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Roman Jakobson, linguistica e poetica

 | 
Edoardo Esposito
, 
Stefania Sini
, 
Marina Castagneto

Jakobson e la linguistica del Novecento

Jakobson and the boundaries of linguistics

Giacomo Ferrari

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1The boundaries of linguistics are, by tradition, rather dynamic and extensible, given the complexity of its subject of study, human language. Saussure, in fact, asserts that

  • 1 Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale, Paris, Payot & Rivages, 1995, p. 20.

La matière de la linguistique est constituée d’abord par toutes le manifestations du langage humain […] La tâche de la linguistique sera:
[…]
c) de se délimiter et de se définir elle-même.1

2Considering the list of Jakobson’s publications, it seems that these boundaries are really very broad. Jakobson’s scientific interests include many different fields, from phonology, to general linguistics, Slavic linguistics, language disorders (aphasia), neuro-linguistics, semiotics, Slavic poetry, comments on single authors, comparative mythology, folklore, ethnography, and others.

  • 2 Leonard Bloomfield, Language, New York, Henry Holt, 1933, p. 32: «In the division of scientific wo (...)
  • 3 Noam Chomsky, Rules and Representations, New York, Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 4: «I would (...)

3In principle, following the words of Saussure, there is no problem in accepting any extension of the field, although the more recent developments of the discipline seem to prove the contrary. The progressive removal of semiotics, the opposing definitions of the task of linguistics well summarized in Bloomfield2 with respect to Chomsky,3 and other positions taken by different scholars seem to suggest the rising of some sort of scientific intolerance, which is incompatible both with the declaration of Saussure and, above all, with the profile of Jakobson.

4This article will not elaborate on specific aspects of Jakobson’s linguistic or literary theories, but will try to identify the general features that give unity to such a diversity of interests.

2. The roots

5Jakobson’s active life and inexhaustible scientific curiosity brought him often to cross the boundaries that linguists tend to set to their discipline, probably because the task assigned to them by Saussure had the effect of making them find distinctions and elaborations that ended up by setting too many limits and constraints.

6Jakobson’s energy in carrying out different lines of research is certainly his personal talent, which, however, was nurtured and developed by the special cultural and historical climate he lived in.

7It was a historical very troubled period but in the same time very rich in intellectual activity and personal interrelations. The relevant events of that period have been the WWI, the arising of Russian Formalism, and the Russian revolution.

8The activities and the work of Roman Jakobson are better understood by looking at the cultural climate of that period.

2.1 Parallel profiles

  • 4 Eurasianism is an ideology largely spread among the post-revolution Russian emigrant; according to (...)

9Roman Jakobson was born in 1896 and died 1982. Nikolaj Trubeckoj lived in the same period, his life being significantly shorter (1890-1938). They both had strong and vital contacts with the two circles from which Russian Formalism started and spread and their lives shared at least the choice of escaping the soviet revolution and moving abroad, Tchekia, then Scandinavia and finally USA the former, Bulgaria and Vienna the latter. They also shared the Eurasian ideology,4 strongly promoted by Trubeckoj, and exchanged letters on the subject. Trubeckoj carried out specialised research on phonology, while Jakobson kept a wide range of interests, which included phonology, but were not limited to it.

10Despite this difference in their lines of research, some common aspects of their lives motivate their scientific evolution. In particular, it seems important to trace Jakobson’s intellectual history back to the experiences of Russian Formalism.

2.2 Jakobson, Trubeckoj and Russian formalism

11Both Jakobson and Trubeckoij have been very active in the beginning of the Russian Formalism and were main characters in the fertile climate set up by the two organizations around which so much intellectual creativity was animated, the Moscow Linguistic Circle and Opojaz. Both organizations were characterised by a unitary view of language, communication and art.

2.2.1 Moscow Linguistic Circle

12The cultural climate in Moscow was dominated by the personality of Filip Fortunatov, a traditional indoeuropeanist, still aligned with the Neogrammarian thought, who formed a flourishing school in Slavic philology.

  • 5 In German, Pëtr Bogatyrëv, Roman Jakobson, Die Folklore als eine besondere Form des Schaffens, in (...)
  • 6 In Russian, Boris Tomaševskij, Teorija Literatury, Moscow, Leningrad, 1925.
  • 7 In Boris Tomaševskij, Stilistika i stihosloženie: kurs lekcij [trad. Stilistica e versificazione] (...)

