The Geneva School of Linguistics - Preliminary Remarks

The Geneva School of Linguistics – Preliminary Remarks

The end of World War I brought a wide-spread sense of liberation from a century of German linguistic dominance. Linguists outside Germany, while still respectful of the neogrammarian’s methods now felt free to use, correct or abandon them as they saw fit. In the first decade of the XX century the formulation of a national Linguistics had meant the application of neogrammarian techniques to the study of German dialects, and even opposition views had to be defined relative to the Leipzig mainstream. But from the 1920s on a national Linguistics came to mean a more or less original theoretical position held by a nation’s leading linguists.

One of the most influential trends of structuralism of the first half of the XX century was the Geneva School of Linguistics. In any survey of early structuralism the Geneva School deserves pride of place for the role of Charles Bally (1865-1947) and Albert Sechehaye (1870-1946) in publishing posthumously Saussure’s course of lectures under the title “Course in General Linguistics” in 1916 and Serge Karcevskij (1884-1955) in transmitting Saussure’s doctrines to Moscow and Prague, as well as for the important original work done by these and other members.