History of Linguistics Introduction to Linguistics II Yanbu University college First semester-121 Ms.SaharDeknash
Early Traditions For a long time, linguists were trying to record the historical origins and developments of linguistics through different periods of time. Linguistics started in societies with a writing system like most sciences, and early developments in linguistics were considered part of philosophy, rhetoric, logic, psychology, biology, pedagogy, poetry and religion.
It was difficult to separate the history of linguistics from the study of general history, so the study of linguistics has contributed a lot to the study of history in general. Therefore, to explain the developments in linguistics, we have to take into account the historical and cultural changes and developments in general.
The Early Grammar Traditions: The Old Babylonian Tradition: - The first linguistic texts were composed in Sumerian, the language of the religions and legal texts. Then, it was replaced by the Akkadian language. - Most of the texts were administrative documents, inventories, receipts and rosters.
Hindu Tradition: - It was based on the oldest religion text known as Vedas which was written in Sanskrit. - It contained a set of rules formed to learn and understand the archaic language.
The Greek Grammatical Tradition: - It was developed by schoolmasters and philosophers as Homer whose works were considered basic in early Greek education. - Plato, Aristotle and Stoics made use of earlier school grammar. - The Greek tradition kept ancient themes as the origin of language, parts of speech (grammatical categories) and the relation between language and thought.
The Greek Grammatical Tradition: - In Greek tradition, morphology was dealt with as a historical matter as part of etymology. - Syntax was not described directly, but was treated in rhetoric and logic.
The Roman Tradition: - The Roman linguists continued the Greek themes. - The Roman linguistics became more important in the Middle Ages. - The Roman linguists didn't treat syntax (only they discussed the parts of speech). - Morphology dominated on an approach that focuses on the noun declensions and verb conjugations.
The Arab Tradition: - The Arab linguists followed the Greek tradition especially Aristotle. - Arabic grammarians considered Arabic language as sacred and immutable as mentioned in the Qur'an. - Arabic grammarians were concerned with explaining why Arabic was perfect.
- The major impetus for grammatical study came from the desire to preserve the integrity of the holy language of the Qur'an. • Famous Arabic grammarians: * Abu Al-Aswad Al-Douali * Sibawayhi * Al-Khalil Ibn Ahmad Al-Frahidi
The Hebrew Tradition: - The linguists of Hebrew language were concerned with establishing the correct Hebrew text of the Old Testament. - They borrowed descriptive methods from Arabic tradition, and then they developed a system of analysis for morphology.
European ( Christian) Tradition: • The early Christian writers returned to the philosophical themes of Aristotle. - Classical Latin grammar was adapted to church education.
European ( Christian) Tradition • The early Christian linguists were interested in finding and discussing the origins of languages. - The idea that Hebrew is the original language was a predominant idea.
The Development of Linguistics Linguistics developed as a subject in its own right in the late 18th century when language in the Western World (Christian) had been the interest of philosophers and grammarians. In 1786, an Englishman Sir William Jones showed that the Old Indian Language had structured similarities to Greek, Celtic, Latin, Germanic languages.
The Development of Linguistics He insisted that all these languages must have originated from one common source. Thus, for the next 100 years, the scholars were occupied to trace this common source and consequently, linguistics became the dominant branch of linguistic enquiry.
The scholars started comparing languages in terms of phonology, morphology and lexis. They finally formed an individual lineage that shows the relationship between these languages that are grouped under the hypothetical origin (INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGE).
Toward the end of the 19th century, a group of German linguists began studying the effect of sound changes with a given language on other related sounds in the same language. They discovered that once a change occurs, it tends to work productively through the language.
Ferdinand de Saussure A Swiss linguist who lived in the 19th century. He had the vision to see a larger role for linguistics. Despite he became known as the " father of Modern Linguistics", he never published a major book in linguistics
Ferdinand de Saussure After his death, his students collected together his lecture notes and published them with the title " Course de Linguistiquegenerale". The published book was influential in linguistics.
Saussure was interested in Structural Linguistics. He likened language to a game of chess where each piece is defined according to its own situation on the board and its relationship with the other pieces. Saussure discussed the theory of semantic space.
For example: English has two words ( sheep – mutton) , one for the living animal and the other is for the cooked object. In French, there is only one word to refer to both items. This means that the French word occupies more semantic space than the English word and consequently it has a larger meaning. If English didn't have the word sheep, possibly the word mutton will expand in meaning to cover the gap.
Saussure was sure that words: - keep circulating continuously. - Define themselves against each other. - Adjust their value.
Saussure's Concept: Saussure treated words as signs. Signs have no natural relationship to the things they represent. The word dog has no intrinsic connection with the animal it refers to. Any other word could do the same, so the relationship is essentially arbitrary.
This idea became known as Saussure's Principle of Arbitrariness. Later , it became a basic idea of modern linguistics. It is one of the properties that distinguishes human language from animals' communication systems.
Saussure's Methodology Saussure's methodology is based upon the binary model of language. His methodology involves working with two term oppositions. Saussure dealt with language as a self-enclosed system. " Words are related to each other as signs and can be strung together in various combinations to form sentences."
Saussure's Methodology Saussure imagined sentences as having two axes on which items could be stored in these ways. The axes of substitution which he termed as paradigmatic and the axis of combination which he termed syntagmatic.
