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A Set of Postulates for the Science of Language Author(s): Leonard Bloomfield Reviewed work(s): Source: Language, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Sep., 1926), pp. 153-164 Published by: Linguistic Society of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/408741 . Accessed: 11/11/2011 23:27
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as for other sciences. A. Young. Palaestra 135. The whole dispute. every descriptive or historical fact becomes the subject of a new postulate. this even in Brugmann. the last-named was wrong in denying the value of descriptive data. Weiss's set of postulates for psychology. I. Bopp took for granted that the formative elements of IndoEuropean were once independent words. P. assumptions or axioms) and definitionst is fully adequate to mathematics. 37. 78. and to decide what things may exist independently and what things are interdependent. Psychological Review. Bonn 1897. TAPA 45. *Recall the difficulties and obscurities in the writings of Humboldt and Steinthal. the more complex their subject-matter. can discover no workable definition of the terms 'meaning' and 'phonetic change' under which this notion can be upheld. The trouble over the nature of the sentence is largely nonlinguistic. Compositum und Nebensatz. pp.A SET OF POSTULATES FOR THE SCIENCE OF LANGUAGE LEONARD BLOOMFIELD Orno STATE UNIVERSITY I. under it. 1 Cf.).4 Discussion of the fundamentals of our science 1 For a clear exposition of this method. Berlin 1921). contrast the simplicity and usefulness of Meillet's definition (adopted below). the postulational method can further the study of language.2 Certain errors can be avoided or corrected by examining and formulating our (at present tacit) assumptions and defining our (often undefined) terms. it cuts us off from psychological dispute. perhaps today as unstilled as fifty years ago. Introductory. 32. the less amenable are they to this method. about the regularity of phonetic change. see J. cf. W. because it limits our statements to a defined terminology.New York 1911. for one. is at bottom a question of terminology. because it forces us to state explicitly whatever we assume. The method of postulates (that is. Wundt. Sprachkiirperund Sprachfunktion. GrundriszI)I. since. From our point of view. and the psychological dispute of Paul. The notion is gaining ground that some forms have less meaning than others and are therefore more subject to phonetic change (Horn. Lectures on the Fundamental Concepts of Algebra and Geometry. 153 . 73 ff. Nevertheless. 3 Examples are many. The last descendant of his error is the assumption that IE compound words are historically derived from phrases (Jacobi. Delbrueck. 1. the postulational method saves discussion. to define our terms.3 Also. Strassburg 1901). 83. but right in saying that it is indifferent what system of psychology a linguist believes in (Grundfragender Sprachforschung. in particular. this is a needless and unwarranted assumption.
the stimuli (A) which cause an act of speech and the reactions (C) which result from it. Weiss... Outside of our science these similarities are Paris 1912... 636: 'The Psychology 6 Cf.2 linguistics. p. Definition. Linguistics considers only those vocal features which are alike in the two utterances. .3 New York 1921. Journal of Philosophy. this is characteristic of matters which form no real part of a subject: they should properly be disposed of by merely naming certain concepts as belonging to the domain of other sciences. are partly alike (the book). II. An act of speech is an utterance. The existence and interaction of social groups held together by language is granted by psychology and anthropology. are very closely linked. and only those stimulus-reaction features which are alike in the two utterances. c.. 1. p. A-B-C are closely correlated. 1. because every person acts indifferently as speaker or as hearer. in particular.. or it may be the adequatestimulusfor eitheranotherspeechreactionor some bodily reaction. Form and Meaning. and one half of metaphysics. A needy stranger at the door says I'm hungry. and ScientificMethods15. Within certain communities successive utterances are alike or partly alike. the physiologic and acoustic description of acts of speech belongs to other sciences than ours. I d Introduction I'dtude des comparative languesindo-europtennes. We are free.. gives us this series: to certain stimuli(A) a person reacts by speaking. of Cours linguistique de Paris 1922. Within this correlation.5 Psychology. Similarly. social type of organization.6 By a social habit which every person acquires in infancy from his elders. his speech (B) in turn stimulates his hearers to certain reactions (C). Assumption 1. Thus. therefore. 86: 'The languageresponsesestablish the . The book is interesting and Put the book away. Weiss. 2. to speak of vocalfeatures or sounds (B) and of stimulus-reactionfeatures (A-C) of speech. 339.' . without further discussion. significantthing about the speechreactionis that it may be eitherthe adequatereaction to a situation. A child who has eaten and merely wants to put off going to bed says I'm hungry.154 LEONARD BLOOMFIELD seems to consist one half of obvious truisms.bothauthorstakesteps towarda delimitation gintrale. and to de Saussure's am indebted also to Sapir'sbook on Language. 6 Cf.
