Roman Jakobson

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Jakobson, Roman

(rəmän` yäk`ôbsən), 1896–1982, Russian-American linguist and literary critic, b. Moscow. He coined the term structural linguistics and stressed that the aim of historical linguistics is the study not of isolated changes within a language but of systematic change. In Czechoslovakia in the late 1920s and the 30s, Jakobson and a few colleagues, most notably N. S. Trubetzkoy, developed what came to be known as the Prague school of linguistics. They argued that synchronic phonology, the study of speech sounds in a language at a given time, must be considered in light of diachronic phonology, the study of speech sounds as they have changed over the course of the language's history. After leaving Czechoslovakia in 1939, Jakobson went on to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden before coming to the United States to teach at Columbia (1943–49) and later Harvard (1949–67); at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1957–67) he worked with Morris Halle on distinctive-feature theory, developing a binary system that defines a speech sound by the presence or absence of specific phonetic qualities, such as stridency and nasality. Through his contact with French anthropologist Claude Lévi-StraussLévi-Strauss, Claude
, 1908–2009, French anthropologist, b. Brussels, Belgium, Ph.D Univ. of Paris, 1948. He carried out research in Brazil from 1935 to 1939.
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 and others, Jakobson was influential in the development of structuralismstructuralism,
theory that uses culturally interconnected signs to reconstruct systems of relationships rather than studying isolated, material things in themselves. This method found wide use from the early 20th cent.
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.

Bibliography

See his Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning (1978); Framework of Language (1980).

Jakobson, Roman Osipovich

 

Born Oct. 11 (23), 1896, in Moscow. Russian and American linguist and literary scholar.

Jakobson graduated from the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages in 1914 and from Moscow University in 1918. He emigrated in 1921. Jakobson eventually became a professor at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the founders of the Moscow, Prague, and New York linguistics circles, he helped develop the theories of structuralism and structural linguistics.

Jakobson has done research in a number of areas of linguistics. His principal studies in theoretical linguistics deal with phonology, the theory of distinctive features, the problem of language unions, typology, language universals, the general theory of cases, and the description of verbal systems. He has also published important studies dealing with the Slavic languages, primarily Russian, and with poetics, particularly versification and metrics.

Jakobson has made contributions to the study of Slavic mythology and rituals. He has produced studies on early Slavic poetry, epics, Old Russian literature, and the linguistic and stylistic characteristics of many literary figures, including Dante, Shakespeare, M. Eminescu, B. Brecht, and a number of Russian writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. He has also published numerous articles on poetic texts.

Jakobson is an honorary member of many national academies, scholarly societies, and universities.

WORKS

Selected Writings, vols. 1–2,4. The Hague-Paris, 1962–66, 1971.
Questions de poétique. Paris [1973].

REFERENCE

Roman Jakobson: A Bibliography of His Writings. The Hague-Paris, 1971.

V. N. TOPOROV