Language in the Modern World

Language in the Modern World

Language in the Modern World

Language in the Modern World

Excerpt

LANGUAGE plays such a prominent part in the daily lives of all of us that we should do our best to understand its first principles. Those principles are now better known than ever before. New life has been given to the study of language in our day, and anyone who has had time and opportunity to follow the progress made in general linguistics in recent years cannot help feeling elated and exhilarated at the prospects that now unfold themselves before the eyes of the imaginative observer. What, then, has happened? Linguistics has at last cast off its chains and has gone far on the way to becoming an exact empirical science. Structure, not grammar, is the key word to the new linguistics, just as, in a different way, it is the key word to modern mathematics and to nuclear physics. The scientific revolution of our time, in relativity, in quantum physics, and in biological statistics, has led to the reorganization of the logical structure of thought itself. At last the student of language has succeeded in developing a technique more nearly perfect than that of any other science concerned with man and man's institutions.

Today we are living in a time of hope for the future of mankind, and of fear; of great hope, and of great fear. (Can hope and expectation ever dwell conspicuously in the minds of men without some fear and apprehension lurking beneath?) Our hope for the future of language is that by greatly improved linguistic techniques all educated people may master at least one of the great living languages of the world other than their own, and that thus all men of good will may be able to communicate freely and fully with one another. Our fear is that people who now speak one and the same birth tongue may, in fact, become so highly specialized and departmentalized in all their words and ways that they . . .

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