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Schools of thought in linguistics

Professor: Dr. Karimi


Mohammad Tamimy October 2011

HISTORICISM

Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place . History is a container. Everything happens in history. History is itself an aim, because phenomenon happens within the framework of history.

HISTORICISM

Historicism therefore tends to be hermeneutical, because it places great importance on cautious, rigorous and contextualized interpretation of information.

Historicism is relativistic because it rejects notions of universal, fundamental and immutable interpretations.

HISTORICISM

Otto Jespersen in 1922 held that the distinctive feature of the science of language is its historical character.

Herman Paul Stated : As soon as one goes beyond the mere statement of individual facts, as soon as one tried to grasp their interconnection ,to understand a phenomena, one enters upon the domain of history, albeit perhaps unconsciously

HISTORICISM

Herman Paul was a leading figure in neogrammarian orthodoxy.  The Neogrammarians (also Young Grammarians) were a German school of linguists, originally at the University of Leipzig, in the late 19th century. Neogrammarian contribution to linguistics:  The object of linguistic investigation is not the language system. Language is directly observable.  The chief goal of linguistic investigation is the description of the historical change of a language.

HISTORICISM
Historicism:


Linguistics is a science or at least aspires to be a science and this science is historical in character. Historicists believe that linguistics can only be explained in historical way because languages during times have been subject to different causal forces. Historicism was a reaction started in 19th century against French Enlightenment who was follower of Plato, Aristotle, Stoics.

HISTORICISM

French Enlightenment wanted to deduce universal properties of language from the known universal properties of mind. Historicism does not necessarily imply evolutionism.  Evolutionism
Evolutionism advocates the directionality in the historical development of languages.  Evolutionism believes the more time passes, the more the languages get complex.


CRITICISM OF HISTORICISM


Bloomfield criticized Pauls idea in its mentalistic nature. Bloomfield who was a descriptivist held that Paul has replaced inductive generalization based on descriptive language study with a philosophical and psychological pseudo-explanation. Historicism studied language from a philosophical point of view.

Structuralism ,as we will see, grapples with linguistics from a scientific and descriptive viewpoint.  Structuralism rejects mentalism and believs in materialism.


Structuralism
Structuralism was born in Europe in 1916 when Saussure published Cours de linguistique generale. Saussure is known to be the father of modern linguistics for bringing about the shift from diachronic to synchronic analysis. Structuralism is an approach to linguistics which stresses the importance of language as a system and which investigates the place that linguistic units such as sounds, words, sentences have within this system. Structuralism advocates that we can understand what language is through studying its structure.

Structuralism
Distinctive features of structuralism:
1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)

Synchronic study of language Syntagmatic and paradigmatic analysis Distinction between langue and parole Autonomy of linguistics Arbitrariness of sign and meaning. Linguistic relativity

Structuralism
Synchronic and diachronic study of language:
  

Synchronic study of language could be as scientific and explanatory as historical linguistics is. Synchronic study gives structural explanation ;But diachronic study gives causal explanation. Synchronic study demonstrates how all the forms and meanings are interrelated at a particular point in time in a particular language.(relativism) Saussure does not deny diachronic studies .but he conceives of diachronic and synchronic studies as complementary. Saussure believes diachronic explanation depends on the synchronic explication.

Structuralism
Synchronic and diachronic study of language:


Structural description of a language tells us how different components fit together. Diachronic description of a language tells us how different components have evolved and changed. Saussure believes that languages are not designed and do not evolve through time according to some external or internal purposes.

Structuralism
Syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations
 

Language is a structure and this structure is independent of physical substance or medium in which it is realized. Saussure considers language a structure so he highlights internal combinatorial and contrastive relations in the language system. Saussure describes language as a chess game.

This structure(system) can be described two levels:


 

Syntagmatic Paradigmatic

Structuralism
Syntagmatic relations


The relation that linguistic units have with other units because they may occur together in a sequence. A word has syntagmatic relation with other words which may occur in one sentence. Syntagmatic relation is horizontal.

Paradigmatic relations
 

A linguistic unit has paradigmatic relation with words that could be substituted for it in a sentence. Paradigmatic relation is vertical.

Structuralism
Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic relations in an example

gave passed handed threw

Tracy

the

book.
Syntagmatic Paradigmatic

Structuralism
Langue and parole


Langue:
   

Langue is potential Langue is social fact. Langue is real but abstract. It has no physical existence. Langue is any particular language that is the common possession of all the members of a given language community.

