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Leonard Bloomfield: Founder of American Linguistic Science Prepared by Mariam Bedraoui and Jihad Bachiri. Outline. I- The Intellectual Scene in America in early 20 th Century Structuralism Behaviourism Structuralism
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Leonard Bloomfield: Founder of American Linguistic Science Prepared by Mariam Bedraoui and Jihad Bachiri
Outline I- The Intellectual Scene in America in early 20th Century • Structuralism • Behaviourism • Structuralism II- Bloomfield: A Behaviourist Theory and Empiricist Methods • Academic Career • A Behaviourist Approach to Language • Empiricist Methods in Language study III- Influence Areas • Phonology • Morphology • Post-Bloomfieldians’ Contributions IV- Conclusion
1- Structuralism • American linguists like Bloomfield and Sapir spent a considerable time in their early academic career in European universities, where they got acquainted with the seminal work of De Saussure. • De Saussure opposes Neogrammarians who assume that linguistics must necessarily be historical. He contrasted ‘langue’ with ‘parole’ to show the abstract system of structural relationships inherent in language. • De Saussure’s approach focuses on examining how the elements of language relate to one another in the present, that is, ‘synchronically’ rather than ‘diachronically’.
2- Anthropology • Frantz Boas (1858- 1942), the founder of American anthropology, made a breakthrough in the study of cultures and societies by applying scientific methods to the human phenomena, a field which was based largely on anecdotal knowledge. • Boas was credited with establishing the basis of what would become the distributional method for the analysis of languages, which is one of the core principles in structural linguistics. • Edward Sapir(1884- 1939) is considered as the greatest fieldworker in the history of linguistics and anthropology. He worked on the analysis of a number of American Indian languages.
3- Behaviourism • Behaviourism is a psychological theory that focuses on objectively observable behaviours and discounts mental activities. • Watson(1878-1958), a prominent behaviourist, was convinced that by investigating stimuli leading to responses, behaviorism would provide a basis for predicting human behaviour. • According to Watson, the integrated social responses are completely in no way the consequence of consciousness or mind or soul. “Order in the universe is merely a matter of conditioning.”
3- Behaviourism: Types of Conditioning • Experiments by behaviourists identify conditioning as a universal learning process. • There are two types of conditioning, each one leads to a different behavioural pattern. • Classic conditioning occurs when a natural reflex responds to a stimulus. • Operant conditioning occurs when a response to a stimulus is reinforced.
Bloomfield: Academic Career 1887- 1949
Language: Theoretical Framework The book is a statement of principles that have become axiomatic in the structural linguistic tradition. • “The speech-utterance [...] is important because it has meaning: The meaning consists of the important things with which the speech- utterance is connected, namely the practical events.” [p. 27] • “The statement of meanings is [...] the weak point in language study and will remain so until human knowledge advances very far beyond its present state. In practice, we define the meaning of a linguistic form [...] in terms of other sciences. ”[p. 27] • “The only useful generalizations of meanings are inductive generalizations.” [p. 20] • “In order to describe a language, one needs no historical knowledge whatever; in fact, the observer who allows such knowledge to affect this description is bound to distort his data.” [pp.21-22] • Bloomfield’s canonical textbook, Language, has a profound influence on modern linguistics. The book is referred to as ‘the Bible of American linguistics’.
1- Bloomfield: A Behaviourist Approach to Language • An act of speech is one form of bodily behaviour. • It is explained in terms of patterns of stimulus and response • Speech utterances are responses to external stimuli, and are also substitute stimuli for other substitute responses. Jack and Jill’s Story Jill is hungry; some of her muscles are contracting and some fluids are secreted. She sees a red apple on a tree(the light waves reflected from the red apple strike her eyes). She asks Jack to fetch the apple for her.
1- Language: A Behaviourist Approach • Language enables one person to make a reaction in response to another person’ s stimulus. • The speech event has the meaning it has by virtue of its connection with the surrounding practical events. • To study the meaning of utterances entails a scientific analysis of all the external events that are involved in the situation of speech production. • On the basis that human knowledge is still limited, Bloomfield discards the domain of meaning as lying beyond human knowledge at present. • For Bloomfield, language is a set of signals whose structure can be studied without commitment to any theory about what there is to signal, or how it is possible for human beings to signal.
2- Areas of influence: Phonology/Phoneme • In his Language Bloomfield defines: • Phonology as “ the study of significant speech sounds.” p. 78 • The phoneme as “ a minimum unit of distinctive sound- features.” p.79 • Bloomfield distinguishes two kinds of phonemes: • Primary phonemes : segmental sounds ( the basic stock). • Secondary phonemes : stress and tone ( appear only in combinations).
2- Areas of influence: Phonology/Phoneme • Bloomfield considers the phonemes of a language as the only relevant elements to its structure. • According to Bloomfield the linguist should proceed by “making up a list or table of the phonemes of a language.” • The phonemes are discovered by experimenting, namely by altering any one of the parts of the word. Each replacable part must constitute a phoneme.
1- Phonology: Minimal Pair Test /pɪn/ /pɪn/ /fɪn/ begin with different sounds /pɪg/ end with different sounds /sɪn/ /pɪl/ /tɪn/ /pɪt/ /pɪn/ /pɪn/ /mæn/ end with the same sound /pæt/ begin with the same sound and end /sʌn/ /pʊʃ/ with different sounds /hen/ /peg/ /pɪn/ /pɪn/ /pen/ the middle part is different /dɪg/ the middle part is the same /pæn/ /mɪl/ /pʌn/ /fɪʃ/
1- Phonology: Distinctive Features • Bloomfield made the difference between two types of features: • Distinctive features: When a feature distinguishes one phoneme from another. eg: seal/zeal bat/mat rack/rock • The distinctive feature [voice] tells [s] from [z]. The two are contrasting phonemes. The only difference is the distinctive feature [voicing].
