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Aristotle (384-322 BC) [Classical Antiquity] The youngest of the three Greek giants of philosophy. Aristotle — as opposed to Socrates and Plato — had wide scientific interests, but he did not share the political concerns of the last mentioned to the same degree. He was born in Macedonia and moved as a young man to Athens, later to Assos in Asia Minor, back to Macedonia again (where he tutored Alexander the Great). When the latter became king in 335 Aristotle moved back to Athens and founded his own school there, the Lyceum, which was also known as the peripatetic, or walking, school from the custom of its students of strolling about the grounds. After the death of Alexander he retired to Euboea. Aristotle was an adherent of the conventionalist view of language which is seen in his De interpretatione where he stresses that language does not arise naturally but is set by convention.

Austin, John Langshaw (1911-1960) [philosophy] English philosopher. Born in Lancaster and educated in Oxford where he taught after World War II until his death. He was a representative of the 'ordinary language' school of philosophy. In his posthumously published book How to do things with words (1962) he outlined his theory of speech acts which was central to the later development of linguistic pragmatics. His basic stance was that utterances not only describe but also affect reality.


Bede, The Venerable (673?-735) [Dark Ages] English monk and historian. Bede was born in Northumbria and became a monk at Jarrow where he remained for the remainder of his life. Bede is known to posterity as the author of Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum 'Ecclesiastical history of the English people' which is the main historical source for the Old English period. He was an accurate and reliable observer and compiler of historical information and it is to him that we know of when and how the initial Germanic invasion of Britain took place.

Bickerton, Derek [linguistic theory] An American linguist who is known for his views on how children 'create' language in a creole situation. Bickerton believes that there is an innate bioprogram which comes to the fore in situations of uncontrolled first language acquisition with little or no linguistic background. This bioprogram contains various elements, such as aspectual distinctions for verbs, which have been repeatedly observed among the world's creoles.

Bloomfield, Leonard (1887-1949) [structuralism] American linguist. Born in Chicago, Bloomfield received training in Germanic linguistics on which he also wrote and worked at Illinois, Ohio State, Chicago and Yale where he was professor of linguistics until his death. He is known today as the author of Language (1933), the major statement of structuralist theory in America before the rise of generative grammar. Bloomfield believed that linguistics should be an autonomous, empirical science and that language should be studied in isolation. This sceptical view was based on his belief in empiricism: only those insights into language are acceptable which can be supported by observation. His position thus corresponded to that of the behaviourists in psychology and this stance led to a neglect of semantics which was to beset American linguistics for decades. Bloomfield's major contribution is to phonology and morphology where he developed reliable techniques for the classification of structures on these levels.

Brugmann, Karl (1849-1919) [Indo-European] One of the most prominent German Indo-Europeanists of the second half of the 19th century and a central figure in the Neogrammarian school. His linguistic work is remarkable for its comprehensiveness and thoroughness. Of all the scholars at the end of the century Karl Brugmann was probably the most industrious of all. He is known for his Griechische Grammatik (1885), his Grundriß der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen (1886-1892) (co-authored with Berthold Delbrück, 1842-1922) and his Kurze vergleichende Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen (1904). He was Professor for Indo-European studies in Leipzig from 1887 onwards.

Bühler, Karl (1879-1963) [structuralism] A German linguist who is remembered today as the author of a book Sprachtheorie 'Language theory' (1934) in which he proposed a model of language in which he sees language as a communicative medium which involves a sender, objects and contents, as well as a receiver all of which interact together. Bühler used the term organum, which he adapted from Plato, to describe this functional character of language.


Caxton, William (c.1422-1491) [Early Modern Period] A merchant and later a writer who set up the first printing press in England in 1476. A few years earlier Caxton had visited Cologne where he acquired his knowledge in the technique of printing and returned to England via Belgium to apply this new art. He established his base at Westminster and during his career as publisher produced more than 90 editions of well-known and lesser known authors. Among the former are Chaucer (Canterbury tales), Gower (Confessio amantis), Malory (Morte Darthur). Caxton himself prepared some translations of works in Latin and French. He is also famous for the prefaces which he wrote to his editions and which are revealing documents of literary attitudes in late 15th century England.

