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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a branch of linguistics that studies the aggregate of the ethnic, social, historical, and geographic factors that are inseparably linked to the development of language.

The distinction between external and internal linguistics originated with the Swiss linguist F. de Saussure, one of the founders of structural linguistics. He recognized that the culture, history, and customs of a people, the relationships between language and the social institutions (school, church, and so on), the geographic distribution of languages, and linguistic contacts can influence the development of language; however, he considered all this alien to the “organism of language”—to its system. He introduced the contrast of language and speech and of synchrony and diachrony. Language is independent of speech; consequently, its system does not depend on extralinguistic factors. On the other hand, the origin of a particular linguistic element that can be associated with some external factor is not essential for the study of the contemporary state of a language or a synchronic analysis of its system; only the relationships obtaining between the elements in a system are important.

Modern Soviet linguistics does not deny the existence of external and internal aspects of language. The interaction of external and internal linguistic factors is particularly evident during periods of intensive linguistic contacts and in cases of bilingualism and multilingualism.


Saussure, F. de. Kurs obshchei lingvistiki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933. (Translated from French.)
Baudouin de Courtenay, I. A. “Nekotorye obshchie zamechaniia o iazykovedenii i iazyke.” Izbrannye trudy po obshchemu iazykoznaniiu, vol. 1. Moscow, 1963.
Budagov, R. A. Iz istorii iazykoznaniia (Sossiur i sossiureanstvo). Moscow, 1954.
Akhmanova, O. S., and V. Z. Panfilov. “Ekstralingyisticheskie i vnutrilingvisticheskie faktory v funktsionirovanii i razvitii iazyka.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1963, no. 4.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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