[Further Readings]

Information in this page copyright 2001 Brigham Young University Department of Linguistics. Permission to duplicate this material for non-commercial academic purposes is freely given, provided BYU is noted as the copyright holder.

This page last updated May 22, 2001 by Daniel Roundy, dqr@ttt.org


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People, N-S

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Peirce, Charles Saunders

Charles Saunders Pierce was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of a Harvard mathematics professor. He received his education at Harvard. In 1861 he began studying pendulums. He also studied light waves and Boolean algebra. He lectured at Harvard and at Johns Hopkins University from 1864 to 1884 in logic and philosophy. He was removed from teaching at Johns Hopkins because of his abrasive personality. However, he continued to give some lectures at Harvard. These lectures developed into pragmatism, for which Peirce is most famous.

Peirce's first paper on pragmatism (although it was not yet referred to as pragmatism) was "How to make our ideas clear" in 1877. It was introduced as a method for making meanings of words and utterances more understandable. This philosophy held that objects are only significant by how they are used, and not in and of themselves. The philosophers William James and John Dewey built upon the work of Peirce in pragmatics; however, Peirce tried to distance his own work from that of James, as he did not agree with some of William James' ideas on the subject.

Peirce studied everything he studied in relation to semiotics, or signs. He understood the sign relationship to be three-way. According to Peirce, a sign cannot be understood to hold a certain meaning unless we think it does. Hence, there are three parts, the sign, the object being signified, and our thoughts that connect them. We can also deduce meanings by applying our previous knowledge and suppositions to the available signs and items signified, and grow closer and closer to a clear sign and signified relationship.

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Pike, Kenneth

Kenneth Pike was born in Woodstock, Connecticut in 1912. He received his BA from Gordon College. In reading a biography of Hudson Taylor while in school, Pike was inspired to become a missionary, and he joined with a new group that would later become the Summer Institute of Linguistics and the Wycliffe Bible Translators. As a member of this group, he helped with the translation of the New Testament into Mixtec. Pike pursued his Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Michigan. In his involvement with the Summer Institutes of the Linguistic Society of America during this time, he studied under Bloomfield and Sapir, and also met several American Structuralists, including Harris, Trager, and Hocket. In 1942, Pike completed his Ph.D. and became the first president of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), where he continued until 1979. SIL grew a great deal during his presidency, expanding its work to over 50 countries and becoming well-known for its scholarly work as well. Pike served on the faculty of the University of Michigan from 1948 until 1978, and served as the president of the Linguistics Society of America in 1961. Pike considers his entire life's work as service to God, and not as anything of himself.

Pike's work includes many different areas of interest and a large variety of publications. He studied in depth at different times in his life phonetics, grammar, human behavior, and tagmemics. One of his significant contributions is the coining of the words "etic" and "emic." These words are taken from the endings of the words "phonetic" and "phonemic." "etic" refers to the outsider view of a language or culture, while "emic" refers to the views of those who are a part of that language group or culture. Although these terms are not common in linguistics, they have been used extensively in other disciplines. Pike has contributed a great deal to the literature of the linguistics field, having written some 150 articles and 20 books in various areas, just a few of which are listed below.

Some major works:

  • Phonetics (1943)
  • "Grammatical prerequisites for phonemic analysis"(1947)
  • "A problem in morphology-syntax division"(1949)
  • Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior (1950s)
  • Grammatical Analysis(1952) (co-authored by his wife, Evelyn)
  • Rhetoric: Discovery and Change (1970) (coauthored with Richard E. Young and Alton L. Becker)
  • Linguistic Concepts(1982)



Information gathered from:

  • Asher, R.E., Editor in Chief. 1994. The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. New York: Pergamon Press.
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc. (1999). Biographical Sketch of Dr. Kenneth Pike: Ken Pike--God's Scholar. Available: http://www.wycliffe.org/history/KPike.htm

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Plato was born in Athens to Ariston and Perictione, both of high families in Greece. At first, Plato was interested in politics, but not agreeing with the current political situation in Athens, he instead became a follower of Socrates. Plato was present when Socrates was killed by the government, and shortly thereafter fled Greece for a time. The Academy in Athens was founded by Plato in 387 BC. Here, philosophy, politics, mathematics, biology, astronomy, and other subjects were taught. Plato also went to Sicily a few times to instruct Donysius the Younger, but was unsuccessful there. He returned to Athens, and he taught at the Academy until his death around 348 or 347 BC. Plato's philosophy has had a monumental influence on modern thought. The following ideas of Plato have specific impact on the field of Linguistics.

Plato claimed that nothing on earth is real. He believed that everything we see here on earth is just an imperfect representation of a real thing that exists in the divine mind, or the world of the forms. Platonic thought is now the basis of western philosophy. That doesn't mean that everyone agrees with it, but everyone is either based with it or against it, so it affects all aspects of our philosophy.

Plato presented a Socratic dialog that presented the question of physis vs. nomos. Physis referred to the idea that items and concepts, etc. in a language have names that correspond to their very nature. Nomos referred to the idea that the names of concepts and ideas, etc. are arbitrary, and depend on an agreed upon convention. Plato fell on the physis side of the debate, and others throughout history have fallen on either side or in various points in between.

Information gathered from:

  • Melby, Alan. (class lecture--BYU)
  • "Plato," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000. http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
de Saussure, Ferdinand

Ferdinand de Saussure is known as the Father of Structuralism. He is best known today for Cours de linguistique generale, which was actually written by his collegues at the University of Geneva from notes his students had taken on his lectures.

De Saussure was interested in languages early in his life. By age 15, he had learned Greek, French, German, English, and Latin, and at that age he also wrote an essay on languages. Being from a family of natural scientists, De Saussure began his education at the University of Geneva studying the natural sciences. He was there a year, and then convinced his parents to allow him to go to Leipzig to study linguistics.

In Leipzig, de Saussure studied linguistics for the next 4 years, leaving for two semesters to study in Berlin. In December of 1878 at age 21, Saussure published his Memoir on the Primitive System of Vowels in Indo-European Languages. This work proposed the existance of a sound in Proto-Indo-European that later developed into different vowels in different languages. It answered many questions linguists had had at the time concerning ablaut in these languages, and it was received very well. In 1880, Saussure returned to Leipzig to defend his thesis on the use of the generative case in Sanskrit. He returned to France, where he taught various languages and linguistics for the next 11 years. In 1891, Saussure was offered a position at the University of Geneva, and he returned to Switzerland, where he taught Sanskrit and historical linguistics. He married there and had two sons. He wrote very little toward the end of his life.

After Saussure's death, two of his collegues, Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, put together the lecture notes of many of his students to consolidate Saussure's linguistic thought in one book, Cours de linguistique generale. This is the work Saussure is best known for (although he himself didn't even write it), and it brings up many topics that we still use today. Saussure distinguished between what he called "langue", or the framework of language that people have in their minds, and "parole", which refers to actual speech. He noted that the purpose of linguistics was to study and understand langue. Saussure noted the differences between signified and signifier, where signified refers to the actual object that is represented, and signifier to the word we use for it. He also made the distinction between synchrony and diachrony, synchrony being the study of a language at a single point in time, and diachrony being the study of a language as it changes over time. Finally, he distinguished syntagmatic studies from paradigmatic studies, where a syntagmatic structure is linear, and a paradigmatic structure includes various relations based on grammar and semantics.

Major work: Course in General Linguistics.

Information gathered from:

  • Asher, R.E., Editor in Chief. 1994. The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. New York: Pergamon Press.
  • Culler, Jonathan. 1986. Ferdinand de Saussure. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

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