Chomsky, (Avram) Noam (1928- ) [linguistic theory] An American linguist and political commentator. Born in Philadelphia and educated at the University of Pennsylvania under Zellig Harris, Chomsky soon developed his own ideas on linguistics which he moulded into a coherent theory, termed transformational-generative grammar, or simply generative grammar, which became the dominant paradigm in the field after the publication of his book Syntactic structures in 1957. He joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and has remained there since, publishing proliferously on all aspects of linguistic theory with a high degree of consistency and continually remaining at the forefront of theoretical research. Chomsky has always stressed language as an abstract system, knowledge of which is partly innate and partly acquired unconsciously in early childhood. It is autonomous and shows internal structure which is independent of other faculties but parallel to similar cognitive ablities. Chomsky is more widely known as an uncompromising commentator on American foreign policy, initially during the Vietnam War and later in connection with Israel, Nicaragua and other countries where America has felt called upon to intervene.

Courtenay, Jan Baudouin de (1845-1929) [phonetics] One of the earliest scholars in phonological theory and the most important member of the Kazan' school named after linguists working at that Russian university. He started out in a genuinely Neogrammarian manner but developed an independent line of thought quite quickly. Above all he was interested in phonemic theory and can be seen as the forerunner of structuralist phonology and of Trubetzkoy. He was one of the first linguists, for example, to recognise and formulate sets of phonetic alternations (see his Versuch einer Theorie phonetischer Alternationen, German 1895).


Delbrück, Berthold [Indo-European] One of the more promient of the Indo-Europeanists in late 19th century Germany and co-author with Karl Brugmann of Grundriß der vergleichenden Grammtik der indogermanischen Sprachen (1886-1892).

Descartes, René (1596-1650) [philosophy] A French philosopher and scientist, widely regarded as the founder of modern philosophy. Descartes received a thorough education in mathematics and scholastic philosophy and studied law at Poitiers. He never practised law but entered royal service and served in different armies before devoting his attention entirely to philosophy and moving to the Netherlands in 1628 where he spent much of the rest of his life. In 1649 he moved to Stockholm to take up an appointment at the court but contracted pneumonia and died shortly afterwards. Descartes produced many works on philosophy throughout his life such as Discours de la méthode (1637), Meditationes de prima philosophia (1641/2) and Principia philosophiae (1644). In these he laid the foundations of rationalism, the school of thought which gives primacy to thought and attaches less importance to experience. This is in sharp contrast to the empricism favoured by British philosophers of the 17th century such as Locke and Hume. Descartes' philosophy is of particular importance for current linguistics as it provides the backdrop for nativism (represented chiefly by Chomsky and his followers), the school of thought in language acquisition research which assumes that much knowledge of language is innate and not gained by experience

Donatus, Aelius (mid 4th. century AD) [Dark Ages] A 4th century Roman grammarian and teacher of Saint Jerome. He is the author of two Latin grammar textbooks, the Ars major and Ars minor. The second of these was used very widely as a schoolbook well into the Middle Ages. Donatus is also the author of commentaries on the literary works of Terence and Vergil which have not survived in their entirety.

Durkheim, Emile (1859-1917) [sociology] The main figure in 19th century French sociology and the founder of the modern discipline. The ideas of Durkheim were influential in other spheres including linguistics. Saussure's ideas about the role of language in society can be seen as deriving from Durkheim's studies of society.


Fillmore, Charles (1929- ) [linguistic theory] An American linguist working at Berkeley in California and the inventor of case theory which was developed in the late 1960's to accomodate deep semantic relations which were felt to be characteristic of case in a non-morphological sense and which explain the relatedness of sentences like I open the door with a chisel; The chisel opened the door.

Firth, John Rupert (1890-1960) [linguistic theory] English linguist and phonetician. Firth is now remembered chiefly for his work in supra-segmental phonetics which has been, to some extent, the object of renewed interest within non-linear phonology, various forms of which were developed in the 1970's and 1980's.

Fries, Charles Carpenter (1887-1967) [structuralism] One of the major figures in American structuralism after Bloomfield and before the advent of generative grammar. He is the author of works on English grammar and general linguistics such as The structure of English (1952).


