Paul Laurendeau, linguiste, sociolinguiste, philosophe du langage


LAURENDEAU, P. (1990a), « Theory of Emergence: toward a historical-materialistic approach to the history of linguistics (chapter 11) », JOSEPH, J.E.; TAYLOR, T.J. dir., Ideologies of language, Routledge, Londres et New York, pp 206-220.

How does newness come into the world? How is it born? Of what fusions, translations, conjoinings is it made? How does it survive, extreme and dangerous as it is?

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, Viking, p. 8.




Is it not time to stop viewing linguistics as a solution to the problem of scientificity in social sciences [1]?  Linguistics is perhaps more of a problem than a solution. But what sort of problem?  Let’s illustrate this by a short example. We are back in 1615 in the north-east of the immense North American continent and here is an anonymous coureur de bois who has decided to leave his infertile French countryside to live in the forest of Nouvelle-France in order to trade furs. All things considered, this uneducated man, with no glossary,  grammar or even alphabet to guide him, will, in a relatively short while ,learn the language of the Indian nations he is trading with.

With what sort of « theoretical framework » did he operate to obtain such immediate results in the acquisition of a totally unknown non-indo-european language?  With what sort of « métalangage » did he grasp the linguistic problems he encountered, a little less than half a century before the publication of the Port-Royal Grammaire Générale et Raisonnée, a monolingual study of French that a man of his condition would in any case never have been able -or allowed- to read?  Occuring at a time when linguistics had yet to be conceived, such historical events lead to the conclusion that there is a very real problem with the « scientificity » of this discipline.

The main « concepts » this coureur de bois used to apprehend the foreign language he was learning would be considered today as ideological (this being classically opposed to scientific concepts); but the fact is that his praxis brought him to know perfectly an Indian language which many of today’s excellent ethnolinguists do not know. We are thus approaching the center of a crucial problem of gnoseology (theory of knowledge).

This simple and concrete fact short-circuits the two main ideologies of gnoseology: scienticism (saying: « We did NOT know then but we know NOW. Today, we have found the end of knowledge and the end of history » ; yet as a matter of fact, the coureur de bois did ALREADY know something) and agnosticism (saying: « We will NEVER know anyhow. We have found that knowledge and history are an eternal continuum with no step or gap » ; whereas as a matter of fact, the coureur de bois did REALLY know something). It is important to understand the intimate relation between the ideologies of gnoseology and those of history. They cannot be separated. Thus, scienticism is an anti-historicist position of historical finalism. This means that those who believe in the ultimate power of science also believe that historical reality will not and must not radically change now. And agnosticism is a pro-historicist position of historical fatalism. It is the « things always change » and « somebody will always appear with a different idea » belief. The complexity of reality brings us to reject both of them.

The position proposed here with regard to the question of gnoseology is one of dialectical materialism (saying: « By and by we know more, AND what is to be known has no end »). This position is both anti-scienticist and anti-agnosticist. Its consequences are dialectical. Historical issues are crucial here also: what we call knowledge is both « true » from the point of view of the historically localised praxis that produces and needs it, and « false » from the point of view of the system of knowledge resulting from a more highly developped, subsequent historical period. There is a dialectical fusion and struggle (a tension) of « ideology » and « science » in the knowledge of a specific epoch. We mean by science a relevant knowledge of a specific reality produced by a praxis confronted to this reality. We mean by ideology a reversed consciousness of reality (example: « the sun is the center of the universe » could be called today an ideological proposition, but it was not when it was said to people who believed that the earth was the center of the universe). The coureur de bois and the indian traded together. Their praxis produced a « scientific » knowledge. It « worked », they could talk. And even if they stayed at the level of a simple know-how, the science of language is totally concerned by the result they obtained. Suppose now that, at a certain time, what they spoke together was a lingua franca, and suppose also that, at that moment, somebody asked them which language they spoke when they traded. There are chances, as specialists of pidgins and creoles put it, that both of them will have believe that he had learned the language of the other. Then the tension (fusion and struggle) between ideology and science appears. They know how to communicate and they try as they can to explain this knowledge. And even if their explanations about their communication capacities are wrong, their praxis produced a real « technical » knowledge. A relevant gnoseology considers such a tension between ideology and science in knowledge as the result of historical changes. Also, there is no a-priori system of representation for gnoseology itself: history reproduces and changes it constantly too.

