One of the more vexed questions in modern linguistic historiography concerns the extent of Saussure’s influence on Bloomfield and through him on American structuralism as a whole. Rather than add to the discussion of that issue, I intend in this paper to point out the importance of another, related, but hitherto ignored question, to wit, what was the extent of Bloomfield’s influence on Saussure?
Now, before you start leaping all over me, calling me an idiot and calling my question absurd, let me state that I am well-
The key to understanding this possibility is the realization, now widespread, that when we say “Saussure” we do not mean Ferdinand de Saussure, a francophonic Swiss linguist who lived from 1857 to 1913 and published only one book in his lifetime. Rather, “Saussure” means the ideas embodied in the 1916 work Cours de linguistique generale, published in 1916 under Ferdinand de Saussure’s name but really the product of a group of editors, redactors, amanuenses, and independent authors. The ideas of the Ferdinand de Saussure who died in 1913 are of course an important element in this work, but they are far from the only one. Above all, we must note that the principal authors of the Cours were a group of professional linguists who, if they were at all dedicated scholars, must have been aware of Bloomfield’s first attempt at a comprehensive textbook, especially insofar as it dealt with synchronic linguistics. Surely a group of men composing a general linguistics textbook would have examined a recently published example of the same thing.
I do not intend here to test the validity of this hypothesis, although I suggest that it would make an excellent dissertation topic. To the skeptical, however, I will point out just a few interesting facts regarding Bloomfield 1914 and Saussure 1916: first, the shared emphasis on a psychological approach (abandoned, of course, in Bloomfield 1933); second, the inclusion of phonology in an appendix of Saussure’s work
The implications of the issues raised here could be enormous. It could even be discovered that what we have hitherto viewed as Saussure’s influence on Bloomfield is really Bloomfield’s second-
|Tim Pulju||Rice University|