Philology is the study of literary and written texts. A philologist is a person who specializes in the study of ancient written texts. The main aim is to establish the authenticity of the texts and determine their meaning. A philologist is also a kind of linguist dealing especially with comparative and historical linguistics. A more obsolete use of the word philology refers to a love of words and literature.
The origin of the term philology has been recorded in 1350-1400. Philology was used in Middle English as philologie. Philology is derived from the Latin philologia and Greek philologia which means “love of learning and literature”. The related forms of the noun philology are philologic in the adjective form and philologically as an adverb. A philologist is a person interested in the study of philology. A philologist is different from an etymologist. A philologist is a kind of linguist interested in the scientific study of language. An etymologist, on the other hand, is a linguist whose primary focus is to study the history and origin of words.
A Philologist studies the written text in the context of its historical and literary source. It thus involves a combination of literary, historical and linguistic study of the text. A linguist, on the other hand, engages in the scientific study of language which includes the form and meaning of language in a context. So while a Linguist is keenly associated with the scientific aspect of a language, a philologist is engaged with the humanistic study of literature and language.
It helps to know that philology is linked closely with history and consequently the texts which are the focus of study are written in an ancient language. It is important to know the difference between the function of a philologist and a linguist. A philologist looks at the text as a whole entity unlike the linguist who breaks down the structure of language. A philologist has to train in a number of disciplines having a historical base. A philologist is usually trained in linguistics, any language of one’s choice and background knowledge in history and archaeology.
Philology deals with the scientific and specialized analysis of literary and ancient written records. Philology was the predecessor of the present day linguistics. The different branches of philology such as historical philology and comparative philology wherein words from various languages are studied to determine the historical relationships existing in different languages, have given way to the scientific study of language by the modern linguists.