Posts contrassegnato dai tag ‘linguistica’

Ho trovato in rete la lista delle trecento parole da usare in italiano, anziché in inglese. L’elenco nasce dal sito nuovoeutile.it di Annamaria Testa, pubblicitaria, consulente e docente. Una prima stesura, scritta da lei, è diventata virale, catalizzando molte condivisioni e oltre quattrocento commenti, così l’autrice l’ha rivista alla luce dei contributi ricevuti e ha raccolto trecento voci.

Interessante è la “conclusione provvisoria” che si trova qui: Testa scrive, tra l’altro, che “nel passaggio dall’inglese all’italiano resta comunque la sensazione di aver perso qualcosa: si capisce tutto, e quel tutto non sembra mai abbastanza”. Ogni parola, dunque, “è un universo mentale” e la sfida della traduzione è complessa, perché bisogna “passare di parola in parola, da una lingua all’altra, portandosi dietro possibilmente il bagaglio di un po’ di senso”.

Questo ci dà della lingua una visione molto più modulata e, per me, affascinante. Quando penso all’invasione dell’inglese nell’italiano non sono spaventata e non sento l’impulso di proteggere né di salvare la mia lingua dallo straniero. La lingua, fin quando è parlata, e quindi anche ascoltata, si preserva da sé. Nessuno oggi ha il bisogno di sostituire la parola “film” con pellicola, o “mouse” con… con che cosa? Non esiste l’equivalente italiano di questa metafora inglese che identifica con un topolino il “dispositivo esterno per il controllo del cursore, costituito da una sorta di scatoletta variamente sagomata, libera di muoversi sul tavolo in ogni direzione, e dotata di sensori che ne percepiscono il movimento trasmettendone gli spostamenti al cursore visibile sul monitor” (Hoepli). Anzi, se si cerca la traduzione on line inglese-italiano, a parte il caso quasi isolato di cui sopra, si scopre che in prevalenza si spiega la parola con un esempio e a volte si usa solo una foto:

mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per non parlare poi dei prestiti inglesi presenti nell’italiano che nel tempo hanno assunto significati completamente diversi rispetto alla lingua d’origine. Molti sanno, ad esempio, che l’abito maschile che in Italia si chiama smoking in inglese è il “dinner jacket” e in inglese d’america il “tuxedo”. “Smoking” nella sua lingua d’origine mantiene il significato di “fumare” o “fumante” e arriva in Italia con un’altra valenza, probabilmente in seguito alla contrazione dell’espressione inglese “smoking jacket” e al colore, nero, dell’indumento che essa indicava, per inciso per nulla mondano, poiché si trattava di una veste da camera per fumatori. Nonostante i tentativi del purismo fascista di trasformarla in “giacchetta da sera”, e a dimostrazione del fatto che la lingua persevera sempre lungo la propria strada a prescindere da qualsiasi imperativo esterno, la giacca elegante italiana ha mantenuto negli anni il nome inglese di smoking, che oggi non è sicuramente percepito come un intruso dagli italofoni, alla stregua di stop, film, file, e-mail e di numerosi altri termini. Nell’uso degli acronimi, inoltre, c’è una ben più marcata e spesso inconsapevole perdita della memoria delle origini: quasi tutti sanno, ad esempio, cosa è il PIN e, poiché ne fanno un uso quotidiano, ne percepiscono il significato, ma ignorano forse che questa sigla indica l’espressione inglese Personal identity number.

Dunque il lungo elenco dei termini inglesi che potrebbero essere sostituiti dall’italiano non desta interesse in termini protezionistici, quanto, semmai, di opportunità ed efficacia comunicativa. Scorrendo le slide (o dovremmo dire “immagini di presentazione”?), da “abstract” a “workshop”, non si può fare a meno di notare che alcune parole sono necessariamente conosciute e usate in alcuni contesti globali: “waiting list” in un aeroporto internazionale è più efficace di lista d’attesa, “size” sull’etichetta di una maglietta prodotta per essere esportata in tutto il mondo evita che la stessa targhetta debba essere, per amore di traduzione, lunga come la maglia alla quale è attaccata.

Ma non si può, parimenti, fare a meno di sentire le stonature: vi sono termini che, non essendo entrati nell’uso comune, disturbano il flusso della comunicazione in quanto il loro significato non è immediatamente percepibile. Dopo aver premesso che al concetto di percezione va attribuita qui una valenza soggettiva (per me sono abbastanza marziani, ad esempio, termini come “body copy” e “cash flow”, che per altri, con esperienza differente dalla mia, potrebbero risultare chiarissimi), si nota che il gruppo di parole potenzialmente “aliene” può essere usato sia per esprimere il loro significato proprio, sia per trasmettere metasignificati, quali la competenza tecnica del soggetto che le usa o una determinata sua volontà di diversificarsi dalla pluralità dei parlanti.