13Moving from this cultural climate Pëtr Bogatyrëv, Grigorij Vinokur, and Roman Jakobson founded the Moskovskij Lingvističeskij Kružok (MLK, often quoted as Moscow Linguistic Circle - MLC), with the aim of promoting studies on linguistics and a linguistic approach to literature and folklore. Roman Jakobson served as first president from 1915 to 1920. Vinokur (1896-1947) studied linguistics and published works on the history of Russian language; his interests were focused on the study of poetic language. Bogatyrëv (1893-1971) was, instead, an ethnologist with interests into folk literature. With Jakobson he wrote in 1929 the article Folklore as a special form of creation5 in which the authors offer a view on the difference between literature and folkloric (popular) creation, using constant comparisons with the methodology of linguistics. Another important member of the group was Boris Viktorovič Tomaševskij (1890-1957), who studied engineering but was very attracted by literary studies, and published in 1925 a Theory of Literature,6 that is considered the first systematic presentation of the theory of Russian Formalism. His interest in versification took advantage of his competence in statistics, as he applied quantitative methods to Russian poetry.7 He was also a member of Opojaz.

2.2.2 OPOJAZ

14St. Petersburg was dominated by the teaching of Aleksandr Nikolaevič Veselovskij, a philologist and literary critic, with a great competence in Italian Renaissance as well as Russian and Byzantine literature, up to folklore, a field in which he contributed innovative psychological interpretations.

  • 8 Both written first in Russian, Viktor Šklovskij, Iskusstvo kak priëm, in Sborniki po teorij poetič (...)

15Opojaz (Obščestvo izučenija poetičeskogo jazyka, Association for the study of poetic language) was based in S.Petersbourg and operated from 1916 to 1930. The founder was Viktor Borisovič Šklovskij (1893-1984), who, after attending St.Petersburg University, during the WWI volunteered in the army and became a driving trainer for armoured cars. In 1916 he founded Opojaz and in 1917 he took active part into the revolution; however he opposed bolshevism and conspired against it, but was discovered and run away through Ukraine. In 1919 he was pardoned and served in the Red Army. In 1922 he was again obliged to escape and moved to Germany, but was allowed to re-enter USSR in 1923, where he started to work in the field of cinema. He was a friend of Gor’kij and Eizenšteijn, and wrote the biographies of Laurence Sterne, Maksim Gor’kij, Lev Tolstoj e Vladimir Majakovskij. He contributed to the Russian Formalism two foundational theoretical essays, Art as Technique (1917) and On Theory of Prose (1929).8

  • 9 First written in Russian, Osip Brik, Zvukovye povtory, (Analiz zvukovoj struktury sticha), in Sbor (...)

16Another very important member was Osip Maksimovič Brik (1888-1945). He grew up in Moscow, where he studied law.But he soon found himself far more interested in poetry and poetics and devoted all his time to it, becoming one of the founders of Opojaz. In 1917 he wrote one of the first important formalist studies of sounds in poetry, Sound repetitions,9 which appeared in the same collection where Šklovskij’s Art as Technique was published.

  • 10 First written in Russian, Boris Èichenbaum, Teorija Formal’nogo metoda, in «Literatura», 1927; edi (...)

17Boris Èichenbaum (1886-1956) started his studies in biology and, above all, music, aiming at making it his professional future. In 1909 he gave up this aspiration and moved to the Slavic-Russian department at St. Petersburg State University. He participated into Opojaz from the beginning to the ’20s; however, after that date he kept contributing essays on single authors but also some theoretical articles as Theory of the ‘formal method’.10

  • 11 Roman Jakobson, Jurij Tynjanov, Problems in the study of language and literature, in Poetics Today(...)

18Finally, Jurij Nikolaevič Tynjanov (1894-1943) studied in St.Petrsburg University and attended the Pushkin seminar. In 1928 he co-authored with Jakobson the Theses on Language.11

2.3 Evolution and Dissolution of a movement

19This short sketch of the activities of the most important persons of the two circles shows the network of cultural as well as personal links that related them with one another.

