On Language / Edition 1

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One measure of Roman Jakobson's towering role in linguistics is that his work has defined the field itself. Jakobson's contributions have now become a permanent part of American and European views on language. With his uncanny ability to survive devastating uprooting again and again—from Moscow to Prague to Upsalla to New York and finally to Cambridge—Jakobson was able to bring to each milieu new and stimulating ideas, which have broadened the perspective of linguistics while giving it new direction and specifying its domain. Linda Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston have assembled an intellectual overview of his work in linguistics from partial and complete works that they have arranged, introduced, and cross-referenced. Some appear here in print for the first time, others are newly translated into English. More than a convenient access to Jakobson's basic works, On Language presents a broad profile of the polymathic general linguist who suggested radical innovations in every area of linguistic theory.

The breadth of Jakobson's engagement in linguistics is captured by the editors' informative introduction and by their perspicacious presentation of topics. His general view of the science of linguistics is followed by his stunning contributions to linguistic metatheory in the areas of structure and function. Various aspects of historical, typological, and sociolinguistics are also explored along with his phonological theory—perhaps his most influential contribution—and his views on grammatical semantics. A topic that increasingly preoccupied Jakobson in his later career, the interrelationship between sound and meaning, is presented here in detail. The concluding three essays focus on the various relations between linguistics and the human and natural sciences, which led Jakobson ultimately to be characterized as an interdisciplinary thinker.

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Editorial Reviews

Comparative Literature
Part of the fascination of Language in Literature is that it shows Jakobson returning again and again to the same topics, and sometimes even to the same texts, over a period of sixty years, and placing them in ever larger contexts...Jakobson's youthful ties to the Russian Futurists, and particularly to Velimir Khlebnikov, surely helped to strengthen his conviction that the critic's role is to formulate explicitly, and to demonstrate by means of a rigorous analysis the truths that the poet discovers intuitively.
— Thomas R. Hart
Modern Language Review
Twenty-nine articles in all, written over a period of sixty years, although the represent only a fraction of Jakobson's output, provide scarcely-needed con firmation of the extraordinary and sustained depth and breadth of his erudition and interests.
— David Shepherd
Roland Barthes
Roman Jakobson has given us a marvelous gift: he has given linguistics to artists. It is he who opened up the live and sensitive juncture between one of the most exact of the sciences of man and the creative world. He represents, both for his theoretical thought and for his actual accomplishments, the meeting, of scientific thought and the creative spirit.
Russian Review
An accessible collection of theoretical works by one of the most important and versatile linguists of the century...The works collected in this volume...speak eloquently.
— Olga T. Yokoyama
Times Literary Supplement
An anthology which unquestionably offers the best of Jakobson...even a brief perusal of the volume under review should persuade anyone that in terns I of trenchancy, precision, versatility and cultural range, Jakobson's oeuvre is without rival in the modern age. He has been the central, if as yet unacknowledged. figure in the development of modern poetics; it is time for us to come to terms with his formidable legacy.
— F. W. Galan
Library Journal
Polyglot Jakobson (1896-1982) was born in Russia, emigrated to Czechoslovakia, then fled the Nazis to the United States, where he became professor of linguistics at Harvard. This selection of writings from the entire range of his academic career gives a good overview of his linguistic theories, showing how his orientation changed from structuralist to functionalist as he came to believe that usage rather than system was central to understanding language. Especially noteworthy here is his admission that Charles Sanders Peirce's work in semiotics influenced him tremendously, leading him to ``a larger study of communication, involving social anthropology, sociology and economics'' and eventually biology and neurolinguistics. For academic subject collections.-- Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.
A companion volume to Roman Jakobson, Language in literature, edited by Pomorska and Rudy (1987), the present volume, edited and introduced by Linda Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston, gives an overall view of Jakobson's (1896-1982) general linguistic theory. It includes those texts that are best suited to introduce readers to the general lines of Jakobson's approach to language. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674635364
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) was at the time of his death Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Linda Waugh is Professor of Linguistics, Romance Studies, and Comparative Literature, Cornell University.

Monique Monville-Burston is Associate Professor, Department of French, University of Melbourne.

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Table of Contents


Editorial Method

Phonetic Symbols


Introduction: The Life, Work, and Influence of Roman Jakobson

By Linda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston

PART I: The Science of Language: General Overviews

1. Current Issues of General Linguistics

2. Efforts toward a Means-Ends Model of Language in Inter-war Continental Linguistics

3. My Favorite Topics

PART II: The Function and Structure of Language:
Some Fundamental Concepts

4. The Speech Event and the Functions of Language

5. Langue and Parole: Code and Message

6. Parts and Wholes in Language

7. Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances

8. The Concept of Mark (with Krystyna Pomorska)

PART III: Dimensions of Language:

Invariants and Variants across Time and Space

9. Typological Studies and Their Contribution to Historical Comparative Linguistics

10. Implications of Language Universals for Linguistics

11. The Time Factor in Language (with Krystyna Pomorska)

12. The Space Factor in Language (with Krystyna Pomorska)

13. Principles of Historical Phonology

14. On the Theory of Phonological Affinities between Languages

PART IV: The Sound System of Language

15. The Concept of Phoneme

16. The Concept of the Distinctive Feature (with C. Gunnar Fant and Morris Halle)

17. Quest for the Ultimate Constituents (with Linda R. Waugh)

18. The Sound Laws of Child Language and Their Place in General Phonology

19. Why "Mama" and "Papa"?

PART V: Meaning in Language: Grammatical and Lexical

20. Some Questions of Meaning

21. Boas' View of Grammatical Meaning

22. Contribution to the General Theory of Case

23. Shifters and Verbal Categories

PART VI: Sound and Meaning in Language: Their Interrelations

24. The Phonemic and Grammatical Aspects of Language in Their Interrelations

25. Quest for the Essence of Language

26. The Spell of the Speech Sound (with Linda R. Waugh)

PART VII: The Place of Language: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

27. Linguistics in Relation to Other Sciences

28. Linguistics and Communication Theory

29. Brain and Language



Name Index

Subject Index

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