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By Peter Matthews

This booklet is a concise historic survey of structural linguistics, charting its improvement from the 1870s to the current day. Peter Matthews examines the beginnings of structuralism and analyzes the important position performed in it by means of the examine of sound structures and the issues of ways platforms swap. He discusses theories of the general constitution of a language, the "Chomskyan revolution" within the Fifties, and the structuralist theories of which means. The publication contains exposition, specifically, of the contributions of Saussure, Bloomfield and Chomsky.

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Extra info for A Short History of Structural Linguistics

Example text

Therefore we write ‘d ’. But, on reviewing our notes, we find that what is evidently the same word has been written differently on varying occasions. Naturally we check. We ask the speakers of the language to repeat what they have said; and, yet again, we sometimes ‘hear’ l and we sometimes ‘hear’ d. Sometimes, when we ‘heard’ l the first time we will now ‘hear’ d, and sometimes the opposite. What has gone wrong? Such difficulties were not new; but at the end of the nineteenth century they were particularly serious in North America.

Hence the need, in Sweet’s terms, for both ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ representations. 40 Sound systems Within the system, each sound is related to other sounds. It is related, first, to those from which it is distinguished by ‘significant’ features: English [if] from English [0]; English [g] (plosive) from English [p] (nasal). Such relations might be said to define what Sapir called ‘the objective system of sounds’. But they are also related by their patterning: in the way they alternate or in the sequences they form.

To understand both why and how it did we have to look especially at the emergence of the basic unit called the ‘phoneme’. The term itself (originally French ‘phonème’) had been coined innocuously in the early 1870s for a single speech-sound (German ‘Sprachlaut’). At the time it was a new term and no more. But by the 1930s it was the centre of a new and well-developed theory. Even historians of languages could not ignore it: for sound change, as Bloomfield among others made 31 32 Sound systems clear, was change in phonemes (Bloomfield, 1935 [1933]: 351).

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