20But those groups were dissolved after the events triggered by the revolution. In general the soviet regime was unfavourable to the Formalist school that was accused of ‘cosmopolitism’ by Trotskij. Thus, Brik continued his cultural activity as an extreme left-wing intellectual, but under Stalin rule he was persecuted. The same destiny was shared by Èichenbaum.

21Šklovskij, after a short period in Berlin, returned to Russia and started the soviet movie industry (GASKINO).

  • 12 Catherine Depretto, Roman Jakobson et le relance de l’Opojaz (1928-1930), «Litérature», 107, 1997, (...)

22The linguists emigrated and entered the Prague Linguistic Circle which was more focused on linguistics, although the artistic interests did not disappear. From the Russian groups Jakobson, Trubeckoij and Bogatyrëv became members. Later on, Bogatyrëv returned to Russia. The Prague Circle had a more international scope, and was the bridge between the theoretical elaborations of the Russian and Czech linguistics and the Western approach. There was an attempt, between 1928 and 1930, to rebuild the group,12 but the period of magic creativity was finished. The baton was taken over by the Prague School, which became the heir of such creativity.

3. Anticipatory theories

23The Linguistic Circle of Prague developed important areas of linguistics, such as phonology or the distribution of information (the themarhema opposition); Jakobson’s contribution was very significant. He also proposed a model of the general process of communication that is still up-to-date and is still used in many areas besides linguistic studies.

24Some of the fields of interest of Jakobson stand at the border between linguistics and some other discipline; however most of these borderline areas are the straight-forward heritage of the elaborations of Russian Formalism, where the studies of language, art, and folklore were intertwined.

3.1 Linguistics and verbal arts

25A very important domain of theoretical elaboration has been the linguistic approach to art, responding to the question ‘what is the specific feature of poetry/literature?’.

  • 13 Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) was a semiologist who distinguished himself for having studied the morp (...)

26The distinction drawn by Šklovskij as well as Propp13 between fabula, sjuzhet and priëm is a pivotal point. The fabula is the chronological order of the events in the narrative, while sjuzhet is the arrangement of the scenes. But in literature:

  • 14 Viktor Šklovskij, Art as Technique, cit., p.19.

The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.14

27The devices that the writer has available to ‘defamiliarize’ literary expression is technical, i.e. priëm, the ability of making it strange (priëm ostranenija). There are different techniques to ‘defamiliarize’, thus, according to Šklovskij, Tolstoj, for instance,

  • 15 Ibidem.

[…] describes an object as if he were seeing it for the first time, an event as if it were happening for the first time. In describing something he avoids the accepted names of its parts and instead names corresponding parts of other objects […] In War and Peace Tolstoy uses the same technique in describing whole battles as if battles were something new.15

28The general principle is that:

  • 16 Ivi, p. 27.

In studying poetic speech in its phonetic and lexical structure as well as in its characteristic distribution of words, and in the characteristic thought structures compounded – from the words, we find everywhere the artistic trademark – that is, we find material obviously created to remove the automatism of perception […].16

  • 17 Ivi, p. 28.

29The means to ‘defamiliarize’ are, thus phonetic, lexical, and, possibly, semantic. To conclude «[…] we can define poetry as attenuated, tortuous speech».17

  • 18 Brik, Osip Brik: Selected Writings, cit.

30That much of the peculiarity of poetic speech lies in phonetics is confirmed by Brik, according to whom: «[…] the sounds, the harmonies, are not only euphonious accessories to meaning; they are also the result of an independent poetic purpose».18

31Also the statistical work by Tomaševskij aims at recognizing statistical distributions of phones idiosyncratic to poetry.

  • 19 Viktor Šklovskij, Art as Technique, cit.
  • 20 Tomaševskij, Teorija Literatury, cit.
  • 21 Ibidem.

32Later works by Šklovskij19 and Tomaševskij20 elaborate on this notion of ‘defamiliarization’, inspecting the devices (priëm) to do such a job. Poetical devices, like rhyme and metrics21 are more in focus for their specificity. It is more difficult, instead, to pinpoint the devices in prose; these, according to Tomaševskij, lie basically in the presentation, i.e. in the sjuzhet.

  • 22 See Lev Jakubinskij, O zvukach stichotvornogo jazyka, «Poetika: Sborniki po teorii poetičeskogo ja (...)
  • 23 Ibidem.