This brings us to the problem of the history of linguistics. Since linguistics (as any science) is not a disengaged « free-floating » discipline, there is a close relationship between the dialectical tension ideology/science in its content and the historicity of its emergence. As Taylor puts it in chapter 11 a fantastic energy is spent, in contemporary linguistics, to decontextualise and « ahistoricize » the work. This is by no means innocent. My purpose here is to fight this tendency with propositions for a historical-materialistic approach to the history of linguistics. Rather than specific results, what I propose is a theoretical and methodological framework that would permit a new approach to problems in the history of the science of language.

There are two main methods of writing the history of an intellectual discipline. The first is historiography: the chronological enumeration of intellectual events as if they had a sort of independance from any historicity. The result is the inversion of history. The second way is historicism: a reaction to the first attitude that puts every intellectual event in direct relation with what could be called its « anecdotal-historical » context. The result is: the reduction of history.

It is possible to establish a relation between historiography and scienticism: we are then required to become witnesses to the autonomous so called « historical » movement of a « free-floating » Science. It is also possible to establish a relation between historicism and agnosticism: we then become witnesses to the « history » of the sordid plots of an institutionnal discipline that has no real objective knowledge or information to provide.

Consequently, the wealth or heritage of today’s historian of linguistics swings between a variety of scienticism and a variety of agnosticism. Let’s look at some examples.

An example of what I call historiography (chronological enumeration of intellectual events as if they had a sort of independance from some historicity) is the following:

[C’est] sur l’enseignement saussurien que purent compter les promoteurs de la phonologie pour étayer leurs théories ; la dualité langue/parole avait en effet préparé le terrain […] et, plus encore, l’affirmation « dans la langue, il n’y a que des différences »: toute la phonologie, dont l’élément primaire est la qualité différentielle, s’y trouve en effet en germe.

(It is on Saussurian teaching that the promoters of phonemics could rely to establish their theory ; the language/speech duality had, in fact, prepared the ground […] and, furthermore, on the affirmation « in language, there are only differences »: all phonemics, in which the primary element is the differential quality, is there in a nutshell.)

Leroy 1970: 80-81

Here, one concept is « preparing the ground » for the appearance of another: we are in the « free-floating » world of scientific exchange. When I say that the result of such a presentation is the inversion of history, I mean that the behavior of social actors appears to be subordinated to the destiny of the ideas they share. The presentation of succeding linguistics « schools » is not unlike timed-pictures showing the main steps of the eclosion of an intellectual flower.

The opposition historiography/historicism is what we can call a « theoretical couple ». Theoretical couples are not, in a dialectical analysis of reality, radically opposed. The relation between historiography and historicism is actually more complex: the tension between these two terms leads slowly to a third one. Concretely, a discourse as the one quoted above makes, on purpose or not, a partial selection of the reality it describes. But the dialectical opposite of what is showed (i.e. what is forgotten or hidden or unknown) cannot be completely evacuated. This means that, as in any dialectical reality, we will notice in the historiography, as an ideological position of the historian, the presence of its opposite (i.e. historicism). Actually we also see here the « promoters of phonemics » carefully reading Saussure in search of arguments backing up their new theory. Traces of historical materialism also appear: we somehow manage to understand that the phonologists are in a sense trying to dissimulate the fact that their theory is emerging from somewhere other than (structuralist) thought.

