Modern Linguistic Tendencies
“ European Structuralism “ headed by Saussure asserts that the
ideas concerning the consideration of language as a system of signs
where all is held in mutual relationship – therefore, the value of each
element depends on its relationship with the other elements
of the system – developed in different directions in other European
schools between the thirties and the fifties.
School of Prague ( Jakobson, Trubeckoi, Mathesius etc)
School of Paris (Martinet)
School of Copenaghen (Hjelmeslev: Glossematic Theory is considered too abstract and mathematical)
School of London (Firth)
The main evident features of these
schools ( except in the case of Glossematics) is the stress on a
unctional prospective (or Functionalist) which sees language as a basic
instrument of communication and the structures correlated, instead, to
functions. In America, despite the anthropological and typological trend
which was present at the beginning of XX century in Sapir’s work,
“Structuralism“ is widespread, on the contrary, in a model which is
strongly descriptive and positivist called “distributionalism “ or “
Taxonimic Structuralism “ (worthy of great consideration is the scholar
This model aims at analysing language only on the behavioural basis
which is empirically verifiable of the messages it produces apart from
the functions and meanings.
Opposed to Structuralism we
have Generativism with its founder Noam Chomsky who tackles the study of
language from a formal perspective contrasting any other linguistic
trend that priveleges empirical data inductively. He is inspired by
models which are, on the one hand, mathematical and, on the other
psychological, considering language as a chiefly innate faculty with its
autonomous organisations which must be studied according to strictly
deductive methods. The generative theory has, however, in almost 40
years, undergone to continuous change of results and a significative
re-orientation which have slowly changed its order and main categories:
from the "standard “ theory at the end of the years “ 60 – 70 “ to the
so-called theory of “ Principles and Parameters “.
There are many other modern linguistic tendencies which are of great
importance : Pike’s “ Tagmemics “, tesniere’s “ Grammar of Value
(Valenza) “, Halliday’s “ Functional theories “, the Amsterdam School
of Dik and the studies of Typological Linguistics.
The studies of “Typological Linguistics“ are usually based on
principles more functional than formal that try to understand which are
the potential mecchanisms of language and which are those already
effected . What is therefore universal and what changes in the structure
of language referring above all to the different ways in which the
disparate languages of different linguistic families existing in the
world realize the categories of the linguistic system.
STRUCTURALISM IN EUROPE
SAUSSURE ( FREI , BALLY , etc. )
Saussure emphasized a synchronic view of linguistics in contrast to the
diachronic historical study) of the 19th century . The synchronic view
sees the structure of language as a functioning system at a given
point in time. This distinction was a breakthrough and became generally
accepted. A “sign “ is the basic unit of ‘langue’ (language ) (a given
language at a given time). Every ‘langue’ (language )is a complete
system of signs. ‘ Parole ‘ (word ) (the speech of an individual ) is an
external manifestation of ‘langue’ (language ). Another important
distinction is the one between syntactic relations, which takes place
in a given text, and paradigmatic relations.
School of Prague with Trubeckoj Jakobson
To these we owe ‘the phonological theory’ from which we draw the notion
of ‘phoneme’ based on the concept of opposition. Jakobson apart from
setting out the principle of Diachronic Phonology , set up the analysis
of ‘phonemes’ in distinctive binary opposition.
School of Copenaghen with Hjelmeslev Brondal
To Hjelmeslev we owe ‘the theory of Glossematics’. He develops in a
systematic way many
intuitions belonging to Saussure, and his ideas have turned out to have a
great influence on literature, especially concerning literary theory
through the semilogical elaboration of the concept ‘sign’ and the
attempt to deepen the notion of ‘form of contents’ that leads to the
introduction of structural semantics.
Structuralism in U.S
Sapir: his influence is still of vital importance even
nowadays. He contributes in an original way
to the elaboration of ‘phoneme’ and he has also written pages worthy of
consideration concerning the cultural and psychological aspects of
Bloomfield: we owe to him the strict elaboration of analysis in
‘immediate constituents’ which is the basis of Syntagmatic Grammar with
‘tree graphs’ which will be used by Chomsky (the founder of the so
called Generative Grammar) in the context of ‘generative Grammar'.
Halliday ‘s functionalism: his semiotic theory whereby language being a
pragmatic and social phenomenon must be explained in all its aspects in
relation to its linguistic usage.