A life for language : a biographical memoir of Leonard by Robert A. Hall Jr.

By Robert A. Hall Jr.

Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) was once one of many maximum linguists of the 20th century. He committed his whole lifestyles to a thorough-going learn of language, its constitution and its use, summed up in masterly type in his booklet Language (1933). After his untimely loss of life on the age of sixty two, his paintings used to be in the beginning acclaimed as an exemplary program of the medical way to linguistics, yet then fell into unjustified forget. Now that the centenary of his delivery has handed, the time has come for the tale of Bloomfield's lifestyles and paintings to be mentioned in a biography. as a result, basing his dialogue on all to be had fabrics (including a few details no longer obtainable till recently), Professor corridor has provided Bloomfield's lifestyles historical past in its highbrow and cultural environment. This e-book is not just a biography, but additionally a private memoir, during which corridor attracts on his contacts with Bloomfield, who used to be his instructor at Chicago and a senior colleague at Yale. There emerges from this learn a fuller photograph than now we have had heretofore, featuring either Bloomfield's famous success in constructing the learn of language as a systematic self-discipline, and the less-known features of his personality and of his own lifestyles, which in yes respects was once very tragic and unhappy.

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Bloomfield, on the other hand, was shy, retiring, almost self-effacing, and a man of few words. They were both Jews, but from widely different traditions within Judaism: Bloomfield from the free-thinking side of the Austrian Jewish enlightenment, and Sapir from a very orthodox approach, which he rejected for a time, but towards which he later returned. Léon Després reports that Sapir was very helpful in the establishment of a society for Jewish students at the University of Chicago, and opines that Bloomfield would never have been interested in any such activity.

In this matter, Bloomfield pointed out Kloeke's inconsistency and criticized him severely for it. Another important review was that of Lautgesetz und Analogie by Eduard Hermann (1869-1950) in volume 8 of Language (1933). In this review he 44 A LIFE FOR LANGUAGE criticizes, mercilessly but justifiably, Hermann's pandering to popular miscon­ ceptions of the nature of language and of language change, especially in denying the underlying postulate of the regularity of sound change when it is not interfered with by other factors.

He used to say that it made no more sense to talk about "Grimm's Law" than it did to speak of "the law of Gettysburg". He was too well acquainted with the work of the Neogrammarians, especially as summarized in the Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte (1880) of Hermann Paul (1846-1921), to be unaware of the dangers inherent in the metaphorical use of that term. Bloomfield's European critics dismissed him, therefore, as a belated follower of an outworn and discredited doctrine, operating in a culturally marginal region and without knowledge or understanding of modern developments.

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