Gimson, Alfred Charles [phonetics] English phonetician. Gimson is the author of An introduction to the pronunciation of English (1962, 4th edition 1989 with Susan Ramsaran) which became the definitive book on Received Pronuciation after Daniel Jones' work. He held the same chair of phonetics as did Jones and revised his pronunciation dictionary of English.

Grammarian, The First (12th century) [Middle Ages] An unknown Icelandic scholar of the Middle Ages who wrote a treatise on the language of his time. This is remarkable in that it is a synchronic description of Icelandic which is largely independent of Latin which was at that time, and for many centuries afterwards, the model for all grammatical description.

Greenberg, Joseph (1915- ) [linguistic theory] American linguist who is renowned for his research into linguistic universals, in particular into the question of whether there is an implicational relationship between these, e.g. all languages with nasal vowels have oral vowels too. His ideas are contained in various volumes which he edited such as Universals of language (1963), Universals of human language (4 vols. 1978).

Grice, H. Paul (1913-1988) [linguistic theory] English philosopher who worked at Oxford and at Berkeley, California after 1967. In a series of William James lectures delivered at Harvard University in that year Grice outlined his theory of conversational implicature which was influential in drawing the attention of philosophers and linguists to the structured nature of conversation and to an increasing awareness of pragmatics as a field separate from semantics. His ideas can be found in the book Studies in the ways of words (1989) which appeared shortly after his death.

Grimm, Jakob (1785-1863) [Indo-European] The most famous of the early Indo-Europeanists, the elder brother of Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859) with whom he collaborated in many literary tasks, notably the composition of the Deutsche Märchen. Jakob was primarily a linguist; in 1816 the first volume of his Deutsche Grammatik — a book about Germanic linguistics — appeared (the second in 1821, the third in 1831 and the fourth in 1837). The title suggests a somewhat narrow subject matter but in fact the book is a grammar of the Germanic languages. In it he demonstrates quite conclusively the precise relationships not only among the various Germanic languages but also between them and other language groups.


Halliday, Michael A.K. (1925- ) [linguistic theory] British linguist who has worked in London, Chicago and Sydney and who is known for much theoretical work on linguistics, in which he stressed the role of social factors, as well as for the application of the insights of linguistics in areas such as language teaching and text analysis. He was particularly influential in the 1960's.

Harris, Zellig [structuralism] An American structuralist in the period after Bloomfield and one of the bridging figures between structuralism and early generative grammar. He was the teacher of Chomsky as an undergraduate and is credited with the initial use of the term transformation.

Hockett, Charles F. [structuralism] American structuralist who was active in the 1940's and 1950's immediately before the switch to the generative paradigm in American linguistics.

Humboldt, Wilhelm von (1767-1835) [Indo-European] German linguist and philosopher, brother of the natural scientist Alexander von Humboldt. He is known for his studies of Basque and of languages in the southern Pacific where he travelled with his brother. Humboldt is remembered today for his insistence on the connection between language and the community which speaks it: he saw language as the expression of the cultural spirit of a people.


Jakobson, Roman (1896-1982) [structuralism] Russian linguist and literary scholar. Born and educated in Moscow he started his career in structural linguistics in connection with the Prague school. In 1943 Jakobson moved to the United States and worked at Harvard producing a book on distinctive feature theory (a further development of phonological ideas coming from Trubetzkoy) entitled Fundamentals of language (co-authored with Morris Halle 1955). His selected writings published in the late 1960's and early 1970's cover a very wide range of topics in language and literature.

Jespersen, Otto (1860-1943) [Indo-European] Danish philologist and phonetician and language educationalist. Jespersen's linguistic career began with work on phonetics and on the teaching of English as a foreign language, an area where Jespersen pleaded strongly for reform. From 1893 to his retirement in 1925, he was professor of English at the University of Copenhagen and produced a series of original books on the history and structure of English which are topical to this day: The growth and structure of the English language (1905), A modern English grammar on historical principles (7 vols., 1909-49), Language: Its nature and development (1922).

