André Martinet/7 – Economy

Pubblicato: 1 aprile 2013 in comunicazione
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Conversazione con André Martinet
André Martinet/1 Communication is our basic relevancy
André Martinet/2 Language articulates what we feel into a succession of items
André Martinet/3 How to describe a language
André Martinet/4 Choosing words
André Martinet/5 Amamlgamations
André Martinet/6 Semiotics

Nikolaj Sergeevič Trubeckoj
(
Mosca15 aprile 1890 – Vienna25 giugno 1938)

How did you start studying linguistics and which of your professors influenced you the most?
I started as a child. I discovered phonology by myself, before Prague, at the age of six. I remember things very well because actually my parents were teachers. They worked as school teachers from one place to another, therefore I can always locate my experience, at this point, between that age and that age. And thus I know that, between the age of five and seven, around seven let’s say, I solved a number of problems of French phonology, not knowing it and, of course, I didn’t mention it to anybody: people would have thought I was crazy, because in those days, that a kid, a seven year old, could ask such questions must have sounded ridiculous. Actually my mother would have understood, because she was pretty good at it, but I didn’t know that, so I didn’t mention it to anybody.
That’s the way I started. Therefore, when later on I read the Prague things I said: “That’s fine: they give me tools, they give me the principle of relevancy”, which is just the principle with which I myself operated, but I had no names for it. I was happy to have a name. I could say: now, this is the way I operated when I was a child. My problem all my life has been the fact that I had been thinking about things before people gave me the words for them. At the age of seven I could not invent a word for phonology, but I could raise problems.
My first problem was: do I pronounce the same thing when I say [gaɲe] and [panje]? My answer was: I don’t, “I” don’t, but maybe other people confuse the two sounds, and that’s true. This is a sounding problem and it’s being eliminated in French at the present and not the way I thought it would be, namely the way people did in Savoy, my native province, by confusing the [n] in favour of the [ɲ] sound([paɲe] just like [gaɲe]), but the reverse: they are saying [ganie] just like [panie], which is interesting, because the number of cases in which in French you have the succession /n/, /i/ is much more frequent than the situation when you have /g/, /n/, therefore it’s economy. Economy is extended in that way. This is just a demonstration of the way I approached the problem.
And, of course, later on, when I read the Prague things, I said: “well, beautiful, they give me the tools”. So I established contacts with them and that’s the way I worked. But I never was exactly in agreement with anybody specifically. I was very close to Trubeckoj. He was the closest to me, but at the same time Trubeckoj was what I’m not, a mystical man, you see… Very strange. I knew that because I talked with his son-in-law: he told me he was a mystical man. And he operated with the notion of harmony, vowel-harmony, presenting a nice system, that would be the proof of harmony. But to me harmony doesn’t mean anything. It’s economy.
You see, a system like that is, what? It is never regular, it is just economical, because it takes advantage of all the combinations of different possibilities. That’s the reason for which there would be an orientation in language to use it, because it is economical to re-use the system, but not beyond what is economical. In other words, you can observe that some combinations, some theoretically possible combinations, are no good, because they are too difficult to make or to maintain.

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