In descriptions such as the following we have what I call historicism, a reaction to the first attitude which puts every intellectual event in direct relation with what we could call its « anecdotal-historical » context:

Toute la base formaliste de Saussure, ça ne passait pas pour Meillet, qui était un réaliste, style IIIe République, alors que Sechehaye et Bally ont accentué dans le C.L.G. le formalisme de Saussure [André Martinet, freely quoted by Chevalier and Encrevé – P.L.]. […] Jusqu’à sa mort en 1936, Meillet régnait sur l’Université française pour toute la partie linguistique. Le sort fait à Guillaume en est un exemple. Il ne serait venu à l’idée de personne de nommer où que ce soit un linguiste sans l’approbation de Meillet. Une fois que Meillet avait parlé, on s’écrasait [Jean Stéfanini, freely quoted by Chevalier and Encrevé – P.L.].

(Although Sechehaye and Bally emphasized Saussure’s formalism in [their edition of] the C[ours de] L[inguistique] G[énérale], Meillet, a Third Republic realist, found that formalism unacceptable [André Martinet, freely quoted by Chevalier and Encrevé – P.L.]. […] Meillet dominated linguistics in French universities until his death in 1936. Guillaume’s fate is an example of that domination. Nobody would ever have thought of appointing a linguist without Meillet’s approval. Once Meillet had spoken, everyone followed [Jean Stéfanini, freely quoted by Chevalier and Encrevé – P.L.].)

Chevalier and Encrevé 1984: 61-62.

We are here in the sordid and pragmatic world of gimmick and institution. The personality of a man in a position of power seems to be the nec plus ultra, explaining what linguistics was and was not in a specific era. When I say that the result of such a presentation is the reduction of history, I mean that now the social actors (reduced generally to « strong personalities ») seem to have a complete control on the ideas they produce. The historian reproduces here a cartoon-like world, simplifying social facts to the cartoon character’s behavior. Here also, we notice in the ideological historian’s position the presence of its opposite (i.e. historiography). The « struggle » between the « idea » of formalism and the « idea » of empiricism or « realism » is still there, seemingly « explained » by the will of the strongest. Finally, traces of historical-materialism also appear. Some readers might possibly understand that all this vaudeville is, as it is said, « in the style of the Third Republic » i.e. the product of the very peculiar organisation of power at that specific period in the history of a European country.

Historiography, historicism, and sometimes a mix of both, seem to be the main theoretical heritage of today’s historian of linguistics. But it is now time to distance ourselves from this sort of pendular opposition of two incomplete approaches which do not correctly apprehend the crucial question of what Crowley (chapter    ) calls external factors, i.e. what I would call historicity.

To understand the aims (or duties) of the history of linguistics as we propose them, it is first of all very important to explain what we mean by history and science of history. History is the development of social structures and struggles as an objective reality, based on the concrete organisation of material production. The science of history is the science studying the development of social structures and struggles as an objective reality, based on the concrete organisation of material production. The science of history is often mistakenly called « history » tout court. History is the complex reality we produce and at the same time try to study (by the science of history).

According to Marx (cf German Ideology. For quotations and discussion, see Laurendeau 1989, note 2), there is no history of politics, law, science, religion etc, because these realities are (direct or undirect) emergences of what we have defined here as history. To clearly understand this important point, we need only think of tools. Since a thermometer for instance, is not a living being, would a « history » of the thermometer [2] be a serious study without reference to the social system that produces and needs this particular tool and which ameliorates and follows up on the amelioration of all technology ?  Can we seriously speak about an industrial thermometer without speaking about the solution in which it is dipped, of the worker that mixes this solution, of the factory that produces it ?  What would be the use of a « Linnean » chronological historiography of thermometers through the ages, or of a complete description of the understandings and misunderstandings of the eminent individuals who shaped thermometers in the course of world evolution ?  What would be the interest of a « history » of the thermometer that would not be a historicization of this tool ?  We can apply the same argumentation to more sophisticated institutions and theories… and, of course, to linguistics.

In the theoretical framework proposed here, « history of linguistics » is nothing but a mistaken, albeit habitual, use of the expression « history ». Logically, we should say « historicization of linguistics ». This historicization of linguistics, as a subdivision of the science of history, is limited to the knowledge of the relations between the ideological and/or scientific reality of linguistics AND the objective reality of history. This includes many things. Cameron’s « demythologisation » (see chapter     ) could be a good example of what is meant here.

