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The Western Classical Tradition in Linguistics

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The Western Classical Tradition in linguistics extends from Ancient Greece to the 21st century and has spread from Europe to the other four inhabited continents. It is a story of successive stages of language study, each building upon, or reacting against, the preceding period. There is a theoretical track passing through Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics to the scholastics of the later middle ages; on to the vernacular grammarians of the renaissance, then the rationalists and universal grammarians of the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries. Joining this, is a tradition relating language to thought handed on from Epicurus and Lucretius to Locke, Condillac, Humboldt, Saussure, Boas, Sapir, Whorf and today’s cognitivists. There is at the same time a pedagogical track deriving from the Greek grammarians Dionysius Thrax and Apollonius Dyscolus via the Latins, Donatus, Priscian, and their commentators; a track that gives rise to prescriptivism and applied linguistics. The book’s penultimate chapter examines the re-ascendancy of hypothetico-deductive theory over the inductivist theories of the early 20th century, concluding that both approaches are necessary for the proper modelling of language in the 21st century and beyond. In this second edition there is a new final chapter that traces the history of semantics and pragmatics from earliest times to the present day.

Published: Jun 1, 2010


Section Chapter Authors
List of Figures Keith Allan
List of Tables Keith Allan
Preface to the first edition Keith Allan
Preface to the second edition Keith Allan
Acknowledgments Keith Allan
Symbols and abbreviations used in the text Keith Allan
Chapter 1
Linguistics and the Western Classical Tradition Keith Allan
Chapter 2
Plato on language Keith Allan
Chapter 3
Aristotle’s legacy Keith Allan
Chapter 4
The Stoics and Varro Keith Allan
Chapter 5
Quintilian, Dionysius, and Donatus: the start of a pedagogic tradition Keith Allan
Chapter 6
Apollonius and Priscian, the great grammarians among the ancients Keith Allan
Chapter 7
Prescriptivism from the early middle ages on Keith Allan
Chapter 8
‘General’ or ‘universal’ grammar: from the modistae to Chomsky Keith Allan
Chapter 9
Phonetics, phonology, and comparative philology Keith Allan
Chapter 10
Language and thought: from Epicurus until after Whorf Keith Allan
Chapter 11
Saussurean and functionalist linguistics: the study of language as human communication Keith Allan
Chapter 12
Paradigms for linguistic analysis: Bloomfieldian linguistics and the Chomsky revolution Keith Allan
Chapter 13
Linguistic semantics and pragmatics from earliest times Keith Allan
End Matter
Epilogue Keith Allan
Life dates Keith Allan
References Keith Allan
Index Keith Allan

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'The history of linguistics in this book is at once disciplined, informative and readable. It contains an absolute wealth of very clearly presented linguistic analyses which enable the reader to get a real handle on how the very large cast of actors assembled here did their daily linguistics. It should become for many an indispensable compact tool of reference and a source book. '
Gordon Taylor, Monash University, Australian Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 29, No. 3 (September 2009)

‘Allan has given us an excellent and well-documented account of western linguistics from the Greeks (and sometimes before them) until current trends on the topic such as pragmatics and cognitive linguistics.’ Historiographia Linguistics XXXV:1/2