33According to the theoreticians of Opojaz, poetic language is opposed to practical language. Practical language is used in everyday communication to convey information. In poetic language, according to Lev Jakubinskij, «the practical goal retreats into background and linguistic combinations acquire a value in themselves.22 “When this happens language becomes de-familiarized and utterances become poetic”».23

34Looking at Jakobson contribution, Warner (1982) remarks that he «… makes it clear that he rejects completely any notion of emotion as the touchstone of literature. For Jakobson, the emotional qualities of a literary work are secondary to and dependent on purely verbal, linguistic facts».

35In any case the path of the reader moves from linguistic ‘defamiliarization’ to perceptual ‘defamilarization’.

  • 24 See note 11.

36The Theses on Language24 present 8 points which advocate for a study of literature based on a systematic approach, rather than on a naive psychologism. Linguistics offers a methodology based on the oppositions langue/parole, as well as synchrony/diachrony. The first opposition is useful also in literature as it opposes the existing norm to the individual contribution, which turns out to be relevant also for literary creativity. The parallelism between linguistics and literature is stressed in thesis 7: «An analysis of the structural laws of language and literature and their evolution inevitably leads to the establishment of a limited series of actually existing structural types».

37Summing up, Russian formalists, Jakobson included, propose to consider literature (art) as a form of expression that differs from ordinary language only for the devices one uses to ‘defamiliarize’ its perceptual aspects. Particular attention is given to phonetics, rhyme and metrics. In addition, the distinctions introduced in linguistics by Saussure apply to the study of literature making it systematic.

38The epistemological background to these declarations is that a theory of literature must be formal, precise and scientific.

39The other important point is the motivation of the linguistic studies in terms of its aesthetic function in poetics. Reversing the point of view, the two schools, in particular Opojaz, used to view literature, and therefore poetry, as the identification of a set of formal features, comparable with saussurian parole opposed to the conventions of the langue. Thus the literary sign (in the sense of linguistic sign) consists of two parts, the content, in its turn formed by fabula and sjuzhet, and the form, the priëm, the set of technical devices that produce literature and, if viewed in a structured way, the literary genre. Such priëm is naturally close to linguistics, especially in a functional perspective.

40It is interesting to remark that the distributional aspect (of words and phones) plays a fundamental role, somehow endorsing also statistical studies on language and style, before their spreading in more recent times.

3.2 Linguistics and folklore

  • 25 See note 5.

41Jakobson co-authored with Bogatyrëv in 1929 an essay on folklore.25 The point they make in this article is that folklore is a form of artistic creativity, with the basic difference that art remains an individual effort, while folklore falls under the rules of social acceptance of a new feature or myth. Thus folklore seems to establish a link between individual creativity and social pressure exactly as language does, at least in Saussure’s view.

  • 26 See § 2.2.2.

42The interest for folklore is shared by many members of the two associations and also by Aleksandr Veselovskij,26 one of the two intellectual figures who preceded and inspired those associations.

3.3 Speech disorders

  • 27 See Jakobson, 1956.

43A domain of research that Jakobson did not share with Russian Formalism is the study of aphasia,27 probably motivated by the will to explore also the pathological limits of language use. In this domain, he starts with a purely linguistic approach distinguishing two important mechanisms involved in the use of language, selection, applied in the paradigmatic axe, and combination that applies to the syntagmatic axe. Moving from this distinction he identifies two different types of aphasia. Below the first lines of his article show Jokobson’s view of linguistics as the science that deserves a prominent position in all the areas in which language is in play.

  • 28 Roman Jakobson, Two aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances, in Fundamentals of (...)

If aphasia is a language disturbance, as the term itself suggests, then any description and classification of aphasic syndromes must begin with the question of what aspects of language are impaired […] This problem […] cannot be solved without the participation of professional linguists.28

44It is interesting that:

  • 29 Roman Jakobson (with Kathy Santilli), Brain and Language. Cerebral Hemisphere and Linguistic Struc (...)

The study of aphasia could no longer bypass the pertinent fact that an intrinsically linguistic typology of aphasic detriments, drafted without regard to the anatomical data, yielded nonetheless a surprisingly coherent relational pattern remarkably close to the topography of those cerebral lesions which underlie the impairments.29

45This position on aphasia gives an idea of Jakobson’s ‘imperialistic’ view on linguistics. Reversing the viewpoint, he pushes his interest into the study of the way how language disorders may shed some light on the impact of language perception on the brain:

  • 30 Roman Jakobson, Two aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances, cit., p. 56.