Ognuna di queste parole, dunque, a modo suo, parla e comunica e quindi, come si dice, nessuno le può giudicare. Non si sa quali entreranno nel grande gruppo del linguaggio comune, ma la lista di Annamaria Testa è interessante perché, a ben vedere, è l’istantanea di una strada, lungo la quale corrono le parole, avvicinandosi o allontanandosi dal comune sentire della lingua.

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#AndreMartinet #Martinet

English: a miniature Danish-Norwegian-French d...

Conversazione con André Martinet

What role do you think linguistics has today and what do you think its role will be in the future?

There was a period in which it was necessary to describe a number of languages which had been so far been spoken, but never written and which were unknown. That was the Twentieth Century. But it became more striking about 1940. I have been directing descriptions of languages throughout these last decades. That was very important at a certain period, to give good descriptions of the languages, without being influenced by translations into French, Italia, english, etc., just considering the language itself. So, that was something very important. Now, the needs are not so pressing in that direction and what would be the interest of linguistics? Well, I would say sciences… it is always important to know more about things, in general, and after all language is an important feature of mankind, therefore the more we know about languages, the more, I think, we know about the world, about men. Therefore it should be very important for educated people to have some smattering of linguistics and of course they don’t have it. Of course there is also more than that.

People have to learn languages. Take the case of Europe: at present there is a pressure exerted by people. Take for example the French. They resent, of course, the weakening of the position of France in the international market. In the old days, for example, when I first visited Italy, when I came across people, they spoke French and everybody understood French, with no problem. Gradually it has been replaced by English. As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t make any difference, but the French generally resent. They have, all of a sudden, to reconsider the problem, particularly within European frame, the frame of new Europe. It would be a pity, let’s say, if ten languages out of twelve would disappear. Therefore it is necessary to preserve the present regulation, according to which each of the languages of every one of the twelve European countries is good, whether it is a small country or a large one: Danish or modern Greek are just as good as English, french or German. That means, of course, that people will have to learn languages. I’m the president of a Society of that sort and I’m supposed to act in favor of that, to stress the necessity of learning languages, of having in kindergartens a representative of some other language, any other language… say, for example, you could have a Dane coming to an Italian school and speaking Danish to the children, just in order to make them understand that the words are not the things. The advantage of the knowledge of more than one language is that you become conscious that this is not un lit or a bed, un let to, but this is an object, which can receive different names. It is very important. So, just one language to start with is good. Just any language would be fine. Of course you couldn’t have many Danes running around Europe, because there are fewer Danes than Italians, but you would have a number of Danes and it would be very good for a child to know Danish, because if you know it in a country like Italy or French, etc., you get jobs. Now, I don’t believe myself that learning a language that way is sufficient. My formula is: you forget a language in just the time which was necessary for you to learn it. We’d been invited to Romania with my wife and we were invited to live in a castle and we had the room of queen Mary. We were not supposed to do anything, just to live there. It was very boring, so we decided to attend classes to learn Romanian. So, we learnt it. We had just two weeks there. We had to go away because we had to go to America to the Congress, a linguistics congress (it was on the 6th of June). Finally, we could say things in Romanian. We’d had a good teacher and we finally could mange to say a few words, we were able to enter a shop and talk with people. But the, two weeks later, everything had been wiped out, nothing was left of that. In other words, if children just learn some elements of the language at school, little will remain of the language permanently. They will have to reconsider and re-learn, carry on the learning of the language and that should go together with the teaching, in all of the schools of Europe, some disciplines in a language other than the national one. in all Italian schools you’d have people teaching history, mathematics, etc. in Italian, but there could be a man who would teach one discipline in English, or French, or German, or, maybe, Danish etc.: just another language, to carry on with that contact with the foreign language. The result would be that, towards the age of eleven, people would more or less know a language, have impressions of a given language. And later on they would, from the age of eleven, learn the third language. Well, understandably the position of English being what it is, English would quite normally be included in the three languages, but not necessarily. For example, there was something once: people in France, somewhere in the South-West, quite close to the spanish border, were told that children at school would get instruction in another language. What should that language be? Now, the proportions were 40-41% for Spanish, and 39% for English. Just about the same, but not quite. A significant fact is that, even today, English would not be automatically chosen on that level. In French schools now English carries the day for about 85%.

