Lazarus Geiger

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Lazarus Geiger (* 21 May 1829 in Frankfurt am Main; † 29 August 1870 ibid) was a German linguist and philosopher.


Geiger was first a bookseller and later studied classical philology at the universities of Marburg, Heidelberg and Bonn. In contrast to his uncle Abraham Geiger, the pioneer of Reform Judaism, he belonged to the followers of Orthodox Judaism in Germany. From 1861 until his death he was a teacher at the Philanthropin in Frankfurt am Main. In his major works(Ursprung und Entwicklung der menschlichen Sprache und Vernunft and Der Ursprung der Sprache) he sought, along with Steinthal, to apply the psychological-philosophical method to linguistic research

The lecture Ueber den Farbensinn der Urzeit und seine Entwicklung, which Geiger delivered at the conference in Frankfurt am Main in September 1867, is considered the beginning of a new linguistic direction, linguistic archaeology. In 1871 this report was published in German

Geiger’s research is remarkable because the author came to the recognition of the evolutionary process before Charles Darwin and applied the theory of evolution to the field of thought and language. According to Geiger, language is based on little significant exclamations, which are close to interjections (the author himself calls them “speech cry”). According to the scientist’s reflections, language is a source of human thought activity, the mind develops from it, and Geiger assigns a determining role in this development not to hearing, but to sight. According to Geiger, when people have become accustomed to words, and their receptivity to sounds and sound differences has increased significantly, they noticed that their ability to distinguish objects has also increased.

Public lectures given by Lazarus Geiger at various times were published by his brother, Alfred Geiger, in 1871 under the title Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Menschheit.


  • Ueber Umfang und Quelle der Erfahrungsfreien Erkenntnis. Frankfurt am Main 1865.
  • The origin and development of human language and reason. Stuttgart 1868-1872, 2 vols. (Digitalisat vol. 1, vol. 2)
  • The Origin of Language. Stuttgart 1869(digital copy)
  • On the history of the development of mankind. 1871


  • August Leskien: Geiger, Lazarus. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Vol. 8, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1878, p. 507 f.
  • Gerhard Baader:Geiger, Eliezer Lazarus Salomon. In: New German Biography (NDB). Vol. 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7, p. 143 f. (Digitalisat).

Web links

  • Violinist. In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. 4.Auflage. Vol. 7, Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, Leipzig/Vienna 1885-1892, p. 22.
  • Ludwig August Rosenthal Lazarus Geiger, his teaching, his life.
  • Woodworth R. S.: The puzzle of color vocabularies. Ed: Psychological Bulletin. Woodworth, 1910, pp. 325-334, doi:10.1037/h0071190.
  • Orsucci A.: The Historical Development of the Sense of Color and the “Linguistic Archaeology” By L. Geiger and H. Magnus: A Commentary on Aphorism 426 by Morgenröthe. Ed. Nietzsche Studies. 2010, ISSN 1613-0790, pp. 243-256, doi:10.1515/9783110244410.243[].

Individual references

  • Brent Berlin, Paul Kay: Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. Ed.: University of California Press. 1991, ISBN 978-0-520-07635-8, P. 135.