Johnson, Samuel (1709-84) [lexicography] English writer and lexicographer. Johnson was a major critic and scholar who was known both for his brilliant conversation and the quality of his writing. As a man of letters his influence on literature of his day and later periods was considerable. His significance for linguistics lies in the fact that he compiled the first major monolingual dictioanary of English Dictionary of the English language (1755) which was a model for all future lexicographers.

Jones, Daniel (1881-1967) [phonetics] English phonetician. He was born in London and studied mathematics at King's College, Cambridge. In 1905/6 he studied phonetics in Paris under Paul Passy and on his return was appointed at University College London and remained there, from 1921 to 1949 as professor of phonetics. Jones was the first to describe rigorously the (standard) sociolect of British English which he termed Received Pronunciation. His two main books are An outline of English phonetics (1918 with later revisions) and An English pronouncing dictionary (1917 with later revisions).

Jones, Sir William (1746-1794) [Indo-European] An English judge in foreign service in India. Jones was the first modern scholar to insist on the relatedness of most of the Indo-European languages. He did so in a famous address to the Asiatic Society in Calcutta showing clearly, using sound philological techniques, that Sanskrit, Greek, Latin along with the Germanic and Celtic languages were related to each other. Jones was quickly followed by others such as Rasmus Rask and Jakob Grimm who established the science of comparative philology.


Kazan' school [phonetics] A name given retrospectively to a group of linguists all working at the University of Kazan' in Russia at the end of the 19th century (including Kruszewski and Courtenay). These scholars made significant advances in the field of phonetics for which they are still known today.

Kiparsky, Paul [linguistic theory] Finnish-born American phonologist who since the beginning of generative phonology in the 1960's has played a central role in its development adding many new ideas and developing new models such as lexical phonology, advanced in the early 1980's.

Kurath, Hans (1891-1992) [lexicography] American dialectologist and lexicographer of Austrian extraction. He worked at different universities at the beginning of his career and in 1930 was appointed director of The linguistic atlas of the United States and Canada producing various books on the dialects of the eastern coast of America. In 1946 he became editor of the Middle English dictionary and worked on it until his retirement in 1961.

Kurylowicz, Jerzy [Indo-European] A Polish linguist from the University of Cracow who figured prominently in Indo-European linguistics in the first half of the 20th century. He is chiefly remembered today for his work on analogy to which he contributed many original ideas.


Labov, William [linguistic theory] American linguist. He is the founder of the modern discipline of sociolinguistics. Labov started his career with an investigation of the English used on a small island off the coast of New England and of the English of New York city. In both instances he demonstrated conclusively that the use of language, above all systematic variation, was determined by social factors such as upward mobility or group solidarity. These findings unleashed a veritable avalanche of research into language and society which has led to innumerable insightful studies, particularly in the English-speaking world.

Langacker, Ronald [linguistic theory] An American linguist who is famous for propagating a largely semantics-based view of language called 'cognitive grammar'. This sees strong parallels between cognitive structures in humans and the organisation of grammars cross-linguistically. The critics of this theory bemoan its lack of stringency and its fuzziness when compared to compact and tightly constrained syntactic theories like generative grammar.

Lowth, Bishop Robert [prescriptive grammar] Author of a normative, prescriptive grammar Short introduction to English grammar (1762) which achieved great popularity for the manner in which it lay down the law with regard to grammatical usage. Lowth was professor of poetry in Oxford and later bishop of Oxford and of London (as of 1777).

Luick, Karl [English philology] A Viennese scholar, active early in the 20th century, who was instrumental in establishing English historical linguistics on the continent. His main contribution is his monumental Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache (1914-1940).


Martinet, André [structuralism] The major representative of structuralism in France. Martinet is chiefly known for his book Economie des changements phonétique (1955) in which he proposed the ideas of economy and the desire for regularity in system structure as essential factors in language change.

Mencken, Henry Louis (1880-1956) [dialectology] American journalist and author. Born in Baltimore where he later worked as a journalist as an essayist attacking bourgeoisie complacency (see his collection Prejudices 6 vols. 1919-1927). In linguistics he is principally remembered for his large-scale book The American language (1919 with later editions and supplements) which was responsible for the study of this variety of English becoming academically respectable.