~tnd a meaning is a recurrent stimulus-reaction feature which corresponds to a form. A form which is not free is bound. But if Xx consists of X2X3A. 7. Any such community is a speech-community. then X1 is not a minimum X. Def. That which is alike will be called same.) will say so-and-so and other Frenchmen (or Zulus. Word. This fiction is only in part suspended in historical linguistics. Def. etc. -ing (as in writing). A form which may be an utterance is free. or of X2A. the prediction is easy. hence the words 'can be made'. or is unanalyzable. if Xx consists of X2X3X4. The vocal features common to same or partly same utterances are forms. 4. etc. Phrase. Def. or for the investigator's own language. then Xx is a minimum X. That which is not same is different. Morpheme. 9. 3. III. within it they are absolute. We say that under certain stimuli a Frenchman (or Zulu. Thus a form is a recurrent vocal feature which has meaning. 6. Assumption 2. A minimum X is an X which does not consist entirely of lesser X's. We are obliged to predict. Every utterance is made up wholly of forms. book.A SET OF POSTULATES 155 only relative.) will react appropriately to his speech. its meaning a sememe. 5. Def. elsewhere it constitutes the greatest difficulty of descriptive linguistics. 8. Thus a morpheme is a recurrent (meaningful) form which cannot in turn be analyzed into smaller recurrent (meaningful) forms.the man are free forms. the last-named differing in meaning from the free form err. the corresponding stimulus-reaction features are meanings. . Hence any unanalyzable word or formative is a morpheme. Where good informants are available. This enables us to use these words without reference to non-linguistic shades of sound and meaning. Def. -er (as in writer) are bound forms. Def. A minimum form is a morpheme. Def. Thus. Thus. or of A1A2. 10. The totality of utterances that can be made in a speechcommunity is the language of that speech-community.
-abit. Def. the word writer can be analyzed into write and -er. For example.156 LEONARD BLOOMFIELD 11. Latin verb-endings -abat. Def. . but not. IV. which last cannot be uttered alone (i. our assumptions and definitions would demand that we take the-man-I-saw-yesterday'sdaughteras two words. e. the word blackbirdcan be analyzed into the words black and bird and the word-stress --.g. Such a bound form is a phrase-formative. The following is an example of such a special assumption. it differs in form and meaning from the phrase black bird). and these will sometimes modify the general assumptions. as Latin -t of third person.. A minimum free form is a word. Strictly speaking. The forms of a language are finite in number. for this is meaningless. Thus the word quick cannot be analyzed..or The man beatthe dog. the word quickly can be analyzed into quick and -ly. This assumption disturbs the definition of phrase above given. Def. 14. A non-minimum free form is a phrase. and not blackbird.e. hence not a form. etc. Assumption S1. A formative may be complex. Example of a Special Assumption. -abunt. but the latter part cannot be uttered alone. bookon (as in Lay the book on the table). a different form). Def. A similar assumption might be convenient for the Philippine 'ligatures'. but the latter cannot be uttered alone (the word err being. 12. The phenomena of specific languages will no doubt necessitate further assumptions of form. the possessive [z] in the man I saw yesterday's daughter.g. the book. 13. as. E. -abant..which is a minimum free form. Assumption 3. A bound form which is part of a word is a formative. A phrase may contain a bound form which is not part of a word. or minimum (and hence a morpheme). Convenience of analysis makes an assumption like the present one preferable for English. by virtue of different meaning. A word is thus a form which may be uttered alone (with meaning) but cannot be analyzed into parts that may (all of them) be uttered alone (with meaning).
Linguists who believe that certain forms resist phonetic change. As. Bulletin 40. confronted with the parallelism of form and meaning. choose form as the basis of classification. for instance. The number of different phonemes in a language is a small sub-multiple of the number of forms. 20. t]. the Chinese tones. Different morphemes may be alike or partly alike as to vocal features. cannot be further analyzed by linguistic methods. Phonemes. -er (agent) : -er (comparative). VI. As. so far as I can see. Every form is made up wholly of phonemes. English word-initial [st-] but never [ts-]. 15. . Def. The sememes. Bureau of American Ethnology.). This is no doubt why linguists. 21. The orders which occur are the sound-patterns of the language. stay : west [st]. vol. and outside of our science are theoretical necessities (Boas. Def. Assumption 4. 18. Def. The morphemes of a language can thus be analyzed into a small number of meaningless phonemes. Different forms which are alike as to phonemes are homonymous. 24 ff. Parts of Speech. we could not work without them. on the other hand. Different non-minimum forms may be alike or partly alike as to the order of the constituent forms and as to stimulusreaction features corresponding to this order. The assumption implies that the meanings are different. implicitly reject these assumptions. Such a thing as a 'small difference of sound' does not exist in a language. Assumption 8.A SET OF POSTULATES 157 V. though. These two assumptions are empiric facts for every language that has been observed. A minimum same of vocal feature is a phoneme or distinctive sound. the English normal word-stress. 1. Handbook of American Indian Languages. pp. Categories. Assumption 6. which stand in one-to-one correspondence with the morphemes. 16. English [b. Construction. 22. s. Assumption 5. The number of orders of phonemes in the morphemes and words of a language is a sub-multiple of the number of possible orders. Assumption 7. 17. 19. Thus book : table [b].