It would be a very unpleasant situation if all the cultural variety of Europe disappeared with its variety of languages. Just imagine a Europe were everybody would speak English… and what sort of English! I’m all in favor of maintaining the linguistic variety of Europe. And, it is quite true, that for the world in general these days English is a must. But within Europe you can very well imagine a situation where English can be a choice among others.

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 Pregiudizi linguistici

André Martinet/4 Cosa c’è dietro le parole

André Martinet/5 La lingua non è simmetrica

André Martinet/6 A volte le parole non bastano

André Martinet/7 Armonia è economia

André Martinet/8 La Societé Internationale de Linguistique fonctionnelle

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

André Martinet/10 L’importanza del punto di vista

André Martinet/11 Naturaliter Sauxurianus

André Martinet/12 Word vs Language

André Martinet/13 Reconstruction is dynamic

credits foto Wikimedia Commons

tweetseatsLa Fondazione Arena di Verona, in occasione dei 100 anni del festival lirico, porta in Italia una novità, che negli Usa, a dire il vero, è già realtà da qualche tempo: i tweet seats. Sono posti riservati a chi vuole raccontare lo spettacolo in tempo reale via Twitter, sono offerti al prezzo speciale di 10 euro e collocati in una posizione speciale, per vedere bene e per non infastidire gli altri con la luce prodotta da smartphone e tablets. Il tutto, racchiuso in un hashtag: #arenadiverona100.

“L’iniziativa – si legge all’indirizzo ufficiale di riferimento tweetseats.arena.it – punta ad allargare il pubblico dell’Arena e a diffondere la cultura dell’Opera attraverso i social media”. I device dovranno comunque essere usati in modalità. silenziosa. Per candidarsi ad occupare il posto bisogna compilare il form presente sul sito inserendo tutti i dati e la condizione imprescindibile è, ovviamente, avere un account Twitter attivo: “un account pubblico, con almeno 1 mese di vita, almeno 1 tweet pubblicato nell’ultimo mese e più di 50 tweet pubblicati in totale”. I candidati sono di volta in volta contattati via e-mail (entro 24 ore dalla richiesta) in base alla disponibilità di posti in Arena.  L’obiettivo – spiega l’ente culturale – è fare del passaparola uno strumento di marketing, un mezzo per arrivare a chi non è ancora stato all’Arena di Verona: il pubblico piu’ giovane, digitale e iperconnesso.

La novità, dunque, sta nell’istituzionalizzazione del mezzo (Twitter per la musica), nel luogo, oltre che, forse, nel contenuto (musica lirica, e non più solo pop o rock, anche se non ho avuto tempo di controllare se questa è davvero la prima volta per la lirica). Ma Twitter e la musica, invero, collaborano già da un po’ e ogni artista adotta, di fatto, una modalità diversa di utilizzo. Infatti, come dice Jovanotti, Twitter è convesso: si parte da lì (dal mezzo), ma le possibilità di sviluppo sono infinite.

Lui (@lorenzojova), ad esempio, ne fa un uso molto narrativo e molto “artista-centrico”: penso al live per ringraziare il milione e mezzo di utenti che lo seguono sul social network , ma anche ai continui aggiornamenti prima dei concerti, soprattutto in fase di preparazione, in cui coinvolge i fan e le città ospiti, come con la sua recente richiesta ai followers di fotografare nei diversi luoghi, e poi twittare, i manifesti del tour 2013 negli stadi. Mi resta però un dubbio: al concerto di Ancona non sono riuscita a far partire neanche un tweet dagli spalti: sarà stata solo una questione di campo?

Perché penso anche al fatto che la convessità del mezzo è un’arma a doppio taglio e su Mashable (dietro segnalazione di daily wired) trovo infatti il caso di un utente di Twitter bandito da un concerto per aver criticato via Twitter uno degli artisti sul palco. La cosa è andata più o meno così: lui scrive una cosa sgradevole, poi si va a bere qualcosa. Si sente chiamare dal palco, si fa riconoscere e riceve, sempre dal palco, la notizia che sarà accompagnato fuori dalla security per aver scritto “shit on Twitter”. Così accade. Seguono, nei giorni successivi, scuse bilaterali e prese di posizione pro e contro, secondo le dinamiche social che ormai sono ben note a tutti gli utenti.

