« ZurückWeiter »
these in turn group themselves into a deflection of the mass condition (as in radio-active substances), and rarely has occasion to watch the impingement of a single particle, so in linguistics we rarely attend to the single utterance or speaker, but attend to the deviations of utterances and speakers only when they mass themselves into a deflection of the total activity (linguistic change); and it is this total activity, resultant of unnumbered units, which we for the most part observe. Moreover, as in the natural sciences, this resultant is immediately subject to our observation; we are not in the position of seeing only the individual occurrence and having to reach the mass phenomenon by endless registration and statistics-a state of affairs which has prolonged the infancy of such studies as economics.
Linguistics differs from the natural sciences in that its object depends upon those small and constantly altering groups of individuals, the speech-communities. Thus linguistics introduces into the order of the sciences the peculiar rate of change known as history-a rate of change more rapid than the biologic, and therefore more subject to observation.
Linguistic change is studied primarily by comparison of speechcommunities which have diverged from a single older community. It is in this comparison that the science of language has achieved its greatest success and has most refined its method. The results here extend over periods of time and reach a degree of accuracy as yet unknown to the other historical sciences. With minute detail, including even features (such as the accentual) that may not be recorded in the written documents, linguistics traces the history of a language far beyond the earliest times accessible to other aspects of history. Where written documents exist they guide us a distance on the way; but, here again, as we have suggested, a peculiar and often ingenious technique is required, for the habits of writing become fixed independently of speech, and conceal as much as they tell.
In this phase too, the results of linguistics, far from being truisms, tend to run, counter to the common sense of our time. To mention only the most far-reaching: language changes always and everywhere; this change goes on without deflection by secondary ("subjective") factors such as desire for intelligibility or euphony; linguistic change leads from greater to lesser complexity of the word-unit, from highly inflected to "simpler” languages; the writing of a language is not a model on which speech is formed, but merely a rough notation whose existence has only a very slight effect upon the primary activity, speech; standard and literary languages are not original forms from
which dialects faultily deviate (“mistakes of language," "bad grammar”), but are only secondary creations on the basis of dialects, which latter root far more deeply in the past.
One need go no further to see that students of our science, however ready for alliance and cooperation with workers in related fields, have none the less a unique and common task which requires a highly specialized equipment, and well warrants the bond of a common scientific association. Let it not be taken invidiously, if we say, in particular, that linguistics cannot be properly viewed as a subsidiary discipline to the study of literature, or paired with it as "the linguistic side' of philology,' or even placed in any close connection with the study of fine arts, of which literary history and criticism form a part.
It would be superfluous to speak also of external conditions which add to our justification, were it not that these conditions are working great injury to the progress of our science and to the welfare of the public at large. Not only in the general public, but also in the academic system, linguistics is not known as a science. The notion seems to prevail that a student of language is merely a kind of crow-baited student of literature. Even the more personal and at first glance petty illeffects of this situation are not always to be lightly dismissed. Unfortunately an instance lies at hand in the recent death of Carlos Everett Conant, one of our founders, the foremost student of Philippine languages; he died tragically, and the circumstances of his death indicate that he might have been spared, to the great benefit of science, had not his professional career been one of desperate hardship.
The more direct harm to science is too obvious to need exposition; one may mention the American Indian languages, which are disappearing forever, more rapidly than they can be recorded, what with the almost total lack of funds and organization; or the case of American English, of which we know only that, both as to dialects and as to distribution of standard forms, it would present a complex and instructive picture, had we but the means and the equipment to study it.
To speak, finally, of the public interest, it is evident that a great and important, indeed the fundamental phase of our social life consists of
1 Needless to say that that noblest of sciences, philology, the study of national culture, is something much greater than a misfit combination of language plus literature. It may be well to add in passing that the British use of "philology" for linguistics leaves no name for the former subject and ought not be imitated in this country; rather, the English would do well to adopt our usage.
See his biography in Who's Who.
linguistic activities, and that, in particular, elementary education is largely linguistic. Yet such movements as that for English spellingreform or for an international auxiliary language are carried on, in principle and to a great extent in practice, without the counsel of our science. Our schools are conducted by persons who, from professors of education down to teachers in the classroom, know nothing of the results of linguistic science, not even the relation of writing to speech or of standard language to dialect. In short, they do not know what language is, and yet must teach it, and in consequence waste years of every child's life and reach a poor result.3
Not only the furtherance of our science, but also the needs of society, make it the duty of students of language to work together systematically and with that sence of craftsmanship and of obligation which is called professional consciousness. For this they need a Linguistic Society.
: As to foreign-language teaching, there are few schoolmen who realize that there is a large linguistic literature on this subject.
THE CALL FOR THE ORGANIZATION MEETING
November 15th, 1924. Dear Colleague:
The undersigned students of language believe that the time has come to form a society which will enable us to meet each other, give us opportunity for the exchange of ideas, and represent the interests of our studies.
The existing learned societies in related fields have shown hospitality to linguistics; they have patiently listened to our papers and generously printed them. For these and other reasons, students of language will, it is hoped, maintain their allegiance to such societies. Nevertheless, the present state of things has many disadvantages. The most serious, perhaps, is the fact that we do not meet. We attend the gatherings of such societies as the American Philological Association, the American Oriental Society, the Modern Language Association (whose several sections are, in this regard, vitually distinct societies), the American Anthropological Association, and so on. This divides us into groups across whose boundaries there is little acquaintance. No one can tell how much encouragement and inspiration is thereby lost.
Other considerations will suggest themselves. The standing of our science in the academic community leaves much to be desired. A medium of publication devoted entirely to linguistics might, at some future time, be very helpful.
It is planned that the society meet variously with the several societies in related fields.
The undersigned invite you to membership in a linguistic society with some such name as the Linguistic Society of America, to be organized at the AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, NEW YORK CITY, on Sunday morning, DECEMBER 28, 1924, at 10 o'clock. Beside the business of organization, there will be scientific papers by some of the leading linguistic scholars of our country. Professor Roland G. Kent has consented to act as presiding officer.
If you wish to become a member of this society, please notify one of the organizing committee (L. Bloomfield, G. M. Bolling, E. H. Sturtevant), stating also whether you expect to attend the organization meeting.
LEROY C. BARRET, Trinity College.