Theory Groups and the Study of Language in North America

A social history

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Based on extensive archival research, interviews, and participant observation over the course of two decades, <i>Theory Groups in the Study of Language in North America</i> provides a detailed social history of traditions and &#8220;revolutionary&#8221; challenges to traditions within North American linguistics, especially within 20th-century anthropological linguistics. After showing substantial differences between Bloomfield's and neo-Bloomfieldian theorizing, Murray shows that early transformational-generative work on syntax grew out of neo-Bloomfieldian structuralism, and was promoted by neo-Bloomfieldian gatekeepers, in particular longtime <i>Language</i> editor Bernard Bloch. The central case studies of the book contrast the (increasingly) &#8220;revolutionary rhetoric&#8221; of transformational-generative grammarians with rhetorics of continuity emitted by two linguistic anthropology groupings that began simultaneously with TGG in the late-1950s, the ethnography of communication and ethnoscience.The history of linguistics in North America provides a continuum from isolated scholars to successful groups dominating entire disciplines. Although focused on groupings &#8212; both &#8220;invisible colleges&#8221; and readily visible institutions &#8212; Murray discusses those writing about language in society who were not participants in &#8220;theory groups&#8221; or &#8220;schools&#8221; both before and after the three central case studies. He provides a theory of social bases for claiming to be making &#8220;scientific revolution&#8221; in contrast to building on sound &#8220;traditions&#8221;, and suggests non-cognitive reasons for success in the often rhetorically violent contention of perspectives about language in North America during the last century and a half.<br />The book includes appendices explaining the methodology used, an extensive bibliography, and an index.

Subjects: History of linguistics



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