that a given form will appear only in certain positions of certain constructions. The man is beating the dog show the construction of free form plus free form plus free form meaning 'actor acting on goal'. The construction of free forms (and phrase formatives) in a phrase is a syntactic construction. 27. in the English construction of formative plus formative meaning 'object in number' the first position can be filled only by certain formatives (noun-stems). Each position in a construction can be filled only by certain forms. 25. Thus. Def. Def. Thus. A maximum construction in any utterance is a sentence. is not part of any larger construction. and that of free form plus free form plus free form meaning 'actor acting on goal' has three positions. Def. an English noun-stem will appear only in the first position of the construction 'object in number'.158 LEONARD BLOOMFIELD The order may be successive. and even such utterances as Latin pluit. Def. Assumption 9. Thus. Each of the ordered units in a construction is a position. simultaneous (stress and pitch with other phonemes). 29. 26. English Fire! or Ouch! are sentences. a sentence is a construction which. Assumption 10. This expands the use of the term meaning. the corresponding stimulus-reaction features are constructional meanings. The construction of formatives in a word is a morphologic construction. 28. Thus. in the second position of the construction formative plus formative meaning 'object . Thus. 24. Every utterance therefore consists of one or more sentences. And in the English construction of free form plus free form plus free form meaning 'actor acting on goal' the first and third positions can be filled only by certain free forms (object expressions) and the second only by certain other free forms (finite verb expressions). and the second only by certain other formatives (affixes of number. in the given utterance. such as the plural-sign -s). namely. and so on. This assumption implies the converse. Def. A maximum X is an X which is not part of a larger X. 30. substitutive (French au [o] for a le). The number of constructions in a language is a small sub-multiple of the number of forms. Def. Richard saw John. Thus the English construction of formative plus formative meaning 'object in number' has two positions. book-s. ox-en have the construction of formative plus formative and the meaning 'object in number'. Such recurrent sames of order are constructions. 23.
pronouns. all the free forms (largely the same as those just mentioned) which can appear in this position. 'goal of preposition'. The positions in which a form occurs are its functions. The functional meanings in which the forms of a form-class appear constitute the class-meaning. 35. more concretely. 33. object expressions. . noun-phrases. The functional meanings and class-meanings of a language are the categories of the language. have in common. namely 'actor'. Def. the meaning 'goal'. when they so appear. Thus. etc. one for each position. have in common. the above examples enable us to determine the following categories of the English language: from functional meanings: object. in the English construction of 'object in number' the first position has the functional meaning 'object'. 'predicate noun'. and so on. the man will appear in the first position of the construction 'actor acting on goal'. such as John. all the formatives (noun-stems) which can occur in this position. which may be summed up as 'numbered object' or in the name 'object expression'. or. these parts are functional meanings. the constructional meaning of a construction may be divided into parts. That is. And in this same construction. the third position has the meaning 'goal'. All forms having the same functions constitute a formclass. Def. Def. And in the English construction of 'actor acting on goal' the first position has the functional meaning 'actor'. 32. finite verb expressions. number-affixes. 'goal'. etc. is a functional meaning. more concretely. the functional meaning 'object'. more concretely. The meaning of a position is a functional meaning. if we said: the meaning common to all forms that can fill a given position. Def. the functional meaning 'actor'. or. but perhaps less useful. when they so appear. 34. an object expression.) which can occur in this position. have in common. (?32) together constitute the class-meaning of these forms. the meanings found in all the functions of the form-class of English object expressions. Examples of English form-classes are: noun-stems. 'goal'. or. Def. the word John and the phrase the man have the functions of 'actor'. when they so appear. Similarly. or in the third. all the free forms (object-expressions. Thus.A SET OF POSTULATES 159 having such an object' (long-nose). or in certain positions of a certain few other constructions. Thus. It would be more concrete. when they are in that position. Thus. such as nouns. 31. and in certain positions of a certain few other constructions.
