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The Magic of a Common Language Jakobson, Mathesius, Trubetzkoy, and the Prague Linguistic Circle cover
  • ISBN: 9780262200967
  • ISBN10: 0262200961

The Magic of a Common Language Jakobson, Mathesius, Trubetzkoy, and the Prague Linguistic Circle

by Jindrich Toman

  • List Price: $58.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Mit Pr
  • Publish date: 04/01/1995
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Driven by a common desire to form a new basis for understanding the sources and functioning of language, a heterogeneous group of Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, and German scholars who found themselves living in Prague in the mid 1920s created the profoundly influential Prague Linguistic Circle. This book examines the historical factors that produced the Circle, the basic tenets that it promulgated, and, most important, the social and cultural environment in which it flourished. The book can also be read as an interlocking series of intellectual biographies of the Prague Circle's major figures. The new linguistics, whose core was to be phonology, emphasized synchronic analysis, anti-psychologism, anti-causalism, the investigation of language contact, and the understanding of language as a social institution. Significantly, the Circle's theories were strongly connected to and reflected by Prague's literary and artistic avant-garde. The book is based on extensive archival research in Czech, Russian, and German sources. Jindrich Toman is especially adept at showing how characteristics of the spirit of the age, such as the ideal of collective activity, the idea of a synthesis of knowledge, and an emphasis on a socially defined commitment to scholarship, became embedded in the Prague Circle's program. It was Roman Jakobson, the best-known member, who broadcast the Circle's activities to a wider world; however, Toman also focuses on several of Jakobson's colleagues who deserve equal appreciation - in particular the Russian prince and phonologist N. S. Trubetzkoy and the Czech professor of English and academic reformer Vilem Mathesius.
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