Brief view of Modern schools and Movements in linguistics perspective.

Modern schools and Movements

Answer: The study of linguistic changes over time in language or in a particular language or language family, sometimes including the reconstruction of unattested forms of earlier stages of a language. This is the study of linguistic change in “the synchrony and diachronic”.

Historicism, in the sense in which the term is being used here, does not necessarily imply evolutionism: the view that there is directionality in the historical development of languages. Evolutionism was, in fact, quite influential in linguistics in the late nineteenth century; and Jespersen, in the book referred to above, defends a particular version of it. Other version have been put forward by idealists of various schools; and also, of course, within the framework of dialectical materialism, by Marxists. It is probably true to say, however, that, with a few notable exceptions, most linguists in the twentieth century have rejected evolutionism. Historicism, as we shall see in the following section, is one of the movements against which structuralism reached and in relation to which it may be defined.

Saussure was the founder of the Modern structuralism, where he focused not on the use of language, but rather on the underlying system of language and called his theory semiology. However, the discovery of the underlying system had to be done via examination of the parole. As such, Structural Linguistics is actually an early form of corpus linguistics. This approach focused on examining how the elements of language related to each other in the present, that is, ‘synchronically’ rather than ‘diachronically’. Finally, he argued that linguistic signs were composed of two parts, a signifier (the sound pattern of a word, either in mental projection – as when we silently recite lines from a poem to ourselves – or in actual, physical realization as part of a speech act) and a signified (the concept or meaning of the word).

What is commonly referred to as structuralism, especially in Europe, is of multiple origin. It is both conventional and convenient to date its birth as an identifiable movement in linguistics from the publication of Saussure’s Course de linguistic generate in 1916. Many of the ideas that Saussure brought togetherin the lectures that he delivered at the University of Geneva between 1997 and1911 (upon which the Course is based) can be traced back into the nineteenth century and beyond.


In linguistics, the approach to language study that is concerned with the functions performed by language, primarily in terms of cognition (relating information), expression (indicating mood), and conation (exerting influence). Especially associated with the Prague school of linguists prominent since the 1930s, the approach centers on how elements in various languages accomplish these functions, both grammatically and phonologically. Some linguists have applied the findings to work on stylistics and literary criticism.  The most characteristic feature of the Prague school approach is its combination of structuralism with functionalism. The latter term (like “structuralism”) has been used in a variety of senses in linguistics.

The terms ‘functionalism’ and ‘structuralism’ are often employed in anthropology and sociology to refer to contrasting theories or methods of analysis. In linguistics, however, functionalism is best seen as a particular movement within structuralism. It is characterized by the belief that the phonological, grammatical and semantic structure of languages is determined by the functions that they have to perform in the societies in which they operate. The best-known representatives of functionalism, in this sense of the term, are the members of the Prague School, which had its origin in the Prague Linguistic Circle, founded in 1926 and particularly influential in European linguistics in the period preceding the Second World War.

Generative grammar or Generativism is a very important concept in linguistics. It refers to the fact that languages are systems with limited sets of linguistics item out of which we can generate endless number of sentences.  The term ‘Generative Grammar’ is given by Noam Chomsky and “Generativism” is a movement or trend which follows the concept of ‘Generative Grammar” For any given language, if you have a list of grammatical rules that is so complete that you can say, using that list of rules alone, that any given sentence is grammatical (or not), then you have a generative grammar for that language. In another sense, generative grammar is the attempt to construct such a list of rules.

The term ‘Generativism’ is being used here to refer to the theory of language that has been developed, over the last twenty years of so, by Chomsky and his followers. Generativism, in this sense, has been enormously influential not only in linguistics, but also in philosophy, psychology and other disciplines concerned with languages.

In the 1950s, a new school of thought known as Cognitivism emerged through the field of psychology. Cognitivists lay emphasis on knowledge and information, as opposed to behaviorism, for instance. Cognitivism emerged in linguistics as a reaction to generativist theory in the 1970s and 1980s. Led by theorists like Ronald Langacker and George Lakoff, cognitive linguists propose that language is an emergent property of basic, general-purpose cognitive processes. In contrast to the generativist school of linguistics, cognitive linguistics is non-modularist and functionalist in character. Important developments in cognitive linguistics include cognitive grammar, frame semantics, and conceptual metaphor, all of which are based on the idea that form–function correspondences based on representations derived from embodied experience constitute the basic units of language.

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