for Primitive Indo-European (Meillet. the plural affixes book-s [s]. If a form-class contains relatively few forms. as in this case. numbered object (object expression). Def. the English category of number contains only two meanings. tad bharati. the alternation of [-s. 45. 38. singular-indefinite (egg) and plural (eggs). 39. Thus. number. it is convenient to do so when. 1. but only the (four) mor- . 44. As. verbs: He skates. 40. 41.Paris 1912. 43. Def. 37. A form-class of words is a word-class. 61). Absence of sound may be a phonetic or formal alternant. Such an alternant is a zero element. 42. in English. Assumption 12. goal. as opposed to book-s. the meanings of these forms may be called sub-categories. it is an automatic alternation. action. Def. boy-s [z]. As in Sanskrit sandhi: tat pacati. Hence one may speak of the sub-categories of singular and plural. and probably economical for English (singular bookwith affix zero. Such alternation is formal alternation. Def. according to number of actor. This differs from phonetic alternation since not every [s] in English is subject to this alternation. Def. The postulation of zero elements is necessary for Sanskrit (Paiini 1. Alternation. f-oo-t : f-ee-t). Introduction 4 l'tude comparative des langues indo-europeennes3. Or. -z. being determined by the final phoneme of the noun-stem. p. They skate. cf. from class-meanings: object. Assumption 11.). Def. Def. In a construction a phoneme may alternate with another phoneme according to accompanying phonemes. 127 f. -ez] in the regular English plural suffix of nouns is automatic. 36. In a construction a form may alternate with another form according to accompanying forms. VII. the sub-categories play a part in the alternation of other forms (see VII). Thus. J-ee-t. The maximum word-classes of a language are the parts of speech of that language.160 LEONARD BLOOMFIELD number. ox-en. Assumption 13. actor. predicative action (finite verb expression). If a formal alternation is determined by the phonemes of the accompanying forms. Such alternation is phonetic alternation.
As. concord. word-order). a definition that will include such forms can be made only within English (or Indo-European) grammar. (2) constructions. 46. 49. Def. The classification of phonemes implied in the sound-patterns. If the accompanying forms which determine one grammatical variant predominate as to number. unvoiced. 50. the whole form is suppletive. since the alternation takes place only in wordfinal (contrast. since the ending -er is regular. this variant is said to be regular. If in a construction all the component forms are irregular.A SET OF POSTULATES 161 phemes of this form. The assumptions and definitions so far made will probably make it easy to define the grammatical phenomena of any language. The phonetic alternations and the automatic formal alternations of a language allow of a classification of the phonemes. Versucheiner Theorie Phonetischer Alternationen. . (2) non-sibilant (a. If formal alternation is otherwise determined. Baudouin de Courtenay. the verb-forms in he skates: they skate. Strassburg 1895. voiced). Def. phonetics which goes farther is either a personal skill or a science for the laboratory. 48. b. Thus the term glosseme includes (1) forms. the regular English plural suffix implies a classification of those English phonemes (the great majority) which may occur at the end of a noun-stem into the classes (1) sibilant. and cf. after 'stem' and 'affix' have been defined for this language. 47. though I cannot say whether any such further definitions would apply to all languages. Def. then the past went is suppletive. e. Def. Under this definition betteras comparative of good would not be suppletive. to which the soundpatterns (?20) may contribute. English plural suffix -en in ox-en alternating with the regular suffix above described. Similarly. 1. and automatic formal alternations of a language is the phonetic pattern. the others are irregular. it is grammatical alternation. government. reduplication. If go be taken as the stem of the verb. (3) zero elements.g. 37. Thus. both morphologic (affixation. Whatever has meaning is a glosseme. phonetic alternations. For the sound-patterns and phonetic pattern see Sapir. ratnam). Sanskrit tat pacati: tan nayati. Ordinary phonetics can go no farther than this. The meaning of a glosseme is a noeme. Def. composition) and syntactic (cross-reference. Thus -en is an irregular plural suffix. Language.
