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Johannes Schmidt (linguist)
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Johannes Schmidt (linguist)

Johannes Schmidt (July 29, 1843 - July 4, 1901) was a German linguist. He developed the Wellentheorie (wave-theory) in linguistics to describe language development .

Johannes Schmidt was born in Prenzlau (Kingdom of Prussia). He studied Indo-European-, especially Slavic languages as a pupil of August Schleicher and received a doctorate in 1865. From 1866 he spent two years as a professor at a gymnasium in Berlin. Then he received a call from the university of Bonn to the position of an ordinary professor of German and Slavic languages. During his professorship in Bonn he published the well known Wellentheorie (wave-theory) in his book Die Verwandtschaftsverhältnisse der indogermanischen Sprachen (The relationships of the Indo-European languages). According to this theory new features of a language spread from a certain point in continuously weakening concentric circles, similar to the waves created when a stone is thrown into a body of water. This should lead to convergence amongst dissimilar languages. His wave-theory was directed against the doctrine of sound-laws introduced by the Neogrammarians in 1870. After about five years in Bonn he spent three years in Austria at the university of Graz until he received an offer to return to his own land. From 1876 he was living and working in Berlin (Kingdom of Prussia), where he became the leading head of linguistics at the Humboldt University. He died in age of 56 in Berlin.