Milroy, James and Lesley [linguistic theory] British sociolinguists who in pioneering work in Belfast in the 1970's propounded the idea that social network ties (strong and weak) are essential factors determining language use and systematic variation. Change emanates in their view from those speakers with loose ties as they move readily in society and are not bound by strict linguistic norms to a specific class or sub-class.

Montague, Richard (1930-1970) [linguistic theory] An American linguist who in a brief career developed a theory of grammar — known after him as Montague grammar — which involved the use of propositional calculus for the expression of semantic and to some extent syntactic relations in sentences.

Murray, James A.H. (1837-1915) [lexicography] Scottish lexicographer and teacher. He is remembered as the scholar who began work on what was later to become the Oxford English dictionary, originally entitled A new dictionary of English on historical principles for which he collected most material. The work was not completed until 1928 but many sections of it had been printed during Murray's lifetime.


Orton, Harold (1898-1975) [dialectology] English dialectologist. Born in Durham the son of a village schoolmaster, Orton studied at Oxford after World War I and developed a strong interest in dialects. He also studied under Joseph Wright and Henry Wyld and later worked at Newcastle and Sheffield before he was appointed professor at Leeds after World War II. In this capacity he initiated the Survey of English dialects which was to become his life's work and led to the publication of The linguistic atlas of England in 1978. Much of the material collected was used by other researchers in their work on English dialects and this work is still carried out at Leeds.


Panini (fl. c.400 BC) [Classical Antiquity] An Indian grammarian, Panini is famous for the grammar of Sanskrit, known as the Astadhyayi 'Eight Books' which is a concise and aphoristic summary of the rules of phonology and morphology for Sanskrit and which was intended to serve as a guide to the classical language which then no longer corresponded to spoken forms. His work became known to western scholars through the report by the British judge and amateur linguist Sir William Jones in 1786. Panini is, together with the First Grammarian, regarded as one of the few descriptive linguists before the advent of the discipline of linguistics in the late 18th century.

Paul, Hermann (1846-1921) [Indo-European] A German scholar who studied Germanic linguistics and taught at Leipzig and worked on the historical development of German. Today he is remembered for his book Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte (1880) which has the status of a bible of Neogrammarianism because in it he outlined clearly the theoretical position of the linguistics of his day. The title of the book reveals Paul's belief that all linguistics should be historical, in fact Paul shows little awareness of the synchronic level of language which only came to the fore with the advent of structuralism.

Piaget, Jean (1896-1980) [psychology] Swiss psychologist who is particularly renowned for his work in child psychology. Piaget was interested in the psychological aspects of maturation and stressed the child's interaction with his/her environment (an aspect played down in generative grammar). He is the author of many books in this area such as The language and thought of the child (1926), Judgement and reasoning in the child (1928), The origin of intelligence in children (1954), The early growth of logic in the child (1964).

Pike, Kenneth [structuralism] American linguist who was interested in the practical applications of structural notions in linguistics. He developed his own views on language structure — known as tagmemics — which covers all aspects and which is expounded in Language in relation to an integrated theory of the structure of human behavior (1967). A tagmeme in Pike's model (partially derived from Bloomfild) is the smallest grammatical unit which carries meaning and combinations of these forms syntagmemes.

Plato (c.428-c.347 BC) [Classical Antiquity] Greek philosopher and one of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy. He was born in Athens of a noble family. He became a disciple of Socrates and came to share his style of attaining truth by questioning all accepted beliefs. In 387 Plato founded the Academy in Athens an institution which resembled a university and where various branches of science from astronomy to philosophy were taught. After Socrates death at the hands of the Athenian authorities in 399 he left and travelled in the eastern Mediterranean. He returned to Athens, however, and but for a few breaks remained there for the remainder of his life. Plato is very versatile in his writings and his significance for linguistics lies in his philosophy of idealism and in his view that the spoken word is superior to the written word.

Prague school [linguistic theory] A term for a group of linguists who worked in Prague in the 1920's. They had in common the rejection of Neogrammarianism and the support of structuralism as set out by Saussure. Prominent members of the school were Roman Jakobson and Nikolai Trubetzkoy. The founding member of the group was Vilem Mathesius (1882-1945). A conception of syntax and topicalisation termed functional sentence perspective is associated with this school.

