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Modern Movements in Linguistic


 A number of twentieth-century movements in Linguistics which have shaped current attitudes and assumptions. The first of these, to which I will give the label historicism is usually thought of as being characteristic of an earlier period of linguistic thought. It is important in these connection in that it prepared the way for structuralism.

Structuralism, functionalism and movements like generativism are the principal.


especially in Europe, is of multiple origin. It is both conventional and convenient to date its birth as an identifiable movement in linguistics from the publication of saussure’s course de linguistic general in 1916.

Several of the constitutive distinctions of saussurean structuralism have been introduced already. It suffices to remind the reader of them and to show how they fit together. Saussure argued that the synchronic description of particular languages could be equally scientific and also that it could be explanatory must necessarily be description of particular languages could be equally scientific; and also it could be explanatory. Sychoronic explanation in being structural rather than casal. It gives a different kind of answer to the question, “why are things as they are?” Instead of teaching the historical development of particular forms of meanings. It demonstrates how forms and meaning are interrelated at a particular point in a particular language-system. It is important to realize that in opposing the neogrammariam view.

Structural description of a language tells us how all the components fit together.

There are certain aspects of saussure’s distinction between the diachoronic and the synchoronic point of view that are controversial not to say paradoxical linguistic. This is paradoxical in view of the fact that saussure’s own early work on the proto. Indo European vowel system as describe the method of reconstruction.

This method of reconstruction was subsequently refined and adopted by schorals who called themselves structuralists and drew their inspiration at least partly, from saussure. However it would seem that he himself believed rightly or wrongly that all changes originated outside the language system itself and did not take account of what were later to be identified as structural pressures with in the system operating as internal causal factors of language-change. No more need be said about this.

Little said about saussure dichotomy between langue and parole between the language-system and language behaviour. What must be emphasized at this point is the abstraction of saussure’s conception of the language-system. A language (langue), says saussure, is a form not a substance. The term form is well established in this sense is philosophy and relates on the one hand to Whilhelm Humbodlt’s notion f the inner form of a language, and on the other, to the Russian formalists notion of forms as opposed to context in literally analysis. But it is potentially misleading. According to saussure’s thought if we say that a language is a structure, implying by the use of this term that it is independent of the physical substance, or medium, in which it is realized, structure in this sense is more or less equivalent to system “A language is a two level of system, system of syntagmatic and subsitutional or (paradigmatic the sense in which particular emphasis is given to the internal combinatorial and contrastive relations within a language-system-that makes the term structuralism appropriate to several different twentieth century schools of linguistics, which might differ one from the other in various respects, including the abstractness of their conception of their language system and their attitudes to the fiction of homogeneity.

However, in the saussure’s tradition it has usually been taken to imply that a language-system is a structure that can be abstracted not only from the historical forces that have brought it into being, but also from the social matrix in which it operates and the psychological process by which it is acquired and made available for use in language-behaviour.

There might seems to be some conflict between saussure’s view that the language-system should be studied in abstraction from the society in which it operates and the view which he certainly did hold that languages are social facts. In the sense the term social facts was employed by the great French sociologist-Emile-Oer-Keim saussure contemporary. They have their own unique constitutive principles. In saying that a language-system are social facts. Saussure was asserting several things. That they are different from, though no less real than material objects, that they are external to the individual and make him subject to their constraining force that they are system of values maintained by social convention.

More particularly, he took the view that they are semiotic systems in which that which is signified (Le-signified is arbitrary associated with that which signifies (Le-significant) This is saussure’s principle of arbitrariness of the linguistic sign A principal which was discussed, independently of the role it fulfils is saussurean structuralism, in an earlier chapter. The important point to note here and it is essential for the understanding of saussurean structuralism is that the sign is a meaningful form: It is a composite entity which result from the imposition of structure on two kinds of substance by the combinatorial and contrastive relations of the language-system meaning cannot exist independently of the forms with which they are associated; and vice versa. We must not think of a language as a nomenclature, says saussure that is as a set of names, or labels, for pre-existing concept of its or meanings. The meaning of a word-or rather, that aspect of its meaning which saussure called the signific rather, that aspect of its meaning which saussure is wholly internal to the language-system. Its sense, rather than its reference or denotation is the product of the semantic relations which hold between that word and others in the some language-system. To invoke the traditional philosophical distinction between essence and existence. It derives not only its essence (what it is) but also its existence (the fact that it is) from the relational structure that is imposed by the language system upon the otherwise unstructured substance of thought similarly, what saussure calls the significant of a word is phonological shape, as it were result ultimately from the network of contrasts and equivalences that a particular language system imposes upon the continuum of sound.