Leggo poi su daily.wired.it che già nel 2008 i R.E.M. aprirono, per quello che sarebbe stato il loro ultimo tour, un sito che aggregava e organizzava automaticamente tutti i materiali postati dai fan su YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, organizzati automaticamente per ogni singola data a partire dai tag: “La band fu tra le prime a intuire il potere del live tweeting musicale, con un account utilizzato per raccontare le scalette in diretta (esiste ancora: @remroaddog). Oggi è una pratica comune: gli artisti – e il loro staff – twittano dal palco, i festival pubblicizzano direttamente gli hashtag da usare per raccontare quello che succede. Si va da SongKick, popolare sito/app con calendari di concerti geolocalizzabili e personalizzabili in base ai propri gusti, a Setlist.fm, wiki di scalette di concerti, acquistato da Live Nation, il più grande promoter mondiale, che ha appena aperto i suoi Live Nation Labs, sezione di analisi dei big data e di sviluppo prodotti e servizi legati al mondo della musica live, che sta conducendo un’aggressiva campagna di acquisizioni di startup musicali, da Big Champagne a Rexly (@rexly n.d.r.)”.

Poi c’ è il caso delle twitter questions. Da una veloce navigazione su Google mi sembra che i più inclini a questa pratica siano gli One Direction. Ecco qua cosa succede ai concerti (che io, ovviamente, non frequento per motivi anagrafici). Ma c’è un’alchimia: non si tratta di puro Twitter. Surfando surfando scopro la domanda di una ragazza su forum.teamworld.it:

“Buonsalve.. 
Parlavo con una mia amica quando ci è sorta una domanda..
i twit che vengono letti durante i concerti, a cui i ragazzi rispondono, come fanno ad essere inviati? Il dubbio ci è sorto perchè oltre alla domanda e al nome del mittente c’è anche il posto occupato al concerto e volevamo sapere come si faceva.
Se riuscite a rispondere ve ne siamo molto grate.
Ali”.

E questa è la risposta: c’è un form da compilare su sonymusicemail.com (Sony Music), dove va indicato anche l’account Twitter se uno ce l’ha. Nello stesso form si chiede anche di registrarsi e il consenso per la ricezione di newsletter tematiche.

Mi viene da fare, a questo punto, una piccola notazione: il mezzo ormai è chiaro, il fine non sempre lo è.

Chiudo con il concerto di Bruce Springsteen (@Brucespringsteen), San Siro 2012: su rollingstonemagazine.it Paolo Madeddu ha raccolto le sensazioni social del live, con qualche commento ironico. Ci sono concerti più recenti di Springsteen, ma quello dell’anno scorso segna una data storica: per la prima volta “l’evento poteva essere socialcondiviso: la possibilità di passare da “Io c’ero” (1985) a “Io twittavo” (2012)”.

economieConversazione con André Martinet

What is your position in respect to Leonard Bloomfield?

Bloomfield has a number of things which are commendable and which Europeans should know, because his work is not very wide, it is not very broad minded, but it is pretty good, in the sense that he sticks to realities and there is no fooling around. A bit too narrow, but after all it is all right as a beginning. Of course you have to have good people who go beyond that, you have in America a number of people like that, like Hockett.

So, that was the contact with America, and the contact was, how could I say… It is very difficult to say. I might have some people… I actually had a number of students who were very much interested and who wrote things, they wrote dissertations, that sort of things… but it didn’t last too long: just eight years and I had to leave Columbia University.

Then you went back to France…

I went back to France and it took me a long time before I could get established because, here again, people didn’t like me, because at that time people didn’t like Americans. French in general were, how could I say? jealous. Before the Americans became the people who were imitated the world over, the French had had their period and they were being replaced by the Americans. And therefore they resented it. And I was, when I came back from New York, I was branded “the American”, which was not a pleasant nickname. My daughter, she went to school and she was branded “the American” and suffered from it. The result was that she left France and went to Sweden, just because she had never felt at home in France. Now she’s gone back to France. She lives in Provence and Provence is different. Provence is generally nicer than France in general. I’m just telling you her story, because it is very much like mine. Her reception in France was difficult.

But I finally got through, just because at a certain period I was very popular, my teaching was the only teaching in linguistics for ten years. I was the only one who came with some sort of message. And that’s the period which proceeded the appearance of Eléments de linguistique générale. That book sold a very large amount of copies. It was just amazing, the number of copies. I bought two houses in Provence! And the book was translated into Korean, Russian, Italian, Spanish, etc..

