André Martinet/12 – Word vs Language

Pubblicato: 26 aprile 2013 in comunicazione, personaggi
Tag:, , , , , , , , , , ,

English: Columbia University sign in subway st...

Conversazione con André Martinet

Do you think your move to the United States helped you in some way to develop your theory and your personality as a linguist?

Not much, you see, because I went there for something very different. I was more or less connected with the International Auxiliary Languages Association. For some reason I had been interested in that and I was with Vendryes in Paris, who had just become a mamber of a committee for agreement, and appointed by a rich American lady belonging to the Vanderbilt family. She was a very rich woman and she became interested in Esperanto. She talked with me about Esperanto and said: “That’s beautiful, why don’t people accept Esperanto?”.

She went around, she wrote to people asking why they didn’t accept Esperanto. For example, she wrote to Otto Jespersen in Denmark. he had made a language like that and he explained to her that Esperanto had serious drawbacks, which is true, of course. The only advantage of Esperanto is that people know it, know that there is something called in that way, whereas they don’t know the other languages. These people tried to solve the problem and I was involved.

So I went to The Hague and to Brussels etc.. I became interested in it just before the war. Then the war came and after the war those people who had retreated to the United States during it had to come to some sort of conclusion on what was to be done and they invited me to direct the work in New York. So, I went there in teh Summer of ’46 and started to work with them and at the end of the Summer they said: “Could you come back?” and I answered: “Well. I’ll see what I can do with Paris, whether I can leave Paris”.

Finally I got to leave and I went back to America, I got back in february and we settled there with my present wife. She wasn’t my wife yet, but as soon as I got the divorce from my first wife, we married in New York. We were in New York when I got two offers, one coming from London to replace Daniel Jones (he liked me very much and all his younger students, who might have been his successors, insisted on my being candidate). So, I had that offer from London and then at the same time I had another offer from Columbia University, which had been incited by Roman Jakobson, because he had had problems with going to America from Europe during the war: he met a strong resistance on the part of the American linguists. They didn’t want any European to go and… All of them were Bloomfieldians and they didn’t want the Europeans to go there with Saussurians ideas. So, well, they said no. And of course Jakobson was not too happy to have such a nasty recption on their part. So he decided to fill American Universities with Europeans.

That was one of the choice possibilities and he made me a very nice offer: full professor with good salary. You know in America you have three possibilities: assistant professor, associate professor, full professor.

i didn’t know what to do. I would have had a job in France, an offer from London, the other from New York. So, my wife was there, my daughter from my first marriage was there and I said: “Which one do you want? Paris, London or New York?”. They answered “New York!”. Just because the food was terrible. In Paris it was not too good and in London it was terrible. You couldn’t get food in London, whereas in New York you had no problems, or few problems. Theoretically you needed cards for sugar, but you could steal all the sugar you wanted from the pubs!

Well, anyway, that was the situation when I went to New York City and I went there as the result of a kind of pressure exerted by Jakobson in order to grab all the chairs in America in favour of the Europeans. So I was, from the start, branded as a nasty European, pinching desirable chairs in America. That was a disadvantage because to some extent we had to launch a new journal, “Word”, of which I really was the editor from the start, from the second number. Therefore there was a conflict between the “Word” people, who were in general “the Europeans” and the “Language” people, who were “the real Americans”.

Leggi gli altri post dell’intervista:

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 Amalgamations

André Martinet/6 Semiotics

André Martinet/7 Economy

André Martinet/8 La Societé Internationale de Linguistique fonctionnelle

André Martinet/9 We don’t care about deep structures

André Martinet/10 Focus on Communication

André Martinet/11 Naturaliter Sauxurianus

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