The saussurean view of the uniqueness of language-system and of the relation between structure and substance leads naturally though by no means inevitably, to the thesis of linguistic relativity. The thesis that there are no universal properties of human language (other very general semiotic properties as arbitrariness, productivity, duality, and discreteness. The thesis that every language is, it were, a low unto itself. Any movement or attitude in linguistic which accepts this point of view may be referred to conveniently, as relativism and contrasted with universalism. Relativism in a stronger or weaker from has been associated with most kinds of twentieth-century-structuralism. In past it can be seen as a methodological healthy reaction to the tendency to describe the indigenous language of the new world in terms of the categories of western traditional grammar. But relativism has also been defended by its proponents, in association with structuralism, in the more controversial context of discussion of such traditional philosophical issues as the relation between language and mind and the role played by language in the acquisition and representation of knowledge. Both philosophical and methodological relativism have been rejected, by Chomsky and his followers, as we shall see, in their formulation of the principles of generativism. What needs to be emphasized here is the fact that although there is a strong historical connection between structuralism notably Jakobson and other members of the Prague school. Who never accepted the more asrtremes forms of relativism. This hold not only with in linguistics, but also in other discipline such as social anthropology, in which structuralism has been an important twentieth-century influence.

Taking structuralism in a more general sense, we can say as the philosopher Earnest Cassirer did in 1945. structuralism is not isolated phenomenon It is rather, the expression of a general tendency of thought that in these last decades, has become more and more prominent in almost all fields of scientific research Arbitrary property of language tends to imply the presence or absence of other apparently arbitrary property. But so far at least implicational universals of this kind have not been satisfactorily explained in functional terms. It would seem that there is indeed a good deal of arbitrariness. In the non-verbal components of language system and more particularly in their grammatical structure and that functionalism, as defined above is un-tenable.

  1. There is no intrinsic link between signifier and signified.
  2. Language is not a nomenclature names arbitrary attached to set of objects. Then translation would be easy. Wicked man and pet have no counter-part.
  3. Each language articulates or organized words differently.
  4. if language were a set of names applied to concepts, then the historical evolution of a language should remain stable e.g. of cuttle silly.
  5. language is not a nomenclature and therefore it signifier and signified are not pre-existing concepts but changeable and contingent concept which very from one. State of a language to another so the signified is associated with a signifier can take any from.
  6. There is no essentional cove of meaning of signifier and signified are relational.


The terms ‘functionalism’ and structuralism are often employed in anthropology and sociology to refer to contrasting theories or methods of analysis. In linguistic, however,  functionalism is best seen as a particular movement with in structuralism. It is characterized by the belief that the phonological, grammatical and semantic structure of language  is determined by the functions that they have to perform in the society in which they operate. The best known representative of functionalism, in this sense of the term, are the member of the Prague school.  Which had its origin in the Mague linguistics in the period preceding  the II World War. Not all the members of the Prague linguistic circle incidentally were based in Prague; nor were they all cyech. Two of it most influential members Roman Jackobson and Nikology Trubetzkoy Tzkoy were emrigre Russian.

It was in phonology that the Prague school first made its impact. In fact the motion of functional contrast which was involved above in drawing the distinction between phonetics and phonology, is essentially that of Trubetzkoy. Whose conception of distinctive features, as modified by Jackobeson and latter by halle has been incorporated within the theory of generative phonology. But the distinctive function of to phonetic. Also known as demarcative function on the one hand and expressive function on the other.

Nevertheless word, stress does have  an important demaractive function in English.  The fact that not all sequence of phonemes are possible word forms of a language is of importance for the identification of these forms that do occur in utterances.

By the expressive function of a phonological feature is meant its indication of the speaker’s feelings or attitude. For example, world stress is not distinctive in French and it does not play democrative part as it does in many languages.

There is a particular kind of emphatic pronunciation of the beginning of the word which has an acknowledged expressive function. It is probably true to say that every language put a rich set of phonological resources at the disposal of its users for the expression of feelings.

In practice, however, not only Prague school  linguistics, but also other who have called themselves functionalist  have tended to emprise the multi-functionality of language and the importance of its expressive, social and conative functions, in contrast with or in addition to its descriptive function.

One of  the enduring interests of the Prague school, as for as the grammatical structure of languages is concerned, has been functional sentence perspective. It was pointed out in an earlier chapter that

  • This morning he got uplate and
  • He got up late this morning might be regarded as different versions of the same sentence or whichever point of view we adopt two things are clear first, that (1)  are truth conditionally equivalent and therefore, on a narrow interpretation of ‘Meaning’ can be said to have the same meaning second, that the context in which (1) would be uttered differ systematically from the contexts in which (2) would be uttered (1) and (2) different sentences if determined by the communicative setting of the utterance.

In general we can say that functionalism in linguistics has tended to emphasize the instrumental character of language. There is a natural affinity therefore, between the functionalist viewpoint and that of the sociologist or of such philosophers of language as have subsumed language behavior under the more embracing notion of social interaction. Functionalism is, in this respect and in others.

