On Language

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1995 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 646 pages

One measure of Roman Jakobson's towering role in linguistics is that his work has defined the field itself. Jakobson's contributions have now become a permanent part of American and European views on language. With his uncanny ability to survive devastating uprooting again and again--from Moscow to Prague to Upsalla to New York and finally to Cambridge--Jakobson was able to bring to each milieu new and stimulating ideas, which have broadened the perspective of linguistics while giving it new direction and specifying its domain. Linda Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston have assembled an intellectual overview of his work in linguistics from partial and complete works that they have arranged, introduced, and cross-referenced. Some appear here in print for the first time, others are newly translated into English. More than a convenient access to Jakobson's basic works, On Language presents a broad profile of the polymathic general linguist who suggested radical innovations in every area of linguistic theory.

The breadth of Jakobson's engagement in linguistics is captured by the editors' informative introduction and by their perspicacious presentation of topics. His general view of the science of linguistics is followed by his stunning contributions to linguistic metatheory in the areas of structure and function. Various aspects of historical, typological, and sociolinguistics are also explored along with his phonological theory--perhaps his most influential contribution--and his views on grammatical semantics. A topic that increasingly preoccupied Jakobson in his later career, the interrelationship between sound and meaning, is presented here in detail. The concluding three essays focus on the various relations between linguistics and the human and natural sciences, which led Jakobson ultimately to be characterized as an interdisciplinary thinker.

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On language

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Polyglot Jakobson (1896-1982) was born in Russia, emigrated to Czechoslovakia, then fled the Nazis to the United States, where he became professor of linguistics at Harvard. This selection of writings ... Read full review

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About the author (1995)

Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) was at the time of his death Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Monique Monville-Burston is Associate Professor, Department of French, University of Melbourne.

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