The application of purely linguistic criteria to the interpretation and classification of aphasic facts can substantially contribute to the science of language and language disturbances, provided that linguists remain as careful and cautious when dealing with psychological and neurological data as they have been in their traditional field.30

4. A unifying view

46Having examined the cultural roots of Jakobson’s scientific interests, it is necessary now to recover unity in such a diversity, dealing also with those scientific areas in which Russian Formalism is not involved. The key point seems to be a pervasive (‘imperialistic’) role of linguistic, and this is probably motivated by a functional view of language. The tendency seems to be that of a priority assigned to linguistics.

  • 31 Roman Jakobson, Closing Statements: Linguistics and Poetics, in Style in Language, edited by Thoma (...)
  • 32 See Rüdiger Schmitt, Dichtung un Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, (...)

47According to Jakobson’s theory of communication, language serves at least six different functions: referential, aesthetic/poetic, emotive, conative, phatic, and metalingual.31 Modern linguists look with some suspect at the aesthetic/poetic function, historic researches on poetic language32 excluded. From a general point of view, there is no reason not to consider the poetic function at the same level as the other functions.

48If the inclusion of the poetic function within the general functions of language may be traced back to the idea of Šklovskij or Brik of identifying the specificity of poems with the (linguistic) technique employed by the artist to ‘defamiliarize’ the reader’s perception, Jakobson’s studies on aphasia and neuro-linguistics show that his real interest was the exploration of the boundaries of language and its extreme uses.

  • 33 Roman Jakobson, Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry, in SW. III, p. 766.

49Jakobson’s defines poetics as: «[…] the linguistic scrutiny of the poetic function within the context of verbal messages in general, and within poetry in particular».33

50The statement that:

  • 34 Ivi, p. 767.

No open-minded student of poetry would deny the legitimacy and significance of monographic studies devoted to questions of metrics or strophics, alliterations or rhymes, or to questions of poets’ vocabulary, whereas the varied problems of poets’ grammatical means have remained for the most part nearly unnoticed.34

  • 35 Roman Jakobson, A Postscript to the Discussion on Grammar of Poetry, «Diacritics», 10/1 (1980): 21 (...)
  • 36 Roman Jakobson, O češskom stiche preimuščestvenno v sopolstavlenij s russkim, Berlin, Opoyaz, 1923 (...)

51turns out to be clearly legitimate and the aspects of language that are involved are clearly stated: «Linguistic devices that transform a verbal act into poetry range from the network of distinctive features to the arrangement of the entire text».35 Roman Jakobson, in fact, described literature as «organized violence committed on ordinary speech».36

  • 37 Brik, Zvukovye povtory, cit.
  • 38 Amy Mandelker, Russian Formalism and the Objective Analysis of Sound in Poetry, «The Slavic and Ea (...)

52A bridge between the study of poetic language and the development of a theory of phonetics is the research on Russian versification by Osip Brik.37 Apart from the most obvious devices such as rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and assonance, Brik explores various types of sound repetitions, e.g. the ‘ring’ (kol’co), the ‘juncture’ (styk), the ‘fastening’ (skrep), and the ‘tail-piece’ (koncovka). He ranks phones according to their contribution to the ‘sound background’ (zvukovoj fon) attaching the greatest importance to stressed vowels and the least to reduced vowels. As Mandelker indicates, «his methodological restraint and his conception of an artistic ‘unity’ wherein no element is superfluous or disengaged, […] serves well as an ultimate model for the Formalist approach to versification study».38

  • 39 Roman Jakobson, Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, «Slavischen Rundschau», 1, 1929, reprinted in SW. III, (...)

53An important push towards a methodology closer to the one of traditional linguists was probably due to the influence of the work by the Polish linguist Jan Nicesław Baudouin de Courtenay (1845-1929), who was appointed by the University of St. Petersburg between 1900 and 1918. He developed a theory of phonology before Trubeckoj, who was familiar with his work; the contribution of Baudouin de Courtenay has been stressed also by Jakobson.39

54Returning to the relation between linguistics and poetics, there is nothing that prevents us to consider communication as a global function of language, including the artistic communication. It is however necessary to adopt a completely functional viewpoint on language as the main instrument for communication, in daily and artistic communication, but also in the expression of popular traditions, or folklore. Also, speech disorders are interpreted as disturbances of the main communication role played by language.