But is it true, as the functionalists, that the structure of natural languages is determined by the several interpendent semiotic functions expressive, social and descriptive that they fulfil? If t were, their structure would be in this respect non-obituary, and in so far as different language systems fulfilled the same semiotic function they could be expected to be expected to be similar, if not identical, in structure. No it is possible that linguistic have at times exaggerate the arbitrariness of grammatical process and have failed to give due weight to functional  considerations in the description of particular phenomena.  It is also possible that functional explanation will ultimately be found for many facts which at present seem to be quite arbitrary for example, the facts which at present seem to be quite arbitrary  for example, the facts which at present seems to be quite arbitrary for example, the fact that the objective regularly  precedes the non phrases in English, but usually follows its noun in French; the fact that the verb is put at the end of subordinate clauses in German; and so on. In certain instances  it has been noted that the presence of one  such apparently arbitrary property in a language tend to employ the presence or absence of another apparently arbitrary property, but so far at least  implicational universals of this kind have not been satisfactorily  explained in functional terms. It would seem that there is indeed a good deal of arbitrariness.  In the non verbal components of language systems, and more particularly in their grammatical structure and that functionalism, as defined above, is un tenable. It does not follow, of course, that weaker versions of  functionalism, according to which the structure of language systems is partly, though not wholly, determined by function are equally untenable. And linguistics who call themselves functionalistic tend to adopt one of the weaker versions.


The term generativism is being used here to refer to the theory  of language that has been developed over the last twenty year or so by Chomsky and his fellows generativism in this sense has been  enormously influential, not only in linguistics but also in philosophy psychology and other  disciplines concerned with language.

Generativism carries with it a commitment to the usefulness and feasibility of describing human languages by means of generative grammar of one types or mother first we discuss Chomsky’s system  of transformational generative grammar when he first put this forward.  The influence of Chomsky’s generativism upon all modern linguistic theory has been so deep and so pervasive that even those  who reject this or that aspect of it tend to do so in terms that Chomsky has made available to them. He has shown that the behaviorist refusal to countenance of  anything other than observable physical objects and processes is based on an outdated pseudo scientific  prejudice.  He has asserted as for as the evidence goes correctly that language is free from stimulus control. This is what when talk of mean of creativity.

The utterance that someone produces on any particular occasion is in some technical sense of these terms, as a response to some identifiable linguistic or non linguistic stimulus.

Creativity is a particular human attribute which distinguish men from Machine

The utterances that we produce have certain grammatical structure. They conform to identifiable rules of well formedness.

Nevertheless there are scientific differences between Chomsky an geneativsim and both Bloomfield and post bloomfieldian structuralism. One of these has to do with their attitudes towards linguistic universals. In this respect generativisim represents a return to the older tradition of universal grammar. Chomsky is for more impressed with universal properties of language as can’t be so accounted for. In short with what is universal, but arbitrary. Another differences is that he attaches more importance to the formal properties of languages and to the nature of the rules that their description requires than he does to the relations that holds  between language and the world.

According to Chomsky there are several complex properties which are found in all languages and yet are arbitrary in the sense that they serve no known purpose and can’t be  deduced from anything else that we know of human beings of the world in which they  live.

A speaker’s linguistic competence is a set of rules which he has constructed in his mind by virtue of his application  of his innate capacity for language data that he has learnd around him in childhood.

The grammar that the linguistic constructs for the language system in question can be seen as a mold of the native speaker’s competence. The actualization of that utterance is performance.

Its commitment to the autonomy of syntax to the view that the syntactic structure of languages can be described without  recourse to semantic consideration.

Generatvisim is all too often presented as an integrated whole in which the technical details of formalization are on a per of with a number of logically unconnected ideas about language and the philosophy of science.


As Chomsky describe (a sentence is well formed if the native speaker felt it correct or grammatically he finds language as mathematically.

I will consider language to be a set of finite and infinite of sentences.

According to Chomsky his grammar is generative since it can generate certain infinite number of sentences. It is called transformational science.

 For example

          I read a book.

Or a book is read by me.

I don’t read the book so I read and book.

Deep and surface structure

            According to Chomsky sentences may be present in the brain mind at two level.

Simple, basic or kernel sentences are deep level.

Spoken or written sentences are at the surface level.

T.G has resource rules.

This is the man (by adding).

Who rode the bike (by adding).

That chased the thief (by adding).

This kind of structure is called embedding.

Phrase Structure

           The boy followed the dog.

The following sentence means the same.

The dog was followed by the body.

Sentences are formulated in ‘WPS’ and VPS.

The boy followed the dog.

NP=1 VP=2 NP2=3

The structure is 1+2+3 this is called a structure description (SD).

The transformation is shown structural change (SC).

SD= 1+2+3


1+2+3= = = = = = = = 73+was+2+by+1

Symbols Used In Writing Rules

           A symbols used in writing. Something which stand for something else. In linguistic we use symbols when we write down rules. The writing down of rules is known as formalization, explaining something in a precise formula.

S=        sentence (He want home)

N =      noun (Ali he, you boys)

V=       verbs (Walk, Talk, write).

Adv=   adverb (quickly, slowly, fast).

Adj=    adjective ( good, red pretly)

Art=    article (a, an, the).

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