Remarks on the Phonological Evolution of Russian in Comparison with the Other Slavic Languages
240 pp., 6 x 9 in, 16 b&w illus.
- Published: November 13, 2018
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: October 26, 2018
- Publisher: The MIT Press
The first English translation of a classic and groundbreaking work in historical phonology.
This is the first English translation of a groundbreaking 1929 work in historical phonology by the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson, considered the founder of modern structural linguistics. A revolutionary treatment of Russian and Slavic linguistics, the book introduced a new type of historical linguistics that focused on the systematic reasons behind phonological change. Rather than treating such changes as haphazard, Jakobson here presents a “teleological,” purposeful approach to language evolution. He concludes by placing his book in the context of the exciting structural developments of the era, including Einstein's theories, Cezanne's art, and Lev Berg's nomogenesis.
The original Russian version of the book was lost during the 1939 German invasion of Brno, Czechoslovakia, and the only edition available until now has been the French translation by Louis Brun. Thus this first English translation offers many linguists their first opportunity to read a major early work of Jakobson. Ronald Feldstein, a leading Slavicist and phonologist in his own right, has not only translated the text from French to English, he has also worked to reconstruct something as close to the missing original as possible. Feldstein's end-of-chapter annotations provide explanatory context for particularly difficult passages.
Jakobson disseminated structuralist thought even outside linguistics. In America he almost single-handedly centered linguists' attention on Slavic languages. His early classic work Remarques showed how to view Slavic-language histories structurally, tracing shifts from system to system. Thanks to Feldstein's painstakingly annotated translation, it can now spur new generations of scholars.
E. Wayles Browne, Professor Emeritus, Department of Linguistics, Cornell University
In its French edition, Remarques advanced linguistic structuralism beyond Saussure's Cours and established Slavic as an exemplar to demonstrate the interplay of synchrony and diachrony. Feldstein's fresh, readable English translation and learned annotation bring this fundamental work to a new generation of scholars for whom this will be obligatory reading.
Marc L. Greenberg, Director, School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, University of Kansas
Written during his membership in the Prague Linguistic Circle, Jakobson's book is a work of brilliant and pioneering scholarship that provides powerful systematic insights into the comparative historical phonology of the Slavic languages. This new translation is a welcome addition to the history of structural linguistics.
Jean Berko Gleason, Professor Emerita, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University
Professor Feldstein has done a brilliant job of not only rendering Jakobson's seminal work into English but also providing expert commentary that brings Jakobson's original text to life. This work should be read by any linguist who is interested in phonology in general, historical comparative phonology, and principles of diachronic analysis.
Edna Andrews, Chair, Linguistics Program, Duke University; author of Markedness Theory and Neuroscience and Multilingualism