Phillip Fortunatov's Neogrammarian conception

Phillip Fortunatov’s Neogrammarian conception

The most prominent scholar in Russia, following neogrammarian traditions was academician Ph. Fortunatov (1848-1914) who considered “human language in its history” to be the subject-matter of language science, though he retained the interest to the problem of “language and thinking”. Like Paul he also dealt with general notion of grammar without any historism. His grammar conception largely influenced Russian and Soviet linguistics.

Of great significance was Fortunatov’s approach to the notion of a word form. He wrote, “The form of individual words is their ability to single out the formal and basic word belonging to speakers’ consciousness”. That is, form is a psychologically meaningful word segmentability into stem and inflexion. Different forms of one word (case, tense etc.) are opposed to one another forming a system. Fortunatov’s conception of a word form served the basis for elaborating morphemic analysis, though he did not use the notion of a morpheme, yet. He also dealt with a strictly morphological approach to singling out parts of speech, delimitation of syntactic and non-syntactic grammar categories etc. his school was later called “formal”, which was distinguished by its aspiration for scientific strictness, non-contradictoriness of studies, and verification of the results.

The creation of the Moscow School of Linguistics turned out to be the main result of Fortunatov’s activities. Though this school went very far from neogrammarianism later but the traditions of its founder remained. The scholar’s new approaches touched upon only particular questions of grammar theory but general problems of Linguistics were treated by him from the neogrammarian point of view.