Priscian (c.500 AD) [Dark Ages] Latin grammarian who worked at Constantinople (modern Istanbul). He is chielfy known for his Institutiones grammaticae, a major grammar of Latin in 18 books which remained the standard reference work throughout the Middle Ages.

Purists [Early Modern Period] A collective term for those English scholars in the 16th century who supported availing of the resources present in the language when coining new words rather than borrowing excessively from classical languages. The most prominent purist of early Tudor times is Sir John Cheke who practised his ideas in his partial translation of the Gospels.


Quirk, Sir Randolph (1920- ) [English philology] The most prominent of a group of linguists involved in the description of present-day English usage. Born on the Isle of Man Quirk studied in London where he had his first appointment, then he moved to Durham and later returned to London to take up the chair of English language at University College London. Quirk initiated the Survey of English Usage in 1959 and engaged a number of prominent linguists such as Sidney Greenbaum and Geoffrey Leech who collaborated with him in A grammar of contemporary English (1972) and the even more exhaustive A comprehensive grammar of the English language (1985). Quirk has also written a grammar of Old English (with C.L.Wrenn) and several commentaries of aspects of English.


Roget, Peter Mark (1779-1869) [lexicography] English physician and lexicographer. Born in London, the son of a Swiss Calvinist pastor. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and was active in this sphere in Manchester and London. His Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (1852), later edited by his son and by his grandson, is a standard reference work and his claim to linguistic fame.

Royal Society [Early Modern Period] A scientific society founded in London in 1660 for the advancement of knowledge (full name: Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge adopted in 1663 after the granting of two royal charters; first called Royal Society for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy). It initially consisted of a small group of scholars and scientists who met to discuss matters of mutual interest and were acting in the tradition of scientific inquiry associated which Francis Bacon who preceded them. The society entertained a committee for a while with the intention of improving English grammar and reforming the orthography but the plans did not reach fruition. The society was largely Puritan in orientation from the beginning and was thus largely independent in its opinions; it has had many distinguished members such as the poet John Dryden, the physicist Isaac Newton, the architect Christopher Wren and the scholar Bishop John Wilkins. The society has never achieved official status but it is the nearest thing which England has had to the academies of science of many continental European countries.


Sapir, Edward (1884-1939) [structuralism] American philologist and anthropologist. Born in northern Germany, he left for America at the age of five. Sapir studied at Columbia University, New York where he researched on Germanic languages and later started work on anthropology after coming in contact with Franz Boas. Sapir then started working on native American languages in Canada producing linguistic descriptions of many of them. His major work is a general book simply entitled Language: An introduction to the study of speech (1921). He laid the foundations for the American school of structuralism which was expanded on by Bloomfield. Sapir had a different approach stressing both the society in which a language is spoken as well as the psychological reality of linguistic structures (such as phonemes) for speakers.

Saussure, Ferdinand de (1857-1913) [structuralism] Swiss-French linguist. The founder of structuralism in linguistics, the dominant paradigm in the science for the first half of the 20th century. Saussure started his career in Leipzig with a brilliant contribution to Indo-European theoretical phonology which was actually confirmed in the 1920's after the discovery and deciphering of Hittite. For the latter part of his professional life he was professor of linguistics in Geneva and his lectures became the basis for the book Course in general linguistics (published posthumously by Saussure's pupils in 1916) which introduced all the key notions of structural linguistics.

Schleicher, August (1821-1868) [Indo-European] German scholar and the most important of the Indo-Europeanists before the advent of the Neogrammarians in the last quarter of the 19th century. He started as a scholar of Lithuanian with his Handbuch der litauischen Sprache (1856) and of Slavic with his Die Formenlehre der kirchenslavischen Sprache (1852). His notions of language change, particulary of genetic relationships (his Stammbaumtheorie), were developed and set out in his Kompendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen (1861).

Schmidt, Johannes (1843-1901) [Indo-European] After Schleicher the linguist who concerned himself with theories of language change. In his Über die Verwandtschaftsbeziehungen der indogermanischen Sprachen he assumes that there was no single proto-language but a conglomeration of dialects which spread out from various epicentres in wave form. His Wellentheorie is intended to explain why features overlap irregularly in various language groups.

