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Western Linguistics: An Historical Introduction

ISBN: 978-0-631-20891-4
588 pages
April 1998, Wiley-Blackwell
Western Linguistics: An Historical Introduction (0631208917) cover image


This book provides a vital student resource - a single-volume critical survey of the complete history of Western theoretical linguistics (grammar and semantics, including logic) from Plato till today.

The volume concentrates on those issues that are of central concern to present-day theoretical linguistics, but also draws attention to episodes and issues that have unjustifiably slid into oblivion, such as the 18th century French grammarians or the great subject-predicate debate between 1850 and 1930. An effort has also been made to interpret events and developments in linguistic theory in terms of the more general cultural and economic movements of the periods concerned. It contains many expository and exegetic quotations, together with critiques of theoretical positions and, sometimes, of academic behavior.

The book can serve as a basic text for a course on the history of linguistics, and as a collateral text in various courses on the theory of grammar and semantics.

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Table of Contents



Part 1.

1. Linguistics from Antiquity till the Seventeenth-Century.

2. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Centuries.

3. The Twentieth-Century: Europe.

4. The Twentieth-Century: America.

Part 2.

5. Predicate Calculus: from Aristotle to Generalized Quantifiers.

6. The Study of Meaning.

7. Meaning and Grammar.



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Author Information

Peter A. M. Seuren was Lecturer in Linguistics at both Cambridge and Oxford Universities before becoming Professor of Philosophy of Language and then of Theoretical Linguistics at Nijmegen University. His publications include Semantic Syntax (1996), Discourse Semantics (1985), and Operators and Nucleus (1969).
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The Wiley Advantage

* Most up-to-date, wide-ranging, critical survey of the history of theoretical linguistics.

* Presents overview of key theories and personalities.

* Laced with abundant quotations from source texts.

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"At last, a general history of linguistic thought that makes the subject interesting, relevant, and even exciting. Seuren sails between Scylia and Charybdis: he does not let a commitment to pre-20th century work lead him into dullness and irrelevance, yet he does not let an enthusiasm for post-1957 work drive him into a chronicling of ephemeral recent trends. His book is philosophically informed yet solidly about linguistics; scholarly yet accessible; good-humoured without being patronizing; provocative and yet reliable. It is a remarkable contribution to the field. Every graduate student in linguistics should get to know it, and so should anyone with a serious interest in the history or philosophy of linguistics."
Geoffrey K. Pullum, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Peter Seuren's History of Western Linguistics is an excellent survey of the subject, ranging from Greek antiquity to the present day. It distinguishes itself substantially from related works currently available in its expert concern for the philosophical tradition, in the particular attention paid to the history of semantics, and in the manner in which these two are brought to bear on the development of grammatical theory in the twentieth century. Written in a lively and accessible style, it will be attractive to the general reader as well as to those specialising in the history of linguistics."
David Cram, Jesus College, University of Oxford

"Western Linguistics is to be considered an important work, demonstrating a vast knowledge in the field of linguistics as well as in those of philosophy and methodology."
Flip G. Drost, University of Leuven

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