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Dynamic Linguistics

Labov, Martinet, Jakobson and other Precursors of the Dynamic Approach to Language Description

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Iwan Wmffre

Analysis of language as a combination of both a structural and a lexical component overlooks a third all-encompassing aspect: dynamics. Dynamic Linguistics approaches the description of the complex phenomenon that is human language by focusing on this important but often neglected aspect.
This book charts the belated recognition of the importance of dynamic synchrony in twentieth-century linguistics and discusses two other key concepts in some detail: speech community and language structure. Because of their vital role in the development of a dynamic approach to linguistics, the three linguists William Labov, André Martinet and Roman Jakobson are featured, in particular Martinet in whose later writings – neglected in the English-speaking world – the fullest appreciation of the dynamics of language to date are found. A sustained attempt is also made to chronicle precursors, between the nineteenth century and the 1970s, who provided inspiration for these three scholars in the development of a dynamic approach to linguistic description and analysis.
The dynamic approach to linguistics is intended to help consolidate functional structuralists, geolinguists, sociolinguists and all other empirically minded linguists within a broader theoretical framework as well as playing a part in reversing the overformalism of the simplistic structuralist framework which has dominated, and continues to dominate, present-day linguistic description.

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Chapter 6 Problems of definition of concepts and terms relevant to dynamic linguistics

Extract

Notwithstanding the focus on both Labov and Martinet’s individual con- tributions to the terminology of dynamic linguistics we must acknowledge other widely used terms. We shall not linger long or even mention some very well-known conceptual oppositions which have become quasi-universal since Saussure-CLG’s day. ′Structuralism′ – Jakobson’s coining – caught on both in Europe and in America in the 1920s as the description of the type of linguistics advocated by Saussure-CLG even though the latter had used ′system′ (F. système). Structuralism was a label sometimes uneasily shared by linguists who had an interest in form rather than function and polar- ised along ′formalist′ and ′functionalist′ wings.1 Early on in his writings, Martinet referred to ‘functional description / description fonctionnelle’ [1938: 54] and ‘functional approach / point de vue fonctionnelle’ [1938: 45] without hinting that this constituted anything other than the standard Prague school structuralism to which he adhered. Other concepts and terms discussed elsewhere are: ′speech commu- nity′ (see 9.2.2.). 1 Joseph [2012: 644–45, 648] seems unwilling to accord the American Bloomfieldian type of linguistics the label structuralist because, despite many similarities, it was in many respects not structuralist as was Saussure’s with regard to conceptual aspects until Chomsky’s arrival on the scene. On the other hand, Martinet seems to have found American Bloomfieldian structuralism rather formalist compared to the Prague School structuralism, a feature of American structuralism which continued with a vengeance with Chomsky’s revolution, a judgment which concurs with Labov’s [1975a: 6, 53, 58] view of both the...

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