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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio

Call Deadline: 15-Feb-2014

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Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio
Vol.8,N.1:June 2014
Ed. Claudia Stancati

Roman Jakobson: Linguistics, Epistemology, Philosophy

From his early essays, Jakobson presents a great variety of interests and perspectives of thought reached starting from strong but different roots: Saussure's teaching, Husserl's works (especially the Logische Untersuchungen), and the semiotics of Peirce.

We would like to read again and discuss the thought of Jakobson starting from these influences and the places in which he taught with genius and audacious spirit of innovation, "the spirit of a theoretician, as well as technician, and with an interdisciplinary interest which lead to fruitful results" (L. Heilman, preface to the Italian edition of Saggi di linguistica generale, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1963, pp. XIV-XV). This interdisciplinary activity is the outcome of the conscience that this great linguist has of the inseparable totality of the linguistic, communicative, and cultural phenomena. As Jakobson states: "thus we realize ever more clearly that our optimum goal is the observation of language in all its complexity. To paraphrase Terence's saying, Linguista sum; linguistic nihil a me alienum puto" (Selected Writings, vol. II, p. 555).

Jakobson makes use of the metaphor of a polyphonic structure like that given by the variations of the same phoneme in order to find the place of linguistics within the sciences of man and from this perspective he compares linguistics to natural sciences. Jakobson provides this epistemological aspect with a philosophical reading of his discipline. He shows, for example, not only that linguistics, in particular structuralist linguistics, does not oppose to a non mechanistic psychology and philosophy, in particular Husserl's phenomenology. Moreover other philosophical elements, such as dialectics and teleology, are recovered in order to overtake the dichotomies and they are theoretical instruments which support the theory of information as foundation of the code.

In the matter of semantics Jakobson maintains that the ontological issue of denoting does not deal with meaning: "very strange thought this is, those linguists who study the phoneme are especially inclined to debate its mode of existence. They thereby concern themselves with a problem of which the solution must obviously be found elsewhere than in linguistics. The ontological problem of what form of reality is concealed behind the idea of the phoneme is in fact not at all specific to the idea of the phoneme. It is actually one particular example of a much more general question: what kind of reality is to be attributed to linguistic values, or even to semiotic values in general?" (Six lectures on sound and meaning, MIT Press, 1978, p.52 - ed. or. 1942).

Beside the notion of value, in Jakobson there is another central notion that is the one of exchange, that Jakobson needs in order to show the new articulations of Langue and Parole to illustrate that "la Langue a à côté de l'aspect social, un aspect individuel et la Parole a, à côté de l'aspect individuel un aspect social" (La théorie saussurienne en rétrospection, dans Selected writings,vol VIII, pp. 391-435, cit. 406).

These remarks can be a suggestion of the themes to be considered for this issue, but every contribution, that shows the essential aspects of Jakobson's work or focuses on themes that put in contact his thought with our present stage of the language sciences, is welcome.

Instructions for authors: http://www.rifl.unical.it/index.php/rifl/announcement/view/3