The main linguistic tendencies at the beginning of the XX century and text analysis

The main linguistic tendencies at the beginning of the XX century and text analysis

The beginning of the XX century was marked by prominent discoveries in linguistics. Of particular importance became the investigation of language structure and attempts at its formal description. This trend was called “structural linguistics”, its representatives being the following celebrated scholars: I.A. Beaudoin de Courtenay (a Russian philologist), F.F. Fortunatov; O. Jespersen; E. Sepir; L. Bloomfield, and especially Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913, a Swiss philologist). In 1916 F. de Saussure’s main research “The Course of General Linguistics” was published, edited by Ch. Bally and A. Seshe after the notes of the students who attended this course thrice. In his work the Swiss scholar for the first time in linguistics opposed language as a system of signs, as a social and psychic phenomenon acquired by the speaker and speech as individual and psycho-physiological phenomenon and as an active usage of the language code in conformity with the thoughts of the speaker (French: Langue and Parole).

According to structural approach, the sentence is the highest level of analysis. One of the structural linguistics representatives, a French scholar Emile Benveniste wrote: “A sentence does not form a class of distinguishable units and that is why it can not be regarded as a constituent of the unit of a higher level. A sentence can only precede any other sentence or follow it, being in the relation of succession with the latter. A group of sentences does not form a unit that may be considered as belonging to a level higher than the level of a sentence proper. There is no level above the sentence level”.

The new tendencies of linguistic analysis proved 1o be very attractive for scholars and the scientific interest for a long time has been focused on the investigation of the language system constituentsphonemes, morphemes, words and sentences. Still, even the most notable and experienced structuralists realized the conventional character of the idea that a sentence is the highest unit of syntax. One of the founders of structural syntax L. Tesniere wrote: “In reality the speech is not a mere sequence; of isolated phrases. On the contrary, the sequence is normal when it; expresses a series of interconnected thoughts, forming a regular unity; such sequence serves for the expression of a thought either orally or in writing”. As a rule, such ideas were not developed further.

However, the first attempts at theoretical comprehension of language phenomena exceeding the limits of a sentence are dated by the very beginning of the XX century. In this connection the scholars usually mention the American Ph. D. Thesis by I. Nye entitled “Relations of Coordination in Sentences (based on texts by Liviy), defended in 1912. In her research I. Nye anticipated some of the concepts of modern text linguistics: she emphasized the two major structural characteristics of a text: repetition and incompleteness of its elements. Long before Z. Harris and V. Koch she put forward the principle of recurrence, which is considered one of the main principles of modern conception of a text. The principle of incompleteness highlights the fact that separate sentences are not complete and independent units of a speech fragment. This principle became one of the main arguments in favour of treating Text Linguistics as an independent philological discipline. Despite its scientific value I. Nye’s dissertation had no significant impact on the development of linguistic thought of the XX century.