Language and style - статья на английском языке

<...>In the early years of the present century, linguistics underwent what has been rightly described as a 'Copernican revolution'. This revolution, which was ushered in by the posthumous publication, in 1916, of Ferdinand de Saussure's Cours de Linguistique generate, showed itself in two main ways. Firstly, the historical bias of nineteenth-century philology gave way to a broader view which admitted the existence of two approaches to language, one descriptive or 'synchronic', the other historical or 'diachronic', and boldly proclaimed the primacy of the descriptive method because it is more akin to the attitude of the ordinary speaker. The second great change concerned the way in which the tasks of descriptive linguistics were conceived. Language came to be viewed, not as an aggregate of discrete elements but as an organized totality, a Gestalt, which has a pattern of its own and whose components are interdependent and derive their significance from the system as a whole. In Saussure's famous simile, language is like a game of chess; you cannot add, remove or displace any element without affecting the entire field of force. In the United States, thinking about the fundamental structure of language developed on similar lines; the new approach was codified with remarkable precision and rigour in Leonard Bloomfield's book Language (1933), which, second only to Saussure's Course, is easily the most influential work on linguistics published so far in this country.
The new conception of language, which has come to be known by the name of 'structuralism', has sometimes been carried to unreasonable lengths. To assert, as has been often done, that language is a system where everything hangs together — 'un systeme ou tout se tient' — is obviously unrealistic. <...>
Be that as it may, the idea of an underlying pattern has proved an extremely fruitful working hypothesis. It has been applied with conspicuous success to the phonological side of language where it has yielded the invaluable concept of 'phoneme' or 'distinctive sound'. From phonology, there has been a gradual shift of interest to morphological structure where the theory has produced another useful though more controversial concept: that of the 'morpheme' or 'minimum significant unit of language' — a diverse category which comprises simple words, prefixes and suffixes, inflexions, non-independent roots and other elements, including even the intonation of the sentence. The structuralist theory has also made an impact on syntax where it has give rise, during the last few years, to an entirely new and promising technique known as 'transformational grammar'. <...> Semantics, too, has felt the need to align itself with the rest of linguistics by adopting structuralist viewpoints, but these attempts have so far met with less success than in other branches of language study. <...>
(From "Language and Style" by St. Ullmann)