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JAKOBSON, ROMAN. - [THE RISE AND FALL OF LANGUAGES]

Kindersprache, Aphasie und allgemeine Lautgesetze.

lyn38103

Uppsala, 1941. 8vo. Bound in a recent full blue cloth w. printed paper title to front board. A bit of creasing to title-page and remains of cloth strip to hinge of title-page. Otherwise nice and clean, w. some marginal notes, all in light pencil. Old owner's name to title-page (J.A. Joffe). (2), 83 pp. ¶ The very scarce first edition of Jakobson's monumental work, "Child Language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals", in which the seminal linguist and founder of the Prague School presents a revolutionary theory about the underlying uniform structure of the world's languages.

Roman Osipovich Jakobson (1896 - 1982) was a famous Russian linguist and literary critic, who became one of the most influential linguists of the 20th century. He is probably most famous as the pioneer of structural analysis of language and as the co-founder of structuralism.

Jakobson was born into a Russian Jewish family. He early on showed a great interest in the theory of language, and already as a student he became a leading figure of the Moscow Linguistic Circle. He was very much influenced by Husserl's phenomenology and the work of Saussure, and he developed a deep interest in the question of how language, the human speech, functions and is possible.

Due to political troubles in Russia, in 1920 Jakobsen moved to Prague, where he was to become even more influential. He here, in 1926, co-founded the Prague School of linguistic theory, together with the Copenhagen School the most influential school of linguistics of its time and of decades to come. It is here that Jakobson develops his seminal ideas of phonology as well as the term structuralism and the contents of it.

When the Second World War broke out, Jakobson moved to Scandinavia, where he met the Copenhagen School of linguistics and its main figure, Louis Hjelmslev. It is during his time in Scandinavia that he writes (in German) and published (in Uppsala, Sweden) his influential "Kindersprache...". Later he fled to America, where he met Claude Lévi-Strauss, Quine, Bloomfeld and many other important thinkers within the field of language theory.

Jakobson's structuralist theories of language differentiate much from other parts of the structuralist movement in that he constantly bases them on knowledge from other sciences, from mathematics, philosophy, psychology etc.

In the present work, Jakobson sets out to prove that child language and aphasia must be considered within comparative linguistics, because it is the same rules that govern these as those that govern all human world languages. ""Die einzige Gelegenheit, die wir haben, die menschliche Sprache in statu nascendi zu beobachten bietet das Kind." So schrieb vor kurzem Karl Bühler, und man könnte dementsprechend fortsetzen: "Die einzige Gelegenheit, die wir haben, die menschliche Sprache im Abbau zu beobachten, bieten die pathologischen Sprachstörungen zentraler Natur." Für den Linguisten, der sich mit dem Enfaltetsein des Sprachgebildes befasst, muss auch seine GEBURT und ABSTERBEN viel lehrreiches bieten. Diese drei Teilformen des sprachlichen Geschehens wurden trotzdem noch nicht einer systematischen vergleichenden Analyse unterzogen." (p. (1)-2). (""The only opportunity we have to observe the human language in statu nascendi is offered by the child." So Karl Bühler wrote not long ago, and one could continue in the same manner: "The only opportunity we have to observe the human language in disintegration is offered by the pathological language disturbances of central nature." For the linguist, who is occupied with the turning out of the language formation, its BIRTH and DEATH must also contribute with something instructive. In spite of this, these three parts of the happening of language have not yet been subjected to a systematic comparative analysis." -Own translation). Jakobson now formulated specific hypotheses about the order in which children acquire their native language and about the nature of language dissolution, creating an entirely new approach to the study of the world's languages.

By linking observations about language typology, language acquisition and language pathology, Jakobson here presents an original, revolutionizing theory about the structure of the sound inventories that underlie the world languages. This approach to the study of the structure of sound and language was clearly ahead of its time, and phonology still did not have the sufficient empirical evidence or the sufficient instruments to properly verify it. Thus, only much later has Jakobsen's theories on the rise and fall of language been fully appreciated.

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