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Explorations in Language and Linguistics

For Professor Piotr Stalmaszczyk on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday


Edited By Łukasz Bogucki and Piotr Cap

This volume is dedicated to Professor Piotr Stalmaszczyk, Head of the Department of English and General Linguistics at the University of Łódź, on the occasion of his 60th birthday. It includes texts written by his students, colleagues and friends, dealing with a variety of urgent, widely discussed topics in the contemporary language studies. Spanning contributions from language history, philosophy, rhetoric and argumentation, methodology, and discourse studies, it provides an authoritative outline of the field and a timely response to the existing challenges, thus making for a concise handbook of modern linguistics. It is recommended to graduate students of philology, as well as researchers working in linguistics and other disciplines within the broad spectrum of humanities and social sciences.

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An Essay on the History of the Idea of Language Inequality (Przemysław Żywiczyński)


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Przemysław Żywiczyński

An Essay on the History of the Idea of Language Inequality1

Abstract: The present chapter tells the history of the idea of language inequality, a view that preceded the modern conception of all languages being equal in their lexico-grammatical sophistication and thus pragmatic expressivity. It argues for rethinking the inequality view, and specifically for redefining the ideas in modern linguistics and philosophy of language that grew out of it.

Keywords: language equality, language inequality, classical languages, Humboldtian linguistics structuralism

Linguistic equality describes the view that all languages have the same ability of expressing ideas and relations between them (Griffiths 1990, cf. Tonkin 2015). This formulation related to expressivity is sometimes accompanied by the statement that all languages are equally sophisticated in their lexical content and syntactic make-up, and that this equal degree of sophistication is responsible for the equality in expressivity (Griffiths 1990). We can also add the ontogenetic plane, on which language equality refers to the ability of a typically developing child to acquire any language with the same ease as any other language (cf. Lenneberg 1967)

The view that languages are equal – in the senses outlined above – is relatively new. Although its beginnings go far back, mainly to these trends of reflection on language that appealed to universalism (e.g. the medieval school of speculative grammar or the Port-Royal grammarians of the 17th century, see Żywiczyński in press), language equality became...

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