Paradigmatic VS. syntagmatic Paradigmatic is a linguistic term that describes the substitutional relationship which a linguistic unit has with other units. You can substitute a unit without affecting the basic syntactic arrangements:
On the other hand, syntagmatic is a linguistic term that refers to the sequential characteristics of language. When we construct words and sentences, we follow a certain order in arranging the individual items. For example, When we try to form the word /pit/,we are obliged to utter the particular phonemes in that order, that means, any other order would either make a different word or nonsense word.
If we are going to construct a sentence, we follow certain patterns to make an acceptable one. For example the sentence the dog ate the cat is different than the cat ate the dog. There are certain rules that capture the use of words in each slot in the sentence and The choice of one word conditions the choice of the next, and of the next again.
The constituents of the sentence (words) are referred to as syntagms , and the relationship which they enter into with the other words on either side is referred to as syntagmatic relationship.
The other terms that Saussure dealt with are: Langue/Parole Langue: (French, meaning "language") and parole (meaning "speech") are linguistic terms used by Ferdinand de Saussure. Langue describes the social, impersonal phenomenon of language as a system of signs, while parole describes the individual, personal phenomenon of language as a series of speech acts made by a linguistic subject. ( Wikipedia Definition)
In other words, langue is the conceptual knowledge of language, the abstract system of rules which compromises it. ( competence) Parole is the representation of the rules of language in actual sentences and utterances. ( performance)
Synchronic/Diachronic Synchronic Study The study of a language or one aspect of that language at a particular point of time, regardless of any historical considerations which might have influenced that language. Diachronic Study The study of one language or one aspect of that language at different times of its evolution.
Sign- Signifier- Signified Saussure dealt with the these terms in his study of language to refer to the combination of a linguistic form with its meaning or function. Saussure argued that words (signs) comprise two elements: a sound image ( phonetic aspect- pronunciation form- signifier), and a meaning ( signified)
Structuralism Itis an approach to the human sciences that attempts to analyze a specific field (for instance, mythology) as a complex system of interrelated parts. It began in linguistics with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), but many French intellectuals perceived it to have a wider application, and the model was soon modified and applied to other fields, such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, psychoanalysis, literary theory and architecture.
Structuralism in linguistics Structuralism states that human culture is to be understood as a system of signs. Robert Scholes defined structuralism as a reaction to modernist alienation and despair. Structuralists attempted to develop a semiology (system of signs).
Key notions in structural linguistics are the notions of paradigm, syntagm and value, though these notions were not yet fully developed in Saussure's thought.
A structural paradigm is actually a class of linguistic units (lexemes, morphemes or even constructions) which are possible in a certain position in a given linguistic environment (like a given sentence), which is the syntagm.
The different functional role of each of these members of the paradigm is called value (valeur in French).
Linguistics in the 20th Century: The most important developments in linguistics took place in America due to the American anthropologists who were concerned with recording the culture and languages of the Native Indian tribes which were disappearing quickly because of the dominance of the white race in America.
In 1933, the linguist, Leonard Bloomfield, published a book called language, in which he proposed a methodology for the description of any language which became known as descriptive linguistics or structuralism. Bloomfield asserted that the task of linguists was to collect data from native speakers of a language and then to analyze it by studying the phonological and syntactic patterns.
Bloomfield argued that one of the principal ways in which items are ordered in a language is in terms of their constituency. Any sentence can be analyzed in terms of immediate constituents which in its turn can be analyzed into further constituents. The sentence is dominated by a hierarchical relationship of constituents. The hierarchical relationship is represented in the form of a tree diagram.
The descriptive linguistics of Bloomfield provided a powerful means of analyzing the surface structure of language, but it ignored two important aspects: first, it was not interested in meaning or semantics. Second, it worked with the strong believe that description alone was sufficient for arriving at a set of language rules, the matter that proved its failure later on.
Noam Chomsky argued that description alone is not enough for the linguists to set rules for a language, but more important than description is explanation.
Who is Noam Chomsky? He is the most influential linguist in contemporary linguistics. He published his book " Syntactic Structure" in 1957 and afterward he constantly provided the linguistic studies with his theories and observations. He believed that it is not enough for a grammar to take account of existing sentences only, but it should account for sentences which have not yet been written or uttered.
Who is Noam Chomsky? Chomsky was interested in Language Creativity ( its capacity to generate completely new sentences endlessly). This can be obtained if speakers have a internalized set of rules or grammar that can judge which sentences are acceptable and which are not.
Who is Noam Chomsky? Chomsky believed that the task of the linguist is to understand the mental grammar. The way that led Chomsky to propose two levels of structure: surface and deep and he referred to as Transformational Grammar. Deep/surface structure provided explanation to ambiguous sentences as well as the passive and active structures.
In late 20th century, the combined influence of Saussure and Chomsky increased the importance of the study of the language by linguists and non- linguists. New disciplines as sociology, psychology and literary criticism began to leave their own marks and contributions on linguistics.
Michael Halliday influenced by Saussure more than Chomsky, proposed the idea of systemic grammar (functional). His approach is more functional than Chomsky's. He considers language as existing entity to fulfill certain human needs, such as our needs to make sense of the world and to relate to others.