1- Phonology: Non-distinctive Features: • Non-distinctive features are identical phonemes, no different meanings, but just allophones. • Allophones are the members of the phone classes, which are actual phonetic segments produced by a speaker. Example 1: nasality bean/ bead Example 2: aspiration pill/ till/ kill
2- Areas of Influence: Morphology • Bloomfield defines morphology as the study which deals with “the constructions in which bound forms appear among the constituents.” • He thinks that the study of morphology is complex and not conclusive. • Bloomfield devised a detailed analytical taxonomy to separate out and categorise the elements that make up words (discovery tools).
2- Morphology: Morpheme • A morpheme: A recurrent meaningful form which can not be analysed into smaller recurrent forms. • It is the minimal unit of linguistic meaning: Examples: watched= 2 morphemes watch + simple past Pens= 2 morphemes pen+ plural Unhelpful=3 morphemes negative+ help+ adjective
2- Morphology: Morphemes/ Morphs • Negative, plural and adjective morphemes are abstract categories that are represented by real forms. • Morphs are physical forms representing a morpheme in a language.
2-Morphology: Morphs/Allomorphs • Sometimes different morphs represent the same morpheme. They are called allomorphs of that morpheme. • The negative morpheme in English has different morphs/ allomorphs • In-capable • Il-logical • Ir-relevant • Im-probable • Allomorphs are morphs in complementary distribution;i.e. they are never found in identical contexts. • The choice of allomorph used in a given context is normally based on the properties of the neighboring sounds.
2- Morphology: Derivation/ Inflection • Bound morphemes can be derivational or inflectional. • Derivational morphemes derive new words from other words. • e.g., unhappy un + happy; happiness happy + ness • Theychange part of speech or the meaning of a word. • Inflectional morphemes, on the other hand, do not change meanings or parts of speech, but simply make minor grammatical changes necessary for agreement with other words. • e.g., cats cat + s; cooler cool + er • There are only eight inflectional morphemes: -s, -ed, -ing, - en, -s, -'s, -er, -est.
3- Areas of Influence: Post- Bloomfieldians’ Contributions • Bloomfield disseminated his teachings among a group of enthusiastic linguists, who came to be known as Post- Bloomfieldians. He lectured in the Summer Institute of American Society of Linguistics from 1938 to 1941, and inspired these linguists by his empiricist approach to language study. • This went along with a general tendency among American scholars to advance social sciences to the level of pure sciences. They were still unaware of the ethical issues that would be raised by the atomic bomb. • Post- Bloomfieldian structural school was dominant in America in the 1940s and 1950s. Leading Members included: • CharlesHokett • Zellig Harris • GeorgeTrager • Henry Lee Smith • They developed ideas derived from Bloomfield’s work. They were committed to reconstitute linguistic theory along strict empiricist lines.
3- Post- Bloomfieldians’ Contributions • Post- Bloomfieldians are also called descriptivist because they thought of general linguistics more as body of techniques of description than a body of beliefs about the nature of language. • Since the physical record of the flow of speech was the only data considered objective enough to serve as a starting point, it followed that the levels of a grammatical description had to be arrived at in the following order: • Phonemics • Morphemics • Syntax • Discourse
IV- Conclusion • The downfall of post-Bloomfieldian linguistics was brought about by dramatic changes in the philosophy of science. • Philosophers of science have realized that even the ‘hardest’ of science contains much that is neither logic nor purely objective observations and data. • Chomsky has come into the scene late 1960s and made some radical claims. • He believes that the behaviourist rejection of the mind is misguided, and that common sense intuitions about the mind were not necessarily unscientific. • Chomsky’s transformational structuralism was an attempt to bring De Saussure and Bloomfield ideas into a working framework. He adopts De Saussure’s mentalist philosophy and employs Bloomfield’s rigorous methods to come up with a revolutionary linguistic theory.
VI- Conclusion • However, this tremendous analytical work has a very concrete purpose: To aid the conversion of unbelievers by translating the Bible into their mother- tongues. • The Summer Institute of linguistics provides linguistic training for missionaries of Wycliffe Bible Translators Incorporation, who are working with every vernacular languages of Central and South America.
References • Bloomfield, L. (1914). An Introduction to the Study of Language, by Leonard Bloomfield. London, G. Bell and sons. • Bloomfield, L. (1933). Language. New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston. • Dinneen, F. P. (1967). An Introduction to General Linguistics. New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston. • Joseph, J. E. (2002). From Whitney to Chomsky: Essays in the History of American Linguistics. Amsterdam; Philadelphia, PA, John Benjamins Pub. • Lepschy, G. C. (1970). A survey of structural linguistics. London: Faber. • Malmkjær, K. and J. M. Anderson (1991). The Linguistics Encyclopedia. London; New York, Routledge. • Newmeyer, F. J. (1986). Linguistic Theory in America. Orlando, Academic Press. • Sampson, G. (1980). Schools of Linguistics: Competition and Evolution. London, Hutchinson. Web References • http://www.jastor.org/pss/30157319 • http://www.ielanguages.com/linguist.html • http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~langendoen/Bloomfield.pdf • http://www.hbcse.tifr.res.in/jrmcont/notespart1/node107.html