55At the centre of all these interests stands the notion of language as the main means of communication polarized between langue and parole, social institution and individual creativity.

5. The fortune of the formalist view

56Thus, the tight connection between linguistics and theory of literature does not imply a priority of literary studies on linguistics, but simply a convergence between a formal point of view on language, adopted from Saussure and Baudouin de Courtenay, but also Fortunatov and, to a minor extent, Veselovskij, and the idea that also literature should have been taken away from an intuitive and psychologistic approach to make it a formal science.

57Does this approach still survive? Unfortunately the answer is negative. Apparently the first divergence comes from the side of Aesthetics.

58Bakhtin complains that:

  • 40 Mikhail Bakhtin, The problem of Content, Material and Form in Verbal Art (1924), fist written in R (...)

For poetics, as for any specialized form of aesthetics, in which it is necessary to take account of the nature of the material (in the present case – verbal) as general aesthetic principles, linguistics is of course necessary as a subsidiary discipline; but here it begins to occupy a completely inappropriate leading position, almost precisely the position which should be occupied by general aesthetics.40

59But also linguistics pushes aesthetics out of the field:

  • 41 André Martinet, Eléments de Linguistique générale, Paris, Armand Colin, 1960, p. 6.

La linguistique est l’étude scientifique du langage humain. Une étude est dite scientifique lorsqu’elle se fonde sur l’observation des faits et s’abstient de proposer un choix parmi ces faits au nom de certains principes esthétiques ou moraux.41

60Martinet’s position does not react directly to Jakobson’s stance on poetic language; in fact, he rejects an aesthetic judgment on language, but not the use of linguistic devices to aesthetic aims. Nevertheless, this position pushes linguists to focus on the structure of ordinary language, rather than on its extreme uses.

6. Conclusions

61Summing up, Roman Jakobson’s interest was simply the language and its uses. He explored language in all its dimensions, including those that are not always viewed as part of linguistics. The intellectual milieu (Russian Formalism, Futurism, Prague School) promoted his interests rather than limiting them.

62Is this view still acceptable? Despite the rejection announced by both literary critics, like Bakhtin, and linguists, like Martinet, probably it is acceptable, provided that one sticks to Jakobson’s recommendation of being «as careful and cautious when dealing with psychological and neurological data (and probably all data) as they have been in their traditional field». Nevertheless some important rifts have already taken place, between linguistic and other areas such as semiotics, theory of literature not to mention folklore or compared mythology.

  • 42 Noam Chomsky, On Language and Culture, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Wiktor Osiatynski, in Contrasts (...)
  • 43 Noam Chomsky, Language and Cognitive Science Revolution, Text of a Lecture given at the Carleton U (...)

63The complete rejection of a holistic viewpoint on linguistics can be illustrated by a couple of sentences of Chomsky: «There is a narrow class of uses of language where you intend to communicate […] But I don’t think it is the only social use of language»42 and «There’s something about the language design which poses a barrier to communication».43

64By this extreme opposing view Chomsky minimizes the functional (communicational) aspect of language, and in so doing, he cuts out all the social and cultural aspects. In principle even Chomsky does not deny the possibility that, if one deals with communication, one has to deal with a number of different phenomena, but according to his view these lie outside of linguistics, because language has not been designed for communication.

65Both Chomsky and Jakobson view language as a device, formal and strictly mental the former, extended and cultural the latter. The former excludes from the domain of interest of linguistics all the facts connected to the use of language as communication tool, because it is not its primary use; the latter extends such domain to all communicational uses of language as they can shed light on how it works, being communication its primary use. Thus Jakobson’s interest is focused on language and its functions, language and its structures, language and its disorders, language and art, language and tradition.

  • 44 See Giacomo Ferrari, Algirdas Greimas: una vita complessa, un’opera innovativa, in «Quaderni del P (...)

66An idea of an extended view on linguistics is given by Greimas,44 who follows a similar path, ending his scientific production with ethnographic works on Lithuanian tradition.

  • 45 It is not by chance that Jacob Grimm formulated the famous Grimm’s law by which traditional histor (...)

