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image of L. V. Ščerba’s conception of language
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Abstract

Summary

This contribution offers an introduction to an essay by the Russian linguist Lev Vladimirovič Ščerba (1880–1944), (“The threefold aspect of linguistic phenomena and experiment in linguistics”), which was first published in 1931. This introduction is followed by an annotated translation of Ščerba’s essay, proposed here for the first time to an English-speaking readership.

The critical introduction provides the backstory behind Ščerba’s conception of language as a means of helping the reader to understand the connectedness of the various strands of his linguistic research. As is shown in our introduction, Ščerba’s general distinction between linguistic raw material, the linguistic system and individual speech activity (the “threefold aspect” alluded to in the title of his essay) serves as a framework to conceptualise metalinguistic practice and the relation of the social dimension of language to its individual embodiment. An examination of the explanatory potential of Ščerba’s conception of language for general linguistic problems suggests that his achievements lay in formulating a cohesive account of the interconnectedness of language phenomena, identifying the linguistic means with which to understand the social nature of language, and providing a theoretical basis for addressing the practical tasks of linguistics.

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2021-03-02
2021-05-06
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