Because knowledge is something a little bit more sophisticated than a simple tool, we must operate within the framework of a historical problematique reflecting the positions presented above about the question of gnoseology. The problematique can be formulated as follows: we have to deal with the problem of an intellectual discipline that has no independance at all from history and its ups and downs, and that can bring us by and by to a true objective knowledge of reality. The aim of the historian of the science of language is to make this « by and by » clear, i.e. to highlight the complex dialectical relationship between this dependance and independance.

To summarize, the history of linguistics should be neither historiography nor historicism but the historicization of this intellectual discipline. This implies certain theoretical positions about history. Historical materialism provides the general framework for the theory of emergence. This theory sees in every school of linguistics an indirect and relatively autonomous product of concrete socio-historical contexts, and tries to describe the emergence of a linguistics school, proceeding backwards from its established results towards the complex mix of its theoretical and material sources.

All intellectual representation (ideology, theory, science) is, from the historical point of view, an emergence erupting from history, i.e. from the specific conditions of the praxis of a given society. The phenomenon, as an emergence, appears in an « already given » context. We can imagine it as the emergence of a liquid or a wave, keeping in mind that this is just a useful representation and not a reification of our very complex problem (for the definition of this concept, see Crowley in chapter    ). It takes an expansion, and the intensity and limits of this expansion have to be studied. The wider this expansion, the more the emergence will dissolve and blend with its surroundings (see Cameron in chapter      on the emergence of sociolinguistics and its expansion).

As an emergence, an intellectual phemomenon has also a source or a group of sources which must be found. But the phenomenon remains, even if these sources are dried up, especially if it combines harmoniously with new emergences coming from new sources. These combinations could lead us to believe in the autonomy of the emergences. Also, the main institutionnal sources of the phenomenon could lead us to believe in their direct historicity.

An emergence is always in contradiction with other emergences. An emergence is always the collective product of those who make it and of those who accept it. Thus nothing is direct and nothing is simple (Françoise Gadet and Michel Pêcheux made useful preliminary remarks about the phenomenon of emergence, cf Laurendeau 1989).

No work has yet been produced in the theory of emergence, but some research is fairly close to its aims. For example, Chervel 1981 describes the emergence of French school-grammar (meaning by this strange expression what we call in French grammaire scolaire). The main source of the emergence is the school apparatus. A certain number of contradictions are analyzed:  the contradiction between the speculative grammars of the 17th-18th centuries and the teaching of writing (especially orthography) in 19th century ; the contradiction between the rigidity of what was taught and the evolution of the French language. The traces of these contradictions in the school-grammar take the form of its eclecticism (on this theoretical concept, see Laurendeau 1989) and this eclecticism gives us a clue as to the practical nature of the emergence. We see it clearly in the description of the activity of the 19th century schoolmaster provided by Chervel [3]. The ideologigical (i.e. reversed) conception of an idealistic elitist grammar imposed to the people by an oligarchy is replaced by the description of a situation where the collective and gradual praxis of teaching/learning « french » (i.e. a certain spelling of french, according to the belief that orthography is language) appears as the real objective force that produced the school-grammar.

Chervel’s method is internal, comparative and diachronic. He works on a corpus of grammars of 19th and 20th centuries and describes the evolution of a certain number of grammatical categories. The different « grammars » reveals themselves as successive versions of an uncomplete and hesitating description of the reality of language. This historian understood a very important methodological point: a concrete analysis in history of linguistics begins by the analysis of the discourse of linguists or grammarians.

The conclusions of Chervel are agnostic and polemic: to him, school-grammar is nothing but the ideology of a conformism actualized in the teaching of orthography. With the critical framework we now have, we know in which way this analysis should be completed. It is impossible to say that under the myth of grammar there was absolutely no knowledge at all. This repressive and narrow framework was for decades the only locus of a « theoretical » reflexion about french language. A second tome of the history of the school-grammar should now be written, describing how, through polemics and social struggles, some sort of knowledge and science managed to preserve itself under the power of the tenants of traditionnal grammar. But to do so, the method of Chervel should probably be modified.

