The Western Tradition from Socrates to Saussure

The Western Tradition from Socrates to Saussure

The Western Tradition from Socrates to Saussure

The Western Tradition from Socrates to Saussure

Synopsis

As readers are introduced to the main issues and themes that have determined the development of the Western linguistic tradition, an evolution of linguistic thought quickly becomes apparent.

Excerpt

This book is primarily intended as an introduction for English-speaking students making their first acquaintance with the long, multilingual, European linguistic tradition. That tradition is of importance to a wide range of studies-philological, literary, historical and philosophical. In all these disciplines at least some of the authors we deal with here feature as writers of note. Focusing attention on their role in the history of linguistic ideas may perhaps serve to highlight aspects of their work which would otherwise go unnoticed.

Our aim has been to show, in broad outline, how certain influential ideas about language survived, thrived, developed and were modified within a general framework of linguistic inquiry which lasted more or less intact from the era of the Greeks and Romans, who originally constructed it, down to about the beginning of the present century. However, the book should not be read as an attempt to provide a concise history of European linguistic thought over this period, or as a substitute for one. It is neither. No selection of texts or authors can fully reflect the complexities involved in the evolution of the ideas in question. Nevertheless, as our title indicates, we have opted to concentrate on various landmarks, in preference to giving a historical narrative; and we did so for a number of reasons, which may be summarized as follows.

Students at present have available in English only two kinds of publication suitable for introductory study in this subject area; (i) histories of linguistics, and (ii) anthologies of translated texts and extracts. Neither of these resources, in our experience, satisfies the needs of the current generation of British and American university students. The histories of linguistics tend to combine . . .

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