What is `American' about American linguistics? Is Jakobson, who spent half his life in America, part of it? What became of Whitney's genuinely American conception of language as a democracy? And how did developments in 20th-century American linguistics relate to broader cultural trends?This book brings together 15 years of research by John E. Joseph, including his discovery of the meeting between Whitney and Saussure, his ground-breaking work on the origins of the `Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis' and of American sociolinguistics, and his seminal examination of Bloomfield and Chomsky as readers of Saussure.
Among the original findings and arguments contained herein:
why `American structuralism' does not end with Chomsky, but begins with him;
how Bloomfield managed to read Saussure as a behaviourist avant la lettre;
why in the long run Skinner has emerged victorious over Chomsky;
how Whorf was directly influenced by the mystical writings of Madame Blavatsky;
how the Whitney-Max Muller debates in the 19th century connect to the intellectual disparity between Chomsky's linguistic and political writings.
1. Acknowledgments; 2. 1. The Multiple Ambiguities of American Linguistic Identity; 3. 2. 'The American Whitney' and his European Heritages and Legacies; 4. 3. 20th-Century Linguistics in America and Europe; 5. 4. The Sources of the 'Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis'; 6. 5. The Origins of American Sociolinguistics; 7. 6. Bloomfield's and Chomsky's Readings of the Cours de linguistique generale; 8. 7. How Structuralist Was 'American Structuralism'?; 9. 8. How Behaviourist Was Verbal Behavior ?; 10. 9. The Popular (Mis)interpretations of Whorf and Chomsky: What they had in common, and why they had to happen; 11. References; 12. Index