These methodological problems are absolutely crucials and there is no golden rule on this point. I will mention certain methodological elements which the theory of emergence must look for in the actual works of historians of linguistics. Because I consider that the historicization of linguistics will not be done by historians introducing themselves to linguistics but rather by linguists introducing themselves to the science of history, I suggest that the starting point of such an historicization be the dialectical questionning of linguistics itself (cf Laurendeau 1989). Analyzed -in the first stages- from the dialectical point of view (Goldmann 1959: 26-44 proposed elements of method for such an analysis. Cf also Laurendeau 1986b), linguistics appears as the theater of theoretical or methodological contradictions that will reveal themselves -in the second and third stages- as very complex transpositions of the ideological and material conflicts of the historical period (see, for example, Chervel’s conclusions on the eclecticism of the school-grammar). Another example is the emergence of history as an epistemological factor in a number of 19th century disciplines such as biology, political economy and linguistics. Here, there is a complex relation with the events of this period, especially colonialist conquests and revolutions.

Above all, the approach to the linguistics text will be very important. There are two ways of approaching a text, for example a book like the Cours de linguistique générale by Saussure (one could compare what I put here with what Joseph says in chapter      about Bloomfield, reader of Saussure). We have the « first degree » approach (where the text tends to be taken for itself or for what it speaks about) and the « second degree » approach (where it tends to be taken as the reflection of something else or something more than itself or what its speaks about).

In the « first degree » approach we notice two attitudes. The first one is scholastic OR polemic. You consider the content of the text as a complete truth (or as something to deal with as if it were the truth) and try to respect it (or to at least show that you respect it) OR you consider the content of the text as completely false (or as something to deal with as if it were completely false) and try to deny it (or to at least show that you deny it). To this pendular couple is opposed the second attitude: critique.

In the « second degree approach » we notice also two attitudes. The first one is documentary OR symbolic: you consider the text as a source of information (but not a direct one, as if it were your morning newspaper) that is indirect and more or less unintentionnal (you deal with it as if it were a newspaper of 1850, providing lots of detailed information about how people lived at that time) OR you consider the text as a system of indirect but more or less intentionnal coding (the symbols) that can be analyzed in reference to specific cultural representations. To this pendular couple is also opposed a second attitude: hermeneutic.

The critical attitude is the overtaking of the scholastic/polemic attitude while the hermeneutic attitude is the overtaking of the documentary/symbolic attitude. The old concepts of « critique » and « hermeneutic » are, of course, completely reactualized in a dialectical-materialistic way by the theory of emergence. We mean by critique a « first degree » reading that postulates the tension between science and ideology in every intellectual product, and that looks less for what-is-true-and- what-is-false than for the manifestations of the struggle between positions. Conversly, we mean by hermeneutic a « second degree » reading that does not look for DATA or SYMBOLS… but for CLUES of a socio-historical reality in the text. The passage from a (dialectical) critique to a (materialistic) hermeneutic is the global method proposed by the theory of emergence.

The search for contradictions is therefore one of the main purposes of the theory of emergence. Let’s not forget that, as a dialectical approach, the theory of emergence does not carry the negative view of contradiction that is the running gag of all discourse wishing to be « scientific ». As marxist thought puts it, we should not be surprised, when we search for the essence of things, to encounter more and more contradictions… because contradiction IS the essence of things.

The first type of contradiction the theory of emergence will look for is contradiction within linguistic theory. One can then notice two main facts. Firstly, certain linguistic theories present themselves as ideologically independant AND yet are dependant on what I have called (Laurendeau 1986a: 8-22) an implicit philosophy (Crowley in chapter    shows the positivist background of synchronic linguistics). Even a complete lack of theoretical framework IS itself an implicit philosophy, and perhaps not the best one (cf the social theory of Labov as presented by Cameron in chapter     ). Secondly, certain linguistic theories present themselves as completely subordinated to a philosophical system AND yet are strongly original and independant. This is often the case of what I have called (Laurendeau 1986a: 763) scholastic strategies: functionalist or generativist on the surface, something quite different in the study itself. The point to keep in mind is that a linguistic theory tends always to NEGATE its heritage AND itself. The mechanism of this negation is the key that brings us to the source of the emergence.