Schuchardt, Hugo (1842-1927) [Indo-European] German linguist who was opposed to Neogrammarians' views on language change and their ignorance of language without a long cultural history (see his Über die Lautgesetze. Gegen die Junggrammatiker) and advocated a line of study which is now known as linguistic geography. In later dialect studies (for example in the Survey of English dialects) the type of word geography instituted by Schuchardt was implemented. He was also associated with the school named Wörter und Sachen after a journal which was concerned with semantic issues.

Searle, John (1932- ) [philosophy] American philosopher and linguist working at the University of Berkeley. Searle is concerned with further developing ideas of the ordinary language philosopher J.L. Austin and in his book Speech Acts (1969), and later in Expression and meaning (1979), he expanded considerably on Austin's statement on the subject in How to do things with words (1962).

Sibawayh (8th century) [Dark Ages] Arabian scholar of Persian birth. He is the author of a grammar, simply entitled 'the book' al kitab, in which he laid out the rules of classical Arabic and recognised word classes along with skeleton roots, such as k-t-b 'write', and offered a phonetic description of Arabic script.

Skeat, Walter William (1835-1912) [lexicography] One of the most prominent early English philologists. Skeat was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge from 1878 to 1912 and is author of An etymological dictionary of the English language (1882) which became a standard work in the field.

Skinner, Burrhus Frederic (1904-90) [psychology] American psychologist and one of the major figures of psychological behaviourism which was concerned with the interaction of stimulus and response and the controlling of reactions in certain situations. Skinner was also interested in conditioning responses much in the vein of Pavlov. His theories were controversial and influential and had an effect on American structuralists but were rejected firmly by generativists, first and foremost by Chomsky in his 1959 review of Skinner's Verbal behavior.

Socrates (470?-399? BC) [Classical Antiquity] Greek philosopher, born near Athens as the son of a sculptor and a midwife. He twice held public office although he was not interested in gaining position. Accused of introducing new deities and corrupting youth he was to be put to death but pre-empted this by taking hemlock. Socrates' great influence on Western thought is through Plato whose teacher he was. Socrates himself wrote nothing and all that is known about him comes from the dialogues of Plato and the treatises of Xenophon in which he figures prominently. His teachings seem to have been moral in the widest sense with the view that science is most useful when it contributes to a knowledge of virtue. Socrates is known as the permanent doubter deriving from his practice of questioning all beliefs and assumptions.

Sweet, Henry (1845-1912) [English philology] English philologist and phonetician. Born in London he was educated in both England and Germany where he studied at the University of Heidelberg thus coming in touch with the mainstream of German linguistics of the day. Sweet was interested in English philology and produced editions of Old English texts as well as a grammar and reader. He is also the author of books on phonetics and the history of English in general (History of English sounds, 1874). Sweet was a dominant character in the early days of professional English linguistics and was known to creative writers of the time, notably to George Bernard Shaw who included elements of his character in the figure of Professor Higgins in his play Pygmalion.


Tesnière, Lucien (1893-1954) [linguistic theory] French linguist who is known chiefly for his work Élement d'une syntaxe structurale (1953) in which he offered in outline a theory of syntax which is a forerunner of dependency grammar as practised later in Germany, for instance, and which sees the verb and its dependents as central in syntax.

Trubetzkoy, Nikolai (1890-1938) [linguistic theory] Russian phonologist who began his studies in Moscow but who, after the revolution of 1917, fled to the West, to Vienna, where he taught Slavic phonology from 1922 to his death in 1938. He is the single most important figure of the Prague School and his main work is the Gundzüge der Phonologie which became the fundamental work for what was later distinctive feature phonology as developed by Roman Jakobson, Morris Halle and Noam Chomsky.

Trudgill, Peter [linguistic theory] One of the most prominent English sociolinguists (see Milroy) who is noted for his investigation of working class speech in Norwich in East Anglia. Trudgill successfully demonstrated that solidarity among the lower classes is a major motivating factor in maintaining non-standard forms of language.


