A Student’s Guide to the History of Linguistics
Based on Example Sentences
The following sentences exemplify important concepts in linguistics, and relate them to the linguists whose names are most associated with their development. They are provided as a service to MA students reviewing for comprehensive exams.
If you do not understand how each sentence exemplifies its concept, or why these particular names are included, you need to re-read the relevant articles.
This list will be expanded in future years. Readers are invited to submit additional examples.
- Accessibility Hierarchy
- Keenan and Comrie are the people by whom the accessibility hierarchy was described.
- Bloomfieldian Linguistics
- Bloomfield behaved as if he didn’t have a mind.
- Cardinal vowels
- /danjel dʒonz sistɛmataizd ði praimɛri kɑrdnl vauɛlz/
- Halliday and Hasan discussed cohesion and Beaugrande and Dressler did it too.
- Color Terminology
- Kay turned green with envy and then red with anger when Berlin was listed as first author.
- Computational Linguistics
- Eliza asked: “Why do you say that computational linguistics is a field related to artificial intelligence?”
- A pure ergative system would distinguish Dixon from all non-agents.
- Generative Semantics
- Ross, Postal and McCawley attempted (cause (become (dead))) the autonomy of syntax.
- Colorless green Chomskys sleep furiously.
- Grimm’s Law
- Krimm tescripet sount changes as tevelofet in Froθo-Germanix.
- Historical Linguistics
- Sir William Jones didn’t care if his children called him pitár, pater, or patḗr.
- Langue and Parole
- Ferdinand de Saussure never managed to utter any Langue; all he could produce was Parole.
- The default understanding of markedness comes from Jakobson and Trubetzkoy; if you use someone else’s definition you have to explain it.
- Optimality Theory
- Prince and Smolensky’s first tableau showed that autosegmental phonology had fatal violations.
- Sound Change
- The Neogrammarians rarely took exception to each other’s proposed sound changes.
- Speech Errors
- Victoria Fromkin’s spudy of steech errors was well-received.
- Stroop Effect
- John Ridley Stroop wrote a small paper that had a big effect.
- Transitivity, Low and High
- Hopper kept on insulting Thompson, so Thompson killed Hopper.
- With much greater than chance frequency, Greenberg’s name appears on early papers discussing cross-linguistically-common word orders.