67The root of such a view is probably a residue of romantic interest into people’s culture, including language45, but not limited to it; the influence of Russian Formalism provided a strong motivation to build a theoretical system that could explain communication, and therefore language and art, as a particular exercise of language. It is not a case that the same movement has given important contributions to the rise of Soviet movie industry, a new language.

  • 46 See Giacomo Ferrari, Linguistica… e oltre (?), in Studi in onore di Riccardo Ambrosini, edited by (...)

68Over time, the gradual specialization of the different fields of linguistics pushed some of them to the borders of the discipline, like semiotics, ethnography, stylistics. Nevertheless, the rehabilitation of a more extended view on language and the task of linguistics would be, in my opinion, a more appropriate response to Saussure’s ‘question’ and would contribute important hints to the understanding of how language really works.46

Notes

1 Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale, Paris, Payot & Rivages, 1995, p. 20.

2 Leonard Bloomfield, Language, New York, Henry Holt, 1933, p. 32: «In the division of scientific work, the linguist deals only with speech-signal […]».

3 Noam Chomsky, Rules and Representations, New York, Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 4: «I would like to think of linguistics as that part of psychology that focuses its attention on […] the language faculty».

4 Eurasianism is an ideology largely spread among the post-revolution Russian emigrant; according to it the Russian culture does not fall into the ‘European’ categories, but is historically closer to Eastern models that are probably better interpreted by the Soviet regime, provided that it relaxes the restrictions on Orthodoxy.

5 In German, Pëtr Bogatyrëv, Roman Jakobson, Die Folklore als eine besondere Form des Schaffens, in Verzameling van Opstellen door Oud-leertingen en Befriende Vakgenooten (Donum Natalicium Schrijnen), Utrecht, N.V. Dekker and Van der Vegt, 1929, pp. 900-913, trans. by John M. O’Hara, Folklore as a special Form of Creation, «Folklore Forum», 13/1, 1980, pp. 1-21.

6 In Russian, Boris Tomaševskij, Teorija Literatury, Moscow, Leningrad, 1925.

7 In Boris Tomaševskij, Stilistika i stihosloženie: kurs lekcij [trad. Stilistica e versificazione], Moscow, Učpedgiz, 1959 (posthumous); it was influenced by the work of the mathematician Andrej Bely (Boris Nikolaevič Bugaev), Ritm kak dialektika i mednyj vsadnik, Moscow, Federatsija,1929.

8 Both written first in Russian, Viktor Šklovskij, Iskusstvo kak priëm, in Sborniki po teorij poetičeskogo jazyka, vol. II, Petrograd, 1917, pp. 3-14; trans. as Art as Technique by Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1965, pp. 3-24 and reprinted in Modern Criticism an Theory: A Reader, edited by David Lodge, London, Longmans, 1988, pp. 16-30: Viktor Šklovskij, O teorij prozy, Moscow, Federatsija, 1929, trans. as Theory of Prose, edited by Benjamin Sher, Elmwood Park, Illinois, Dalkey Archive Press, 1990.

9 First written in Russian, Osip Brik, Zvukovye povtory, (Analiz zvukovoj struktury sticha), in Sborniki po teorij poetičeskogo jazyka, vol. II, Petrograd, 1917, pp. 24-62, trans. by Maria Enzensberger, in Osip Brik: Selected Writings, «Screen», 15/3, 1974, pp. 35-54.

10 First written in Russian, Boris Èichenbaum, Teorija Formal’nogo metoda, in «Literatura», 1927; edit. and trans. by Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis, Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1965.

11 Roman Jakobson, Jurij Tynjanov, Problems in the study of language and literature, in Poetics Today, vol. 2, 1, Roman Jakobson: Language and Poetry, 1980, pp. 29-31; trans. by Herbert Eagle, first published in Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and Structuralist Views, edited by Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1971, pp. 79-81; it was written in Russian during a visit of Tynjanov to Prague in 1928, but it is often quoted in the English translation.

12 Catherine Depretto, Roman Jakobson et le relance de l’Opojaz (1928-1930), «Litérature», 107, 1997, pp. 75-87.

13 Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) was a semiologist who distinguished himself for having studied the morphology of tales.

