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.


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.


References in periodicals archive ?
It is true that this argument applies more generally also in the nonnormative contexts and so we might think that Putnam's argument does not pose a special problem for the non-naturalists who are global descriptivists.
A descriptivist Henry Hitchings indubitably is, but he is not an uncritical one.
To support his claim, the descriptivist may call attention to
Even though Lewis was a descriptivist, and even though his extreme realism about possible worlds made him the clearest case of someone committed to the qualitative-descriptive view of transworld identity (together with the Kaplan of "Transworld Heir Lines"), he had a way of distinguishing the modal behavior of non-rigid descriptions, from that of genuinely referential expressions --possible worlds as de re representations, from possible worlds representing merely de dicto (Lewis 1986, 196), or counterparts "by acquaintance" from counterparts "by description" (Lewis 1983, pp.
On the descriptivist model, the reference of terms like "life" and "death" is fixed by our implicit mental association of these terms with definitions that specify essential features of their referents.
For a discussion of Kant's "self-centered" ethics as one of the backgrounds of the Weltbild shared by Wittgenstein, some of his contemporaries and many of his followers, see Emyr Vaughan Thomas, Wittgensteinian Values: Philosophy, Religious Belief, and Descriptivist Methodology (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 76, 86-87.
It almost goes without saying that part of the conventional descriptivist wisdom accepted by these neo-descripdvists is that their theory is able to solve the problems that motivated the rise of descriptivism at the start of the twentieth century: the problems of why true identity statements can be informative, how to analyze singular negative existentials, and why co-referring names can't always be interchanged salva veritate in propositional attitude reports (the Frege-Russell problems, for short).
In this sense, what is lamented as disunity and factionalization from the perspective of the descriptivist ideal [which, I would add, informs Zizek's naming] is affirmed by the anti-descriptivist perspective as the open and democratizing potential of the category.
Influenced by Wittgenstein's descriptivist view of philosophy, Kuhn insisted that the task of the historian of science is not to evaluate the development of science in terms of abstract models of progress, but to describe and explain why it "progresses as it does.
Many writers, somewhere near the center between the polar descriptivist and prescriptivist positions, acknowledge that prescriptivists have a job to do in passing on to future writers a form of the language that will continue to be intelligible and that descriptivists have a job to do in recording all the forms of language that exist, along with their functionality.
I could split hairs over his assumption that Descriptivist linguists reject stylistic norms (see Chapter 12 of Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct).
66] As a consequence, an argument between Newtonian and Einsteinian physicists over the nature of "mass" can be understood as a real, empirical argument within the causal theory, whereas it may well appear to be an argument over mere semantics to the descriptivist theory.