At a second level, the set of contradictions to look for could be those between linguistic institutions as reflected by the « theorical oppositions ». A good example of such an investigation is Coste 1987. In this study, the author describes the recent emergence of the structure of the teaching of French- as-a-foreign-language (related to the French state apparatus) and the older emergence of linguistics (related to the French university). He also analyses from a socio-historical point of view the struggle of the defenders of each between 1945 and 1975. This period is considered as a moment of strong mutation in the study and teaching of French language in France. For French-as-a-foreign-language, Coste speaks of emergence, whereas for university linguistics, he speaks of « profound alterations ». A complex contradiction appears between different approaches.

Applied linguistics is interpretated by the author as a zone of contact and transition, as some kind of « turbulent interface » between the two entities, which are themselves unsettled. Coste explains that this may give rise to attempts to stabilize which can be interpreted as wishes to take control but which are never successful. We are then slowly brought from theorical to social struggles. French-as-a-foreign-language and linguistics have various internal splits. Always according to Coste, the group of specialists of French-as-a-foreign-language looks a little bit like a fuzzy set, intermediate and of recent affirmation such as the set of managers. Interests and directions are roughly different depending on the sub-groups. Also in the case of the university linguists, categorisations a little less global (differentiating for example the « francists », the « specialists of foreign languages », the « indo-europeanists » or the « fonctionnalists ») reveals a variety in the conceptions and the practices of the relation between linguistics and language teaching. (from BUSCILA 1988: 44-45).

There are various methodological consequences of Coste 1987. The main « theoretical » contradiction is described here as a set of smaller contradictions, and the global comprehension of this complex system appears as the first step that leads to the socio-historical source of the emergence. Chervel could be quoted as an honest exemple of what I mean by dialectical critique. Coste is a good exemple of what I call materialistic hermeneutic.

We first had inner contradictions in a theory, then contradictions between social groups represented by their champions and their theoretical approaches. In the end, this brings us to the contradictions between linguistic theory and historical reality, as exemplified by Jucquois 1989 in his study of comparatism.

Jucquois says that the emergence of comparatism cannot appear without the historical possibility for comparison, BUT the theory of comparatism will finally fade out even if these possibilities continue to grow. In order to clarify the understanding of linguistics comparativism, he introduces the necessity of a wide and general investigation of the manifestations of the comparatist attitude and mentality. He notices then that they « emerged very progressively » in the history of the Western World and developed only during modern times. He also considers that the archeology of comparatism reveals the conditions which have led to its apparition and development. He puts that these conditions are closely linked with the perception and use of language in a specific society, namely in a « democracy » [sic – I would rather say « an imperialism » – P.L.] and therefore necessarily imply the perception of some irreductible pluralism which is itself related to the very nature of language and of contemporary social reality. (from BUSCILA 1988: 49). The last methodological elements I want to focus are then introduced: general intellectual context and socio-historical ground of it.

if I try to summarize the methodological framework resulting from the theoretical propositions and the exemples of historical studies quickly mentionned, I would suggest six steps in the historicization of the emergence of a linguistic « theory »:

1 – Internal dialectical critique I: Non historiographical approach of main inner theoretical contradictions.

Description of the « struggles of ideas » as noticed inside the theory, research for contradictions, changes, eclecticism, movements etc.

2 –  Materialistic hermeneutic I: Non historicist approach of immediate external context of the theory.

Description of the « who’s who » of this theory. Schools and scholars, bibliographical elements etc. Hermeneutic of the « trivial » informations.

3 –  Internal dialectical critique II: Description of the polemic/scolastic and documentary/symbolic dimensions of the theory.

