Roman Jakobson

Roman Jakobson (1896–1982) was one of the greatest linguists of the twentieth century. Educated in Moscow and Prague, he taught at Masaryk University, Columbia University, Harvard University, and MIT. His many published works include Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning (MIT Press).

  • Remarks on the Phonological Evolution of Russian in Comparison with the Other Slavic Languages

    Remarks on the Phonological Evolution of Russian in Comparison with the Other Slavic Languages

    Roman Jakobson

    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.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £38.00
  • Preliminaries to Speech Analysis

    Preliminaries to Speech Analysis

    The Distinctive Features and Their Correlates

    Roman Jakobson, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle

    This work attempts to describes the ultimate discrete components of language, their specific structure, and their articulatory, acoustic, and perceptual correlates, and surveys their utilization in the language of the world. First published in 1951, this edition contains an added paper on Tenseness and Laxness.

    • Paperback $20.00 £15.99


  • Whitney on Language

    Selected Writings of William Dwight Whitney

    Michael Silverstein

    William Dwight Whitney, a commanding figure in nineteenth-century philology, may be considered the most important and wide-ranging precursor of modern linguistic theory. The selections in this book (covering the years 1861-1892) represent his pioneer work in linguistics and are relevant in the most urgent sense to the debate on the nature of language and linguistics shaping up once again between students of rationalist grammar and students of culture. Whitney was one of the first to stress the “cultural” nature of language in modern terms, and Mr. Silverstein remarks, “what impresses us most about this material is its fundamental sanity.”

    Long essays by the editor and by Roman Jakobson, distinguished scholar in linguistics at MIT and in Slavic languages at Harvard University, as well as an autobiographical sketch from the Williams College Record of the class of 1845 precede Whitney's own studies. Mr. Silverstein has made no attempt to analyze selections but has chosen representative essays that show the range of Whitney's linguistic interests and accomplishments and that present the linguistic thought of his time. All of the essays appear in their original form except for the first and longest extract, which has been condensed from Language and the Study of Language. Purely descriptive studies of Sanskrit or of Hindu literature and astronomy have been excluded, although Whitney's narrowest professional interest is represented by the beautiful studies of accent in Sanskrit and the statistical treatment of imperfect and perfect tense formations.

    The twelve essays are arranged by area of interest. The first group takes up general topics such as the “institutional” nature of language, psychology and the origin of language, and the difficult question of linguistic mixture. It is followed by an enigmatic piece of syntactic analysis of grammatical categories, several phonetics studies, the unified theory of vowel and consonant, the universal transcriptional system and articulatory phonetics, and the notion of phonetic economy. The book concludes with the Sanskrit studies and a treatment criticism of the grammarians or the period.

    • Hardcover $35.00