Women, Language, and Linguistics: Three American Stories from the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Women, Language, and Linguistics: Three American Stories from the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Women, Language, and Linguistics: Three American Stories from the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Women, Language, and Linguistics: Three American Stories from the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

Rather than the standard American story of an increasingly triumphant march of scientific inquiry towards structural phonology, Women, Language and Linguistics reveals linguistics where its purpose was communication; the appeal of languages lay in their diversity; and the authority of language lay in its speakers and writers. Julia S Falk explores the vital part which women have played in preserving a linguistics based on the reality and experience of language; this book finally brings to light a neglected perspective for those working in linguistics and the history of linguistics.

Excerpt

Despite increasing interest over the last few decades in both linguistic historiography and the status of women in linguistics, there have been surprisingly few attempts to explore the roles and lives of women in the early years of American linguistics. the Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics of the Linguistic Society of America has begun to remedy this gap with important materials about women linguists (e.g., Davison & Eckert 1990), but so far all of their work has focused on women currently active in the field. Historians looking to the past have chosen to include only male linguists in the series of memoirs and recollections titled First Person Singular (Davis & O’Cain 1980, Koerner 1991, 1998). the major histories of early twentieth century American linguistics generally relegate women to footnotes.

Six years ago, when I began a search for the women I was sure must be there—my intellectual ancestors—some friends and colleagues gently conveyed their skepticism that I would find anything (or anyone) of interest or value. Others were encouraging and even optimistic, and for their continuing support I am grateful, especially to Sally Thomason, John Joseph, Talbot Taylor, and many members of the North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences, who responded to papers that were, in effect, early drafts of sections of this book. Other colleagues over the years have sent references, anecdotes, hints, offprints, and comments that aided my work, and I was able to draw both information and inspiration from studies on women in other fields, particularly Margaret Rossiter’s books on Women Scientists in America (1982, 1995), Nancy Parezo and her colleagues’ essays on women anthropologists (Parezo 1993a), and Desley Deacon’s account of Elsie Clews Parsons (1997). Archives and archivists at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Linguistic Society of America Secretariat, the Museum of Northern Arizona, the New York Public Library, Radcliffe College, Syracuse University, and Yale University provided valuable documents. Special thanks go to Beth Carroll-Horrocks, formerly of the American Philosophical Society Library, to Frank Esterhill of the Interlingua Institute, and to Julio Hernandez-Delgado of the Hunter College Library for their always prompt responses to my frequent requests for papers and photographs, as well as to Robin D. Franklin for her assistance with research for

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