1887
Volume 15, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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Abstract

SUMMARYThis paper explores the intriguing and hitherto neglected question of contact between Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and members of the Prague Linguistic Circle (1926-1939) concerning the development of phonemic theory. The point of departure is Cain's (1980) conjecture that the Prague Anglicists (Mathesius, Trnka, and Vachek) were more likely to have encountered the writings of Sapir than Sapir was to have read Jakobson's and Trubetzkoy's Czech and Russian publications. Sapir's published theoretical works provide no evidence of contact with or knowledge of classical Prague School phonology. However, a thorough study of the relevant Prague School publications reveals that three of Sapir's theoretical writings and three of his language monographs were well known to some of its members. Interestingly, three of the seven references to Sapir by the Anglicists appear in their German and Czech writings, while the largest number of references to Sapir occur in Trubetzkoy's published scholarly works and letters written primarily in German and Russian. Trubetzkoy's letters provide valuable supplementary evidence of personal communication between him and Sapir. Collation of material in the letters with passages in Trubetzkoy's publications reveals that Sapir and members of the Prague School (Jakob-son, Mathesius, Trubetzkoy) were in personal contact from 1929, three years after the founding of the Circle. It also emerges that Trubetzkoy had read Sapir (1925) in a copy of the journal Language which Mathesius had lent to him as early as 1928, while Sapir had read vol. 1 of the Travaux and commented favorably on it to Trubetzkoy in 1929. Although Sapir and the Prague School developed their views on phonemic theory independently, Trubetzkoy's articles and letters occasionally reveal fairly technical discussion of theoretical points and problems in the phonological systems of specific languages raised by Sapir. Finally, the letters provide convincing evidence that Trubetzkoy and Sapir shared an ongoing professional concern with advancing the cause of phonology in the international linguistic community. Sapir and members of the Prague School expended considerable effort toward a favorable reception of phonology by the American linguists (e.g., Leonard Bloomfield, Boas, Kent, Kurath, and Twaddell). In this connection, Sapir was very actively involved in the American branch of the Internationale phonologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft from its inception in 1932 during the Second International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Amsterdam. Although Sapir and Trubetzkoy appear never to have met in person, the IP A turned out to serve as a pivotal link between Sapir and Trubetzkoy and, by extension, between the Linguistic Society of America and the Prague Linguistic Circle.RÉSUMÉL'article explore l'intrigante question, negligee jusqu'ici dans l'erudi-tion, du rapport entre Edward Sapir (1884-1939) et les membres du Cercle linguistique de Prague (1926-1939) concernant le developpement de la theorie phonemique. Le point de depart est l'hypothese de Cain (1980) qui affirme que c'est tres probable que les Anglicistes de Prague (Mathesius, Trnka et Vachek) aient connu les ecrits de Sapir, mais peu probable que Sapir eût lu les publications tcheques et russes de Jakobson et de Trou-betzkoy. Les ouvrages theoriques publies par Sapir ne fournissent aucune evidence ni d'un rapport avec la phonologie classique de l'Ecole de Prague ni d'une connaissance de cette phonologie. Cependant, une etude intensive des publications pertinentes de l'Ecole de Prague revele que trois des ecrits theoriques de Sapir ainsi que trois de ses monographies etaient bien connus par quelques-uns de ses membres. II est interessant a signaler que trois des sept references a Sapir par les Anglicistes sont en allemand et tcheque tan-dis que le plus grand nombre de references a Sapir se trouve dans les ecrits de Troubetzkoy et dans ses lettres personnelles redigees principalement en russe et en allemand. Ces lettres fournissent un important temoignage sup-plemantaire de ses echanges professionnels avec Sapir. Le collationnement de materiel epistolaire avec des passages dans les publications de Troubetzkoy revele que Sapir et les membres de l'Ecole de Prague (Jakobson, Mathesius et Troubetzkoy) etaient personellement en contact l'un avec l'autre a partir de 1929, soit trois ans apres la fondation du Cercle. II en res-sort egalement que Troubetzkoy avait lu Sapir (1925) dans un exemplaire de la revue Language que Mathesius lui avait prete vers 1928, et que Sapir, en revanche, avait lu le premier volume des Travaux et en avait fait des remarques favorables a Troubetzkoy en 1929. Quoique Sapir et l'École de Prague formaient independamment leurs idees sur la theorie phonemique, les articles et les lettres de Troubetzkoy revelent parfois echange assez technique sur des points theoriques et des problemes d'analyse des systemes phonologiques des langues 'exotiques'.Finalement, les lettres fournissent une evidence convainquante que Troubetzkoy et Sapir avaient tous les deux un interet professionnel et conti-nu dans l'avancement de la cause de la phonologie dans la communaute lin-guistique internationale. Sapir et les membres de l'École de Prague fai-saient des efforts considerables pour assurer un accueil favorable de la phonologie chez les linguistes americains (e.g., Leonard Bloomfield, Boas, Kent, Kurath et Twaddell). Pour sa part, Sapir etait tres actif dans la bran-che americaine de l'Association Internationale pour les etudes phonologiques a partir de son inception pendant le deuxieme Congres International des Sciences Phonetiques, tenu a Amsterdam en 1932. Quoique Sapir et Troubetzkoy semblent ne jamais s'etre rencontres, l'Association Internationale pour les etudes phonologiques devint un lien pivotant entre eux, et, par consequence, entre la Societe linguistique de l'Amerique et le Cercle linguistique de Prague.
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/content/journals/10.1075/hl.15.3.04era
1988-01-01
2019-09-20
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References

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  • Article Type: Research Article
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