-unless. and indeed no two utterances. If linguistic change results in groups of persons between which communication is impossible. by naming phonemes. 55. implies that meaning is not involved.162 LEONARD BLOOMFIELD Other notions. Phonemes or classes of phonemes may gradually change. Def. 57. 56. If linguistic change results in groups of persons between which communication is disturbed. Every language changes at a rate which leaves contemporary persons free to communicate without disturbance. 53. these groups speak dialects of the language. Such change is sound-change. This assumption. For 'classes of phonemes' see ??45. Insofar as they are correctly formulated. 52. The ways in which it changes are described in Assumptions H3 and following. the change must affect the phonemes at every . The following assumptions and definitions for historical linguistics are added for the sake of completeness. 46. we prefer to invent new terms for divergent phenomena. These two assumptions and the assumptions and definitions based on them are necessarily loose. have the same dialect: our assumptions must leave us free to examine the historical process with any desired degree of detail. will apply only to some languages. Historical Linguistics. Owing to the assumptions that limit the number of phonemes (Assumptions 5 and 6). Assumption H1. Def. predicate. verb. Assumption H3. Assumption H2. not because the process is too slow for any methods of direct observation that have been used-assumptions could ignore this-but because in historical linguistics it is our purpose to envisage the phenomena as relative. noun. they will merely restate the working method of the great majority of linguists. 51. Ultimately no two speakers. such as subject. Def. A relatively uniform auxiliary dialect used by such groups is a standard language. VIII. these groups speak relatedlanguages. indeed. Among persons. and may have to be defined differently for different ones. linguistic change is uniform in ratio with the amount of communication between them. Def. 54.
It may of course be contamination.7 61. Assumption H4. and now one alternant replaces another. 63. or proportional. Def. Late Latin reddere>rendere. it is customary to distinguish between 'material' formal analogy (affecting stems) and 'grammatical' formal analogy (affecting affixes). E. pre-Germanic *hweaworez 'four'. This change is conditioned sound-change. p-endere. Analogic change of words is semantic change. The diagram showing the proportional character is familiar. Def. or home 'Heim'>'Haus'. Def. le-ve> gr-eve. 66. Def.New York 1894.of pr-endere. Assumption H6. ?41). In a language in which stems and affixes are definable. Increase in size (of a morpheme). Linguistic change may substitute sames for differents. 59. Def. Def. English bjc>book-s. Probably proportional: He left the bones and took the flesh: He left the bones and took the meat:: in 'Assumptions H5 and H7 try to embodythe resultsof Jespersen's Progress Language. It may of course be contaminative. Analogic change which creates or enlarges a glosseme is contamination. late Latin gra-ve. Analogic change which extends the use of a glosseme is adaptation. or proportional analogy. Sound-change preponderantly favors shorter forms. 65. adaptation. Analogic change of formatives is formal analogy.g. 62. For example. *f-imfe. English meat 'pabulum'>'caro'. Def. 60. This change is analogic change. 67.A SET OF POSTULATES 163 occurrence and do away with the older form of any phoneme that is changed. Sound-change may affect phonemes or classes of phonemes in the environment of certain other phonemes or classes of phonemes. creation (of a morpheme). Assumption H5. 58. extending to a new word the morpheme -end. 64. the plural affixes vary according to the accompanying noun-stem (grammatical alternation. .. att-endere (v-endere?). Adaptation which replaces one alternant by another is proportionalanalogy. *fimfe'five'> *f-e~wdrez. adaptive. I-eve (Italian).
Assumption H9. 73. Such change is sudden sound-change. Paris 1921. Analogic change predominantly disfavors irregular glossemes and those which diverge from their fellows. and other deviations of glossemes. 77. it tends to disfavor them in inverse ratio to their frequency of occurrence. 71. Whoever speaks a foreign language or dialect may in it substitute resemblant features of his native speech. They have a lovely house: They have a lovely home (intensive):: A fine new house for sale: A fine new home for sale (intensive). 8 . Assumption H10. Such adoption is linguistic borrowing. Assumption H11. The phonemes of analogic forms and loanwords may be changed so as to fit the sound patterns of the language. This is necessarily vague. Pathologie et therapeutique verbales. Gilli6ron. 69. Borrowed words are loan-words. This is linguistic substitution. (intensiveof house). ?68. vol. Whoever hears a foreign language or dialect may adopt features of it into his own speech. Compare the comment on Assumption H7. 75.8 68. 11. about inadequacy of glossemes and its effects. wordtabu. Cf. The word'intensive'is meantmerelyto describethe meaningof homein its new use 2. Def. Def. 76. Linguistic substitution of phonemes is sound-substitution. Glossemes may go out of use. 72. because we know little about replacement and obsolescence through such factors as unusual homonymy. 74. 70. Def. Assumption H7. German kliippel> knUappel. Def. Def. also Kroesch.LANGUAGE 35-45 (1926). Western European peregrinus> pilgrim.164 LEONARD BLOOMFIELD She cooked the beans with the flesh: She cooked the beans with the meat. Cf. Collection linguistique. Assumption H8.and is not meantas a technicalterm. that is.
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