Descriptive Linguistics


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Descriptive Linguistics

 

one of the schools of linguistic structuralism, which was dominant in American linguistics from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. The American linguists L. Bloomfield and E. Sapir, who reexamined the ideas of the neogrammarian doctrine, were the founders of descriptive linguistics. The trends in descriptive linguistics—one associated with Bloomfield (the works of G. Trager, B. Bloch, Z. Harris, C. Hockett, and H. L. Smith, Jr.) and the other with Sapir (the works of K. L. Pike, E. A. Nida, and C. Fries)—diverge in the nature of their research interests and in part in their theoretical aims but are similar in the area of methods of linguistic research.

The limitation to problems of synchronic linguistic re-search is caused by linguistic practice (the teaching of language) and the specifics of the material from North American Indian languages. Language appears to descriptivists as an aggregate of speech utterances, which were the main object of their research. At the center of their attention were the rules of the scientific description (hence the name) of texts: the study of the organization, the arrangement and classification of their elements. The formalization of analytical procedures in the area of phonology and morphology (the development of principles for studying language at different levels, of distributive analysis, and of the method of immediate constitutents) led to the posing of general questions on linguistic simulation. Lack of attention to the content plane of language, as well as to the paradigmatic aspect of language, did not permit descriptivists sufficiently fully and correctly to interpret language as a system. There was also no consistent philosophical basis. The overcoming of descriptivism is connected with sharp criticism of its methodological basis (in particular, its underestimation of the explanatory aspects of science) from the viewpoint of the theory of the generative grammar of language.

REFERENCES

Sapir, E. Iazyk: Vvedenie v izuchenie rechi. Moscow, 1934. (Translated from English.)
Gleason, H. Vvedenie v deskriptivnuiu lingvistiku. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
Bloomfield, L. lazyk. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from English.)
Arutiunova, N. D., G. A. Klimov, and E. S. Kubriakova. “Amerikanskii strukturalizm.” In Osnovnye napravleniia strukturalizma. Moscow, 1964.
Readings in Linguistics, 4th ed. Edited by M. Joos. London-Chicago, 1967.

G. A. KLIMOV

References in periodicals archive ?
Any branch of applied linguistics depends essentially upon, but also raises interesting questions for, descriptive linguistics.
In the light of these sign-based definitions, it is not surprising that Marchand (1969: 6) rejects an analysis of series such as deceive, conceive, perceive, receive; consist, desist, insist, persist, resist; conduce, deduce, induce, produce, reduce as bimorphemic, which was current in American descriptive linguistics.
In addition to the core of Gurage descriptive linguistics, articles of this book present interesting historical and comparative aspects (such as on "a Proto-Semitic marker of the imperfect," "An archaic vowel of the jussive," "Archaic features in South Ethiopic," and "Traces of the laryngeals in Ennemor" and in Endegen), and themes of interest for general and theoretical linguistics (such as "Spirantization in the Ethiopian languages," "Frequency as determinant of linguistic changes in Ethiopic," and "The influence of the Cushitic substratum on Semitic Ethiopic reexamined").
Gleason's "older" Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961), or having them read V.

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