Characteristics of Structural Lingustics

Characteristics of Structural Lingustics.Priority of the spoken languages: While almost all traditional grammarians till the beginning of

5 Characteristics of Structural Lingustics

Priority of the spoken languages:

While almost all traditional grammarians till the beginning of our own century assumed the “superiority of the written form to the spoken form, the structural linguists maintained that spoken form is prior to the written form, and must form the main field of linguistic study. They maintain that the spoken language is primary and that writing is essentially a means of representing speech in another medium.

The principle of priority of the spoken language over The written implies, first of all, that speech is older more wide-spread than writing; that all systems of writing (except perhaps Chinese) are demonstrably based upon units of spoken language: that speech is acquired firs and writing afterwards, and that no writing system in use can convey or represent, all the features of speech.”The extra-linguistic features! gestures, etc) are missing in writing besides total values, contrastive stresses, etc Dependence on written language tended to promote prescriptivism, and language teaching  divorced from actual speech habits of the .day. The structulist attempted to change this emphasis with great success.

Objective treatment of all languages:

All languages are structurally complex and completely adequate to the needs of its speech community It was a common belief of the descriptive linguist; who studied languages for a better understanding of human language as such, he took every language, as an equal manifestation of the structure of human language At the same time, he studied each language separately notassuming that languages had common universal properties.

  1. Importance of synchronic description:

Whereas the traditional and the historical grammarians were interested on the diachronic studies of language  , the structuralists found it important to describe the language of the day as i is available for study and description Synchronic description implies a study of usage of the day and of such varieties as exist in the language at the of study.

4.1 .Linguistics is descriptive not a prescriptive science:

The traditional grammarian tended to assume, nor only that the written language was more fundamental than the spoken, but also that a particular form of the written language, namely the literary language, was inherently “purer” and more correct than all other forms of the language, written and spoken; and that it was his duty as a grammarian, to preserve the form of the language from “corruption. The traditional grammarian treated grammar as a set of normative, prescriptive rules. But the structuralists gave up such notions and treated linguistics as descriptive science —

System Structure: The concern of the structural linguist was with describing the organization or the pattern, or the system or the structure of the language under scrutiny According to the structuralists, the most striking feature of human languages is the complexity of their structure. Their study of language was based on empirical evidence.

Characteristics of Structural Lingustics.

Structural linguistics is an approach to studying language that focuses on the structures within languages and the ways in which they interrelate. It developed in the early 20th century, primarily as a result of the work of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Here are some of the primary characteristics of structural linguistics:

  1. Langue vs. Parole: One of the foundational concepts introduced by de Saussure is the distinction between ‘langue’ and ‘parole.’ ‘Langue’ refers to the system or structure of language, the rules and conventions shared by a community, while ‘parole’ pertains to individual speech acts or instances of language use.
  2. Synchronic vs. Diachronic Analysis: Structural linguistics emphasizes a synchronic (or “at one time”) perspective, examining a language as it exists at a particular point in time. This is in contrast to a diachronic (or “through time”) approach, which studies the historical changes in language.
  3. Phonemic Principle: Structural linguists maintain that sounds function in language in a relational manner, leading to the distinction between ‘phonemes’ (distinct units of sound that can change the meaning of a word) and ‘allophones’ (variations of a phoneme that don’t change meaning).
  4. Binary Oppositions: Structuralism often focuses on binary oppositions or pairs of contrasting terms that have opposing meanings. This concept was later expanded upon in fields like structural anthropology by scholars like Claude Lévi-Strauss.
  5. Arbitrariness of the Sign: A central tenet of structural linguistics is that the relationship between the signifier (the word or sound) and the signified (the concept it represents) is arbitrary. This means that the reason why a particular sound or word represents a particular concept is not based on any inherent connection between the two, but rather on social convention.
  6. Structure over Meaning: Structural linguistics tends to prioritize the study of form and structure over meaning. This is because structures are seen as more stable and reliable compared to the variable and context-dependent nature of meaning.
  7. Relational Nature of Elements: In structural linguistics, the value or meaning of an element (e.g., a phoneme or morpheme) is determined by its relation to other elements within the system, not by any inherent quality of the element itself.
  8. Descriptive Emphasis: Structuralists aimed to describe languages as they are, not as they should be. This descriptive approach was a departure from earlier prescriptive traditions that sought to establish norms and standards for language use.
  9. Taxonomies and Hierarchies: Structural linguists often aimed to classify elements of language into hierarchies or taxonomies. This was particularly notable in the area of morphology and syntax.
  10. Emphasis on Fieldwork: Especially in American structural linguistics, there was an emphasis on fieldwork and the direct collection of data from native speakers. Notable figures like Leonard Bloomfield championed this approach, which led to detailed descriptions of many previously unstudied languages.

While structural linguistics laid the groundwork for much of modern linguistics, newer schools of thought, like generative grammar initiated by Noam Chomsky, have since emerged and challenged some of its principles. Nevertheless, structural linguistics remains a fundamental aspect of linguistic history and theory.

by Abdullah Sam
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