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Leonard Bloomfield Biography

(1887–1949), An Introduction to Linguistics, Language, Outline Guide for the Study of Foreign Languages

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bible in English to [Thomas] Edward Bond Biography

American linguist, born in Chicago, educated at Harvard, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Chicago, where he became Professor of Germanic Philology in 1927. From 1940 until his death he was Professor of Linguistics at Yale. An Introduction to Linguistics (1914) based its theory of language on the mentalist psychology of Wilhelm Wundt (18321920), presenting an orthodox survey of speech and syntax viewed as functions of subjective psychological processes. While at Ohio State University, where he held a professorship from 1921 to 1927, Bloomfield was influenced by the behaviourist psychology of Albert Paul Weiss (18791931), which provided a model for the empirical approach of Language (1933). The work effectively established linguistics as an autonomous science: although indebted to Weiss's methods, Bloomfield's emphasis on Language's freedom from any programmatic dependence on psychological theory had axiomatic significance for his later work and that of his followers. His attention to the internal structures of individual languages as the basis for his analytical procedures was central to developments in structural linguistics; in Outline Guide for the Study of Foreign Languages (1942) and other works he successfully extended his principles to the field of applied linguistics. In the course of the 1950s his work was supplanted by that of Noam Chomsky, who retained Bloomfield's analytical systems while rejecting his behaviourist assumptions. Charles Hockett's edition of A Leonard Bloomfield Anthology (1970) indicates the scope of Bloomfield's interests in Indo-European, Malayo-Polynesian, and Native American languages.

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