So, you don’t think the problem in Paris stems from differing terminology or from the new concepts you proposed…

Yes… Well, of course the problem had started in New York, because I gave the New York classes in both comparative linguistics and general linguistics. I had to give comparative linguistics and that’s why, when I came back from New York, I could write that book, Économie, which was based upon my teaching on the Indo-European classes in New York. Descriptive linguistics in New York, at Columbia University, could be taken over by a colleague of mine, a well known man, Greenberg, and there was no serious competition, but I was not really… at Columbia people didn’t think of me as the one who was the only man with the ability to direct the work in descriptive linguistics. I was there as a possible director, but I was not the only one. I was more interested and more interesting in comparative linguistics.

You might be interested in my book Des steppes aux ocèans, where I present the whole problem in a rather accessible way, because it resulted from two classes I gave at the École des Hautes Études which were asked for by my normal students, because they didn’t know anything about comparative linguistics.

So, I gave my first class in comparative linguistics and some years later I gave another class which improved upon the first class. And the whole thing was picked up by a friend of mine and I finally wrote a book from the second notes, improving upon many points, etc.. It is meant for a public who knows nothing about comparative linguistics and it goes very far, because I present my reconstruction of Indo-European.

My reconstruction is different from the others, because mine is dynamic. I’m not presenting forms which are “the” Indo-European forms. I say: “at  a certain point Indo-European had that form”. I operate with the evolution of the language, not with the projection of specific forms on a screen, which is ridiculous. There is not such a language in the world. The world changes: no reason to say that Indo-European was Indo-European, let’s say, five thousand years B.C. . Strangely enough I was practically the first to do so and people don’t like me for that, because I was not supposed to do that.

When I came back to Paris, they said “Ok, he comes out, he has a reputation”, because I was that guy managing a different world and that played a role, I had written reviews of many books and people were afraid of my reviews. I was not nasty, but of course a man who has a journal and racks a number of reviews in journals may influence… make a difference.

People expected me to be a descriptivist. And as such, I should not have bothered with reconstructing Indo-European linguistics. And for some reason I didn’t meddle with that, except that my students asked for it, they wanted it. Why should I have refused it? I wasn’t very much interested. I had written that book Economie des changements phonetiques and people said “we want more of that”.

Of course the editor responsible for the Bulletin de la Societé de Linguistique said: “No, we don’t want to write a review of that book”, which is very nasty. I had a call from the girl who was chief-editor and she explained to me that, considering the fact that I was a very well known linguist, what I wrote could not be recommended in the journal. Why not? Just like that. What could I say? Then I sent them an article based upon one of my theories, that is the existence in protoindoeuropean of penalised consonants. It explains a number of things and it explains, for example, the end of cum in latin, which is not known, because, in comparison, it is the same form as in germanic [ge], which again I managed to explain, because that had been suggested before.

It doesn’t work, because the change of [k] to [g] can be accepted only under the condition of Verner’s Law and not initally. But, as a matter of fact, in Umbrian, a language spoken around here*, they put the [ga] at the end of the word and in latin you have cases like mecum and tecum, where you have it after or before.

That is the reason for which there is hesitation, there. In Germanic you have to reckon with postposed forms, and you are going to have to explain the [g] insteaad of the [k] and a shift to the beginning when it became a permanent element of the conjugation of verbs. For example, the status you have in German with ge-: gefallen. It became morphology, as people call it, you see.

*San Marino, luogo in cui si è svolta l’intervista

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 Pregiudizi linguistici

André Martinet/4 Cosa c’è dietro le parole

André Martinet/5 La lingua non è simmetrica

André Martinet/6 A volte le parole non bastano

André Martinet/7 Armonia è economia

André Martinet/8 La Societé Internationale de Linguistique fonctionnelle

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

André Martinet/10 L’importanza del punto di vista

André Martinet/11 Naturaliter Sauxurianus

André Martinet/12 Word vs Language

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

Conversazione con André Martinet

Ferdinand De Saussure

Ferdinand De Saussure

What brought you in contact with Saussure?

My contacts with Saussure… they were relatively late. I told you about the fact that I invented phonology when I was a kid, but I had to wait until other people gave me the words for expressing what I knew. With Saussure it’s about the same. You see, I had a feeling about language, which more or less coincided with what Saussure had to say.

I was in no need to read Saussure in order to understand what people wrote in the wake of what Saussure had written. So, I don’t think I’ve read the whole of the Cours de linguistique générale before the age of… twenty-two or twenty-three.

