next up previous contents
Next: American structural linguistics Up: Linguistics Lecture 1 Previous: Structuralism   Contents

Prague school

Was led by Roman Jacobson (1896-1982) and Nicholas Troubetskoy. Jacobson - a Russian emigrated to USA in 1941, professor at Columbia, Harvard and then MIT. Worked on phonology - phonemes as sets of distinctive articulatory features. In 1956 Jacobson and Morris Halle reported that there are only twelve basic oppositions of these features out of which each language makes its own selections - commonality with Sanskrit phonology. The motivation was rationalist - to find a general theory of phonology independent of particular languages.

Prague school was also known for poetry and literary studies. It influenced Anthropology: Claude Lévi Strauss was introduced by Jacobson to structural methods which he used in conceptualising data on kinship and social organisation. Jacobson's approach was synthetic in contrast to the Chomskian insistence on autonomy of linguistics.