Structuralism
Langue and parole


Parole:
  

Parole is actual. Parole is individual. Individual members of language community actualize langue in the form of parole on special occasions.

Structuralism
Autonomy of linguistics


Saussure believes that only and only true object of linguistics is the langue(language system) envisaged in itself and for itself. The above utterance can be taken to imply that a language system is a structure that can be abstracted ,not only from the historical forces that have brought it into being, but also from social matrix in which it operates and the psychological process by which it is acquired. Foregoing utterance is used to justify the autonomy of linguistics.

Structuralism
Arbitrariness of sign and meaning.


Saussure's principle of arbitrary signs:




Saussure took the view that there are semiotic systems in which that which is signified (signified) is arbitrary associated with that which signifies(signifier).

In Saussurian structuralism ,the sign is not a meaningful form. So Saussure does not think of a language as a nomenclature. In other words, Saussure doesnt consider language as a set of names or labels for pre-existing concepts. Saussure considers meaning as the product of the semantic relations which hold between that word and others in the same language system.

Structuralism
Linguistic relativity


Saussure believes in relativism.  There are no universal properties of human languages other than such general semiotics properties  Emergence of relativism was methodologically a reaction to the tendency to describe the languages of New World.  There was not a unanimous agreement between different structuralists on the degree of relativity. Members of Prague schools never accepted extreme forms of relativism.

Descriptivism & Structuralism


     

Descriptivism is an American version of structuralism. Descriptivism is to come up with an inductive generalization based on descriptive language study. Descriptivism has faith in positivism ,so it decries mentalism. Saussurian structuralism does not overlooks mentalism wholly. Descriptivism firmly believes in reductionism. Saussurian structuralism paints langue socially while descriptivism rejects social influence utterly.

Descriptivism & Structuralism


Descriptivists held that all things which are product of mind can satisfactorily be described in terms of reinforcement and conditioning physiological reflexes (behaviors).  Descriptivism is not prescriptive.  Structuralism is considered to be prescriptive.


Functionalism


Origin Functionalism is not something completely separate from structuralism but it can be considered as particular movement within structuralism. The best known representatives of functionalism are members of Prague School which has been founded in 1926. Prague School was considerably influential in the period before the second world war.

Functionalism
Origin

Roman Jacobson and Nikolaj Trubetzkoy are two most influential members of Prague School.

Prague school never invalidated the structuralism but it rejected to adapt the extreme relativism of structuralism.

Functionalism
Impacts of the Prague School

1)

Phonology Multifunctionality of language Functional sentence perspective

2)

3)

Functionalism

Phonology
Demarcative function
Distinctive function of phonetic features.

Expressive function

Phoneme

Functionalism

Phonology


Distinctive function of phonetic features




Trubetzkoy introduced the notion of functional contrast. Jackobsen and Halle collaborated with Chomsky and evolved the notion of functional contrast. They come up with distinctive feature of phonetic features.

Functionalism

Phonology
`

Demarcative function  Many of super segmental features have not distinctive functions but have demarcative function in particular languages.  These supersegmentals are called boundary signals in Trubotzkoys word. These features are demarcative in which they reinforce the phonological cohesion of forms and help to identify them syntagmatically as units by making the boundaries clear in the chain of speech.

Functionalism

Phonology
`

Demarcative function  Stress in stress-fixed languages highlights boundaries really well.


 Occurrence

of different sequences of phonemes can be demarcative.because it can show the morpheme boundary.

Functionalism

Phonology
`

Expressive function
 Indication

of speakers feelings and attitudes in speech.

 Every

language provides its speakers with a large number of phonological resources for expression of feeling.

Functionalism

Multifunctionality of language
`

Functionalists have tended to emphasize the multifunctionality of language and the importance of its expressive, social, and in adition to its descriptive function.

Functionalism emphasizes the instrumental character of language. Functionalists believe that language behaviour is determined by social interactions.

Functionalism

Functional sentence perspective(FSP)


`

Syntactic structure of utterance is determined generally by communicative setting and particularly by rheme and theme.
Theme is the known information.  Rheme is the new information.


All functionalist agree on that the structure of utterance is determined by the use to which they are put and by the communicative context in which they occur.

Functionalism

Functional sentence perspective(FSP)


Example:
1)

John
subject Theme

sat in the front seat.


predicate rheme

2)

In the front seat sat


predicate Theme

John.
subject rheme

Generativism
Overview
y Generativism is a theory of language that has been

postulated by Chomsky in 1960.


y Generativism has been enormously influential , not only

in linguistics, but also in philosophy and psychology.


y Generativism states that human languages can be

described by means of the generative grammar of one kind or another.