Description of what the « struggle of ideas » of the theory reveals of its relations with other theories. What (who) is it in agreement/opposition with. Who (what) does it consider as bringing good « cash » documentary information ; who (what) does it interpretate and how.

4 –  Materialistic hermeneutic II: Description of the « socio-intellectual » horizon.

Description of the idéological/scientific horizon of the period where the theory emerged and of the influence it has on the school that defend the theory.

5 –  Internal dialectical critique III: Delimitation of the intellectual borders of the emergence.

Description of what the theory speaks about, what it hides, what it forgets, what it could never have known, what it introduces and what it speaks about because we « have » to speak about it. What was before that it does/does not consider. What will come after that it will/will not influence.

6 –  Materialistic hermeneutic III: Historicization.

On the base of all these data, description of the possibility/neccessity of the emergence of that very specific theory according to the socio-historical means and limits of the epoch considered.

In conclusion, we can say that there are two sorts of history: history of actions, and history of processes. The emergence of a new linguistic theory is always the result of actions and processes in a society. We cannot do all of the historical work and, as historians of sciences of language, we are obligated to focus on the emergence, its sources, its scopes, its limits. If we only keep in mind that what we study is only a partial phenomenon, merely a part of the problem, we will naturally be brought back to our initial problematique: the dialectical reality of the dependance/independance of linguistics and history. We will then begin to understand that if history and linguistics are so slow at producing « results », our work can only be… slower.





[1]. This text was presented in december 1988 at the NAAHoLS meeting in Tulane University (New-Orleans). I would like to thank for their precious help Karen Whalen, David Walker, Maurice Blanchard of York University, Ludmila Bovet of Université Laval, George Wolf of Tulane University and Agnès Lebeau. I would like to give a special thank to Talbot Taylor, of College of William and Mary, who criticized this text in a very relevant way and helped me to turn it to something accessible for anglo-american readers.

[2]. In 1902, Father A. Tougard in the preface of the Étude sur le langage de la banlieue du Havre, (cf Maze 1969) explained that the author of this glossary, his colleague Father C. Maze, was working by the year 1899 on an essay titled Histoire du thermomètre. According to a passage of a letter quoted in Maze (1969: X-XI) the main purpose of the historian, in the first part of this « history » of thermometer, was to refute the arguments of a certain Caverni who pretended that Galilei was the inventor of the thermometer. Maze considered that the real inventor of this tool was the venitian doctor Santorio (1561-1636), and to prove it he seems to have done a very sophisticated hermeneutic study of the seventeen volumes of Galilei’s works. It is important to notice that, despite a certain result of « demythologisation » of a historical figure, such a research is seemingly looking like a juridic issue on authorship more than a study of history. And it is also important to claim that the knowledge of the historical emergence of a technical artefact as the thermometer in the Italian Renaissance is not fundamentally changed if we know that the exact name of its inventor is Santorio instead of Galilei. This was the 19th century, but are historians of linguistics doing things very differents than that today ?

[3]. Chervel describes the activity of the 19th century french schoolmaster that way:

La grammaire n’est [au XIXe siècle – P.L.] pas autre chose, pour le maître, qu’un procédé pédagogique.

Aussi est-il tout prêt à en changer si on lui propose une méthode plus efficace. D’ailleurs, s’il a un peu d’imagination, c’est lui-même qui va introduire des modifications, récrire sa grammaire, pour son usage personnel d’abord, en remplir des cahiers, de son écriture fine et penchée. Tous ses doutes, tous ses tracas, toutes ses trouvailles pédagogiques y prennent leur place. A-t-il un peu d’ambition, brigue-t-il l’école normale ou un poste d’inspecteur: il la publie, et va faire le siège de ses supérieurs hiérarchiques pour obtenir l’inscription de son livre sur la liste des manuels autorisés dans le département.

Évidemment ses mobiles ne sont pas d’ordre spéculatif. Car l’intérêt du maître, c’est d’abord que ses élèves apprennent l’orthographe. En dépend son maintient dans le poste lorsqu’il est au service d’une communauté villageoise, ou sa promotion (…).