Twenty-two is the time when I got my agrégation, that is when I finished my routine work at University and I could think by myself, because in French Universities, in order to get a job, you have to go trough a sort of discipline, in order to study a number of things which you are not very interested in, just because you have to do it. My choice had been English, so I had to pass l’agrégation d’anglais, which is a kind of safety for life. If you get l’agrégation the French State owes you a job, which is very nice. I thought I would get a job abroad, some place, anywhere, and I didn’t do anything. I just waited for people who were interested in found me a job, somewhere in Czechoslovakia or in Berlin or in Moscow, etc…

So, on the 29th September (and school was supposed to begin the 1st of October) I just noticed that I had no job and I didn’t want to carry on living with my mother paying for everything. I decided I had to take advantage of my agrégation. I went to the Ministery of Education and said: “I didn’t ask for a job in August, but now I want a job”. “Oh – they said – we are very sorry, we have very little to offer”… just the day before! “We have a chair of English in the Lycée de Pontivy“, which is a very, very, very small place in Brittany, which happens to have a licée, because Napoleon had decided to make it the military centre of Brittany. And it did last, because Napoleon didn’t last. Pontivy has got just a lycée and nothing else. I went to Pontivy, I got there in time and got the room and the next day I received a letter from the Ministry of Education starting: “Monsieur Martinet, appointed to professor, etc. etc., in the Lycée de Pontivy…”. I said “All right, that’s my nomination” and I put it in my pocket without reading further. And three days later, as I was walking in the street, all of a sudden, I puuled my paper out of my pocket and read trough and it was an invitation to leave Pontivy for another place, to go to Poitiers, which is a much larger place. So, I was just a bit late. I had to cancel all my things.

Well, anyway, that’s the agrègation, but of course for the agrégation of English there was no mention of Linguistics. It was pure pure literature, with twelve authors: all of them pure literary authors. I was very much interested, but that was not my job. I was a linguist. To this day I remember some passages, but I knew very well I was not meant for that. My basic interest was different, so, as soon as I got that safety which the agrégation means, I started reading in linguisitics and this I could do much better in Poitiers than I could have done in poor Pontivy. That was a good promotion and in the following year I got a job in Berlin. I got an appointment in the French University in Berlin, where I just had to work on my thesis.

Raffaele Simone writes that Saussure’s theory is a “metatheory” for all twentieth century linguists. Do you agree with him?

I wouldn’t say so, because he was practically unknown in America. Linguistics in America developed quite independently of Saussure’s influence. When I came to America no one had read Saussure, you see, so he didn’t play a role in my teaching in America. I hadn’t to go trough Saussure in the way I wouldl have done in Europe, so I wouldn’t say so. It’s quite true that on the European scene, with the exception of England, Saussure was the anticipator of the structuralist school, but my linguistics had developed independently of Saussure.

I just met Saussure. Just like I did with the Prague people: I just met them and retained suggestions from them, because, at the age of twenty-two, I couldn’t start inventing words, so I had to have someone to give some leads and those I found in Prague. I came into contact with the Prague people and with Saussure at about he same time.

And I would say at a certain point I knew the Prague pattern before I had made clear what the Saussure pattern was. It came gradually. Therefore Tullio De Mauro writes somewhere* that among present-day linguists I’m the one who is  the best Saussurian. And I think he’s right. I don’t go around quoting Saussure the way people do, but basically it is quite true: I am the man who had been thinking in Saussure’s terms to a large extent before I met Saussure. Therefore, when I met him, I didn’t have to change things.

In other words, I would say, I have always been independent and that is the reason for which some people don’t like me. They don’t, because I do not fit in the picture. They just think I am kind of superior: I’m not, not at all. I know very well that it would have been much better for me, for my career, if I had read the others more than I did and if I had been more accessible, maybe, to other’s people influence. But as a matter of fact, all this had gone so naturally with me, that I was not tempted to change my vision, except in order to receive suggestions, terminological suggestions.

In other words, I didn’t feel I really had to reconsider all the problems from the point of view of the people I read. I just thought that the people I was reading had had interesting hints, which just tallied with what I thought. I don’t mean to say that I’m cleverer than other people: I’m just like that. It has been easier for me todo so. But what is the disadvantage? Throughout my career people have thought that I was kind of haughty and didn’t want to mix with people ant to accept other people’s ideas.

*Martinet 1988, Sintassi generale, VIII: “…uno studioso che, dai suoi esordi, si andava rivelando  naturaliter Sauxurianus, come appunto Martinet, parimenti impegnato nelle analisi concrete descrittive o diacroniche, nella determinazione di leggi e caratteri generali e nella discussione critica delle teorie”.

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