14 Viktor Šklovskij, Art as Technique, cit., p.19.

15 Ibidem.

16 Ivi, p. 27.

17 Ivi, p. 28.

18 Brik, Osip Brik: Selected Writings, cit.

19 Viktor Šklovskij, Art as Technique, cit.

20 Tomaševskij, Teorija Literatury, cit.

21 Ibidem.

22 See Lev Jakubinskij, O zvukach stichotvornogo jazyka, «Poetika: Sborniki po teorii poetičeskogo jazyka», 1, 1919 , pp. 37-49: 37, quoted in Peter Steiner, Russian Formalism, in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Vol. 8: From Formalism to Poststructuralism, edited by Raman Selden, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 11-30: 22.

23 Ibidem.

24 See note 11.

25 See note 5.

26 See § 2.2.2.

27 See Jakobson, 1956.

28 Roman Jakobson, Two aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances, in Fundamentals of Language, edited by Roman Jakobson and Morris Halle, s’Gravenhage, Mouton, 1956, pp. 55-82: 56, also published in On Language, Roman Jakobson, edited by Linda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1990, pp. 115-133: 55.

29 Roman Jakobson (with Kathy Santilli), Brain and Language. Cerebral Hemisphere and Linguistic Structure in Mutual Light, Columbus Ohio, Slavica Publishers, 1980.

30 Roman Jakobson, Two aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances, cit., p. 56.

31 Roman Jakobson, Closing Statements: Linguistics and Poetics, in Style in Language, edited by Thomas A. Sebeok, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1960.

32 See Rüdiger Schmitt, Dichtung un Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1967.

33 Roman Jakobson, Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry, in SW. III, p. 766.

34 Ivi, p. 767.

35 Roman Jakobson, A Postscript to the Discussion on Grammar of Poetry, «Diacritics», 10/1 (1980): 21-35: 23.

36 Roman Jakobson, O češskom stiche preimuščestvenno v sopolstavlenij s russkim, Berlin, Opoyaz, 1923.

37 Brik, Zvukovye povtory, cit.

38 Amy Mandelker, Russian Formalism and the Objective Analysis of Sound in Poetry, «The Slavic and East European Journal», 27/3,1983, pp. 327-338: 335.

39 Roman Jakobson, Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, «Slavischen Rundschau», 1, 1929, reprinted in SW. III, pp. 389-393; Roman Jakobson, The Kazan school of Polish linguistics and its place in the international development of phonology, first published in Polish in «Biuletyn Polskiego Towarzystwa Jezykoznaczego», XIX, 1960), reprinted in SW. II, pp. 294-428.

40 Mikhail Bakhtin, The problem of Content, Material and Form in Verbal Art (1924), fist written in Russian, republished in Art and Answerability, edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liupanov, trans. by Kenneth Brostrom, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1990, pp. 310-379.

41 André Martinet, Eléments de Linguistique générale, Paris, Armand Colin, 1960, p. 6.

42 Noam Chomsky, On Language and Culture, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Wiktor Osiatynski, in Contrasts: Soviet and American Thinkers Discuss the Future, edited by Wiktor Osiatynski, MacMillan, 1984, also available on the site https://chomsky.info/1984__/.

43 Noam Chomsky, Language and Cognitive Science Revolution, Text of a Lecture given at the Carleton University, April 8, 2011, transcript by David P. Wilkins, available at the site https://chomsky.info/20110408/, web, ultimo accesso: March 26th 2018.

44 See Giacomo Ferrari, Algirdas Greimas: una vita complessa, un’opera innovativa, in «Quaderni del Premio Letterario Giuseppe Acerbi, Letteratura Lituana», Lavis, Gilgamesh Edizioni, 2013, pp. 77-81.

45 It is not by chance that Jacob Grimm formulated the famous Grimm’s law by which traditional historical linguistics starts, but also produced, together with his brother Wilhelm, one of the most appreciated collections of popular tales. Also Costantino Nigra, well known for his collection of popular songs, participated, together with the linguist Isaia Ascoli, into the foundation of the journal Archivio Glottologico. Many further examples of such a permeability occur.

46 See Giacomo Ferrari, Linguistica… e oltre (?), in Studi in onore di Riccardo Ambrosini, edited by Romano Lazzeroni, Giovanna Marotta e Maria Napoli, «Studi e Saggi Linguistici», XLIII-XLIV, Pisa, 2006, pp. 89-128.

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Università del Piemonte Orientale: giacomo.ferrari[at]uniupo.it

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