Varro, Marcus Terentius (116-27 BC) [Classical Antiquity] Roman scholar born of a noble family in Sabine territory who served with Pompey in Spain (76 BC) and was later reconciled with Caesar. Varro was a very prolific writer. His works amount to more than 600 volumes and include some on philosophy, education, law, geography apart from grammar. Little has survived, however; of his mammoth De lingua latina, which originally comprised 25 volumes, 6 are extant (Books V-X). This work is a systematic treatise on Latin grammar and deals with etymology, morphology and syntax.

Verner, Karl Adolf (1846-1896) [Indo-European] Danish Indo- European scholar who is known today for his brilliant analysis of the many intractable forms in Indo-European languages which up to the publication of his trail-blazing article "Eine Ausnahme der ersten Lautverschiebung" (1875) had eluded explanation. Verner demonstrated conclusively that the alternation of voiceless and voiced consonants in the difficult forms — in Germanic all exceptions to Grimm's Law — was due to whether the accent fell on preceding the syllable or not in early stages of Indo-European when the accent was not fixed on a single syllable of a word.


Wang, William [linguistic theory] American-Chinese scholar who is known for his formulation of a type of language change known as lexical diffusion. The basic assumption here is that (phonetic) change spreads from item to item in the lexicon. If it encompasses the entire lexicon then the change looks with hindsight like the Neogrammarian type of phonetically gradual but lexically abrupt change.

Webster, Noah (1758-1843) [lexicography] American lexicographer and linguist. Born in Connecticut and studied at Yale. After fighting in the American Revolution he worked as a lawyer in Hartford. His Grammatical institute of the English language (1783-85) established his reputation as the foremost scholar of English in America. The first part of this work, The elementary spelling book, was instrumental in standardising American spelling even though not all of Webster's suggestions were later adopted. His lexicographical work includes the Compendious dictionary (1806) which was followed by his major work, The American dictionary of the English language (1812) which contained 70,000 words, 12,000 of which had not been listed before. The work went through many revisions. The last which Webster saw through himself was that of 1840. It has been repeatedly revised and published and has retained its popularity in America.

Whorf, Benjamin Lee (1897-1941) [linguistic theory] American anthropologist and linguist. Whorf worked on Mayan and Aztec languages and became particularly interested in language and culture of the Hopi in Arizona/New Mexico. His main claim to fame is his formulation of the linguistic relativity hypothesis which maintains in its extreme form that language determines thought. While few if any linguists accepted this position Whorf's thinking on the subject has had a continuous influence on linguists who repeatedly feel called upon to comment on his ideas, if only to refute them. Edward Sapir is often associated with Whorf's notions on language and culture. His main ideas are contained in a selection of his writings entitled Language, thought and reality (1956).

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1889-1951) [philosophy] Born in Vienna to a wealthy and gifted family. After initial schooling in Austria and Germany Wittgenstein left for England where he studied at Manchester and Cambridge. There he came into contact with Betrand Russell and turned his attention to philosophy. In the belief that he had reached the 'final solution' to philosophical problems with his Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1921) he turned his back on philosophy and for several years taught in an elementary school in an Austrian village. He subsequently returned to Cambridge and resumed work on philosophy. He came to reject many of the conclusions of his earlier work and his revised ideas were contained in Philosophical investigations (published posthumously in 1953). Wittgenstein's thinking was very influential on modern philosophy and displays a distinct concern with language and the role it plays in both expressing and forming ideas.

Wright, Joseph (1855-1930) [dialectology] An English scholar who set dialect study on a new footing at the beginning of the 20th century. Wright studied in Germany in Heidelberg and Leipzig and came into contact with leading linguists of the day at these centres. Later he returned to England to take up a professorship at Oxford. He is now known for two works, the English dialect dictionary (5 vols., 1898-1905) and the sixth volume of this work, his English dialect grammar, all of which are still consulted today for valuable information.


Zamenhof, Ludwig (1859-1917) [structuralism] A Polish scholar who invented the artificial language Esperanto at the end of the 19th century. This language is based on Romance elements and was intended to be easy for Europeans to learn and thus promote communication between speakers of different languages.