Fondamental est le rôle des élèves dans ce tête-à-tête, ce corps à corps pédagogique par lequel le maître les oblige à assimiler les principes de l’orthographe, et qui aboutit à la lente mise en place de la deuxième grammaire scolaire. Certains l’ont bien vu, tel Vanier, qui présente ainsi sa Grammaire pratique à l’usage des écoles primaires: « Ce petit ouvrage n’est ni le fruit de longues veilles, ni le résultat de profonde méditations ; ce sont mes élèves qui me l’ont inspiré… ».

(Grammar [in 19th century – P.L.] was nothing else, for the teacher, than a pedagogical procedure.

Thus he was always ready to change his grammar if somebody suggested a more efficient method. And he was even able, if he had a little imagination, to make some alterations and re-write his grammar, first for personnal use, filling notebooks with his fine slanting handwriting. All his doubts, all his worries, all of his pedagogical discoveries would be realized there. And if he had a little ambition and wished to apply for the position of professor at the école normale or for that of teaching inspector, he would have it published, and harass his superiors until he succeded in having his own book listed among the manuals autorized by the department.

His incentives were not of a speculative kind indeed, since the main concern of the teacher, was first and foremost that his students learn orthography. On this depended the retention of his position, if he was at the service of a village community, or his promotion (…).

The role of the students was fundamental in this pedagogical tête-à-tête or struggle in which the teacher had them assimilate the basic principles of orthography and which eventually lead to the slow establishment of the new school-grammar. Some saw this clearly, such as Vanier, who wrote in the foreword of his Grammaire pratique à l’usage des écoles primaires: « This little book is neither the result of long nights of work, nor the consequence of profound meditations ; it was inspired by my students… »)

Chervel 1981: 97


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1.  Dans les deux secteurs que l’on pose comme « champs » (sans prétendre les construire intégralement comme tels en termes sociologiques), la période examinée est considérée comme un temps de mutation forte: pour le français langue étrangère, on parle d’émergence, pour la linguistique universitaire de transformation profonde. Dans un cas comme dans l’autre, mais selon des modalités distinctes, le mouvement est présenté comme (d’abord) ascensionnel.

2.  La linguistique appliquée est interprétée comme une zone de contact, de passage et de turbulente interface entre les deux ensembles, eux mêmes agités. Elle peut donner lieu à des tentatives de stabilisation, lisibles comme visant à une prise de contrôle, mais qui n’aboutissent pas.

3.  Français langue étrangère et linguistique connaissent divers clivages internes. Si le groupe des spécialistes du français langue étrangère présente des similarités avec un ensemble flou, intermédiaire et d’affirmation récente comme celui des cadres, il ressemble aussi à ce dernier par ses fortes différenciations internes. Intérêts et trajectoires varient sensiblement suivant les sous-groupes. De même, pour ce qui concerne les linguistes universitaires, des catégorisations un peu moins globales (distinguant par exemple les « francistes » des « spécialistes de langues étrangères », des « indo-européanistes » ou des « fonctionnalistes ») font vite apparaître une variété – dont il est possible de rendre raison – dans les conceptions et les pratiques du rapport entre linguistique et enseignement de la langue.

Coste cité in BUSCILA 1988: 44-45

Une réflexion sur la méthode comparative dans les sciences de l’homme doit s’articuler selon deux axes. Il faut tout d’abord s’interroger sur les manifestations d’une attitude et d’une mentalité comparatives. On constate alors que celles-ci n’ont émergé que très progressivement dans l’histoire de l’Occident et ne se sont développées qu’à l’époque contemporaine.

L’archéologie du comparatisme met en évidence les conditions qui favorisent son éclosion et son épanouissement. On entrevoit que celles-ci se rapportent à la perception et au fonctionnement du langage dans une société déterminée, la démocratie [sic – I would rather say « l’impérialisme » – P.L.] impliquant nécessairement la perception d’un pluralisme irréductible lié à la nature du langage.

Jucquois cité in BUSCILA 1988: 49

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