A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English

A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English

A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English

A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English

Excerpt

Throughout history, but especially in this century, we have seen again and again particular "facts" and particular scientific systems once held to be certain and unquestionable severely cast into doubt by new scientific developments, but the unflinching integrity of the scientific mode of thinking has been consistently maintained. Even recently, within the decade 1950-60 the basic organization of the linguistic description of English has been subverted three times by three major publications: once by C. C. Fries , The Structure of English, again by George L. Trager and Henry Lee Smith, Jr., Outline of English Structure, and most recently by Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures. In each case, it was the honest searching into the principles of linguistics as a science that created the changes in our thinking, much more than discovery of previously unknown linguistic phenomena.

Recognizing, then, the evanescence of particular orthodoxies in linguistics, we have avoided in this book any one orthodox position in respect to the linguistic description of the history of English, and have assumed different positions in presenting different chapters of the history of English. We have also resisted the attractive temptation merely to summarize our apparently certain present knowledge of the history of the English language, although we recognize the great value that such a summary could have. Nor have we felt ourselves competent to revise and synthesize older works in order to bring their great contribution to our subject up to date, important as such a synthesis would be. Of course, we have learned and borrowed much of what we include here from both present and past scholars; but we have had to sacrifice the quantity of factual material in . . .

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