Generativism
Historical Origin
y Generativism has developed out of and in reaction to the

post-Bloomfieldian descriptivism.
y Chomsky himself acknowledges that Generativism is in

some extent a return to traditional views about language.


y Generativism borrows some ideas without due criticism

of post Bloomfieldian structuralism.

Generativism
y Components of Generativism
y Language systems are productive because they allow

construction and production of indefinitely many utterances never occurred in one s existence.
y Productivity of language systems in the foregoing sense

is the result of recurssiveness.


y Reccursssiveness is the capacity of language to produce

infinite sentences.
y Creativity is an important facet of genererativism.

Generativism
y Productivity y Chomsky justifies productivity of language in the following sense.
o

Chomsky criticized verdict that believed children learn native language by reproduction of adult language . Chomsky stated that if children learn language in such a way how the production of novel utterances in their early stages of life could be justified. These novel utterances made by children are as grammatically systematic as the competent adult language is well formed.

Generativism
y Productivity y Chomsky justifies productivity of language in the following sense.
o

Chomsky believed that children must have acquired grammatical rules causing their utterances be judged as wellformed. There is no doubt that children do not learn by rote and their utterances are not responses to stimuli.

Generativism
y Creativity
o

Creativity is a peculiar human attribute which distinguishes human from machine and animal. Creativity is itself rule-governed. Generative grammar in also involved in the creativity. Utterances that we produce no matter how creative , have certain grammatical structure. and this grammatical structure conforms to the rules of wellformedness.

Generativism
y Creativity and Productivity
o

Creativity is not productivity. Creativity is the product of productivity. Productivity defines limits for creativity The rules that determine productivity have the same properties as the human mind. By this statement Chomsky bring up the concept of mentalism.

Generativism
Features of Generativism
1) Mentalism 2) Linguistic universals 3) Competence and performance

Generativism
Mentalism
y

Chomsky shown that language acquisition could not be justified according to behaviorism. Chomsky also shown that behaviorists refusal to accept the existence of anything other than observable physical objects is based on outdated pseudo-scientific prejudice. Chomsky dauntlessly argued that language is stimulus-free. Chomsky draws distinction between body and mind. He contends that linguistics has an important role to play in investigation of the nature of the mind.

y y

Generativism
Linguistic universals
y

Generativism believes in language universals.

Chomskys view of universal grammar is different from the traditional view in that his predecessors tended to understand the universal properties of language from the universally valid categories of logic and reality.

Chomsky believed that these universal properties are arbitrary. By arbitrary it is meant that properties of language that serve no known purpose and can not be deduced from anything else that we know of human beings or the world in which they live.

Generativism
Linguistic universals
y

Chomsky considers more importance to the formal properties of language and the nature of rules than he does to the relations that hold between language and the world.(Chomsky is certainly against functionalism) Chomsky believes that language-faculty (universal grammar) is innate and species specific I.e. genetically transmitted and is unique to the species. Because of this view, Chomsky discounts each property of language that can be accounted for un terms of functional utility ,physical world or logic.

Generativism
Competence and performance
y

Linguistic competence is speakers knowledge of languagesystem due to it he is able to produce indefinitely large set of sentences that constitutes his language. Performance is language behavior .This is not only determined by linguistic competence but also by a variety of other nonlinguistic factors including: social conventions about the world, speakers emotional attitudes and operations of psychological and physiological mechanisms. A speaker applies his innate capacity for language on language data around him and constructs a set of rules in his mind .This set of rules is called competence.

Generativism & Post Bloomfielian structuralism

Similarities
y Both consider morpheme the basic unit of analysis. y Emphasis on the autonomy of syntax i.e. syntactic

structure of languages can be described without recourse to semantic consideration)

Generativism & Saussurian structuralism

Similarities
y Distinction between language system and language

behavior.

y Both have faith in mentalism ,although they define it

differently.

Generativism & Functionalism

Similarities
y Utilizing the notion of phonology without even believing

in functionalism.

References

y Brown, H. Douglas. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. White

Plains, NY: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.


y Lyons, John. "Some Modern Schools and Movements." Language and

Linguistics: an Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983. Print.


y Richards, J. C., and Richard W. Schmidt. Dictionary of Language Teaching &

Applied Linguistics. Harlow: Longman, 2002. Print.

Morphology
y Varro drew disinction between inflectional and

derivational affixes for the first time in 116 AD.