A life for language : a biographical memoir of Leonard by Robert A. Hall Jr.

By Robert A. Hall Jr.

Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) used to be one of many maximum linguists of the 20 th century. He dedicated his whole lifestyles to a thorough-going examine of language, its constitution and its use, summed up in masterly style in his publication Language (1933). After his untimely demise on the age of sixty two, his paintings used to be firstly acclaimed as an exemplary program of the medical strategy to linguistics, yet then fell into unjustified overlook. Now that the centenary of his delivery has handed, the time has come for the tale of Bloomfield's existence and paintings to be acknowledged in a biography. hence, basing his dialogue on all to be had fabrics (including a few info now not obtainable until eventually recently), Professor corridor has provided Bloomfield's existence heritage in its highbrow and cultural environment. This e-book isn't just a biography, but in addition a private memoir, during which corridor attracts on his contacts with Bloomfield, who used to be his instructor at Chicago and a senior colleague at Yale. There emerges from this learn a fuller photo than we've got had heretofore, featuring either Bloomfield's famous success in setting up the learn of language as a systematic self-discipline, and the less-known features of his personality and of his own existence, which in convinced respects was once very tragic and unhappy.

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In this respect, he was simply applying "Occam's razor", Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, which in this context might be paraphrased "Don't set up more factors in your analysis than are strictly necessary". Similarly, his emphasis on the difficulty of obtaining a complete scientific analysis of the meaning of a linguistic form, and his emphasis on the necessity of beginning one's analysis starting from form rather than from meaning, was interpreted as a denial that meaning existed or was relevant to linguistics at all.

Bloomfield was quite aware of these misrepresentations, and did his best to dispel the misunderstandings involved. As late as 1945, he was still having to make disclaimers such as the following (contained in a letter to Kenneth L. l912]): It has become painfully common to say that I, or rather a whole group of language students of whom I am one, pay no attention to meaning or neglect it, or even that we undertake to study language without meaning, simply as meaningless sounds. ] It is not just a personal affair in the statements to which I have referred, but something which, if allowed to develop, will injure the progress of our science by setting up a fictitious contrast between students who consider meaning and students who neglect it.

On February 7, in a fit of depression, she committed suicide by taking cyanide. Her brother Leonard was notified of her suicide by Dean Virginia Gildersleeve of Barnard, and replied that he would go to New York for the interment, which he did. Marie was not the only member of the Bloomfield and Sayers families to manifest mental instability, though she was the only one to carry it as far as suicide. Her elder brother, Grover Bloomfield, had (according to Léon Després) an outstanding career as a chemist, until he suffered a psychological break-down and was on disability insurance for the rest of his life.

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