmes might concentrate on art history, history, archaeology). You should concentrate on obtaining training in the ancient languages.

By anon17601 — On Sep 02, 2008

Study linguistics and then narrow your focus to philology in your graduate or postgraduate work. Because it's such a narrow field, programs in philology are extremely rare. It's good to have a well-rounded background in all aspects of linguistics for any career in the field anyway.

By rchumbley — On Sep 02, 2008

How does one become a philologist? This sounds like exactly the sort of thing I would love to study, but I am unaware of a college that offers such a degree program and am sure that any college that does is not accessible to me.

Niki Acker

Niki Acker

Writer

"In addition to her role as a Language & Humanities editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.