Labov, Martinet, Jakobson and other Precursors of the Dynamic Approach to Language Description
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.
Chapter 7 Martinet and Labov
In the present chapter I endeavour to distinguish the approach and empha- ses of Martinet and Labov, by comparing and contrasting their contribu- tions to dynamic linguistics. For this purpose I focus particularly on areas of mismatch or of ambiguity in their contributions. 7.1. Problems of definition: The Communicative function of language Like other structuralists [Mathesius 1961: 13–14], Martinet [1993a: 289] always emphasised that the fundamental function or purpose of language was ′communication′ which latter word is naturally mostly understood as implying that language is a referential (denotational) means for imparting information and opinion to other humans. Chatting is often a gratuitous practice which does not actually aim at communication, but rather at a sort of communion which is a very dif ferent thing. / Le bavardage est souvent un exercice gratuit qui ne vise pas réellement à la communciation, mais plutôt à une sorte de communion, ce qui est très dif férent. [Martinet 1960a: 182] But this additional phatic function or purpose of language, that of status- indexical participation, as a means of associating oneself with or dissociating oneself from other humans is also very important in inf luencing language use.1 Governed by an innate need for social interaction, humans seek 1 Mathesius [1961: 13] only contrasted the ′communicative′ function with that of yet another function termed ′expression′ by him, which he defined as the ‘spontaneous 250 Chapter 7 participation with particular groups of others with which they identify in order to belong and to feel...
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