Leonard Bloomfield

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Leonard Bloomfield (born April 1, 1887 Chicago , Illinois ; † April 18, 1949 New Haven ) was an American linguist and the leading exponent of American structuralism in linguistics. His main work Language is considered the most important linguistic book of the 20th century.


Leonard Bloomfield was born in Chicago to Sigmund and Carola Buber Bloomfield. His uncle was Maurice Bloomfield (1855-1928), professor of Sanskrit and comparative linguistics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore . Bloomfield enrolled at Harvard College in Boston in 1903 , where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1906 . He continued his studies in Wisconsin , where he studied with Eduard Prokosch and decided to pursue a career as a linguist.

In 1908 Leonard Bloomfield was appointed Assistant in German and Graduate Studies at the University of Chicago . A year later he did his doctorate under Francis A. Wood with A Semasiologic Differentiation in Germanic Secondary Ablaut . In the same year he married Alice Sayers.

In 1909/1910 he was an instructor in German at the University of Cincinnati . Until 1913 he worked in the German department of the University of Illinois .

Since a study visit to Germany was an indispensable prerequisite for promotion for the employees there, Bloomfield went to Leipzig for the winter semester 1913/14 and continued his studies in historical-comparative linguistics with the young grammarians August Leskien and Karl Brugmann . In the summer semester 1914 he studied at Göttingen , where he at Jacob Wackernagel took indogermanisitische courses at Hermann Oldenberg indological attended events and at Friedrich Carl Andreas of Iranian devoted.

From 1913 to 1921 Bloomfield was Assistant Professor of Comparative Philology and German at the University of Illinois. During this time he began his first studies of the Algonquin languages . In the summer months of 1920 and 1921 Bloomfield conducted fieldwork with the Menomini in Wisconsin . His notes served as the basis for the posthumously published grammar The Menomini Language , which is still considered the standard work of this language today.

From 1921 Bloomfield worked as a colleague of the behaviorist Albert P. Weiss (1879-1931) as "Professor of German and Linguistics" at Ohio State University . Bloomfield belonged in 1924 with George M. Bolling and Edgar H. Sturtevant to the founding committee of the "Linguistic Society of America".

In 1927 he went to Chicago, where he worked in the Department of German Philology at the University of Chicago until 1940. In 1933 his most famous work was published: Language .

In 1935 he was named President of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). As the successor to Edward Sapir , Leonard Bloomfield became Sterling Professor of Linguistics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut in 1940 . Since 1942 he was an elected member of the American Philosophical Society .

to teach

Bloomfield's major work Language (1933) is a systematic overall presentation of linguistics in which he summarized and codified the terminology and methodology of American structuralism . He combined "the tradition of comparative linguistics with structuralism [...] and ethnolinguistically based descriptivism" ( Franz Boas ). The self-imposed methodological rigor, which was intensified by his connection to the behaviorism of Albert Paul Weiss , caused Bloomfield to be very reluctant to deal with linguistic meaning, which although not excluded from the field of linguistically relevant topics, was nevertheless pushed to the periphery has been. The assertion, often found in older European linguistic histories, that American structuralism was "hostile to opinion" is a prejudice.

Bloomfield's essay Menomini Morphophonemics from 1939, in which Bloomfield developed an early form of a generative grammar , was of great influence on later linguistics .


  • 1911: The Indo-European Palatals in Sanskrit . In: The American Journal of Philology 32/1, pp. 36-57.
  • 1914: Introduction to the Study of Language . New York: Henery Holt and Co. ISBN 90-272-1892-7 .
  • 1914: Sentence and Word . In: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 45, pp. 65-75.
  • 1916: Subject and Predicate . In: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 47, pp. 13-22.
  • 1917: (with Alfredo Viola Santiago) Tagalog Texts with Grammatical Analysis . University of Illinois studies in language and literature, 3.2-4. Urbana, Illinois.
  • 1924: Notes on the Fox Language . In: International Journal of American Linguistics 3, pp. 219-232.
  • 1926: A Set of Postulates for the Science of Language . in: Language 2, pp. 153-164 (again in: Martin Joos (ed.), Readings in Linguistics I , Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press 1957, pp. 26-31).
  • 1927: Literate and Illiterate Speech . In: American Speech 2, pp. 432-441.
  • 1927: On Some Rules of Pāṇini . In: Journal of the American Oriental Society 47, pp. 61-70.
  • 1928: Menomini Texts . American Ethnological Society Publications 12. New York. ISBN 0-404-58162-5 .
  • 1930: Sacred Stories of the Sweet Grass Cree . National Museum of Canada Bulletin, 60 (Anthropological Series 11). Ottawa. ISBN 0-404-11821-6 .
  • 1933: Language . New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-226-06067-5 , ISBN 90-272-1892-7 (German: Die Sprache . Translated, commented on and edited by Peter Ernst and Hans Christian Luschützky, with a foreword by André Martinet . Edition Praesens , Vienna 2001).
  • 1935: Linguistic Aspects of Science . In: Philosophy of Science 2/4, pp. 499-517.
  • 1939: Menomini Morphophonemics . In: Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague 8, pp. 105–115.
  • 1939: Linguistic Aspects of Science (= International Encyclopedia of Unified Science . Volume 1, No. 4). University of Chicago Press, Chicago; 10th edition 1969.
  • 1942: Outline Guide for the Practical Study of Foreign Languages . Baltimore.
  • 1962: The Menomini Language . New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • 1970: A Leonard Bloomfield Anthology . Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-226-06071-3 .


  • Bayer, Brita: Leonard Bloomfield and Linguistics in Göttingen . In: Göttingen Contributions to Linguistics 3 (2000), pp. 7–18 ( digitized version ; PDF, 24 kB)
  • Bloomfield, Leonard: The Language. German first edition . Translated, commented on and edited by Peter Ernst and Hans Christian Luschützky with the assistance of Thomas Herok, Edition Praesens, Vienna 2001.
  • Ernst, Peter / Luschützky, Hans Christian (eds.): Leonard Bloomfield. Life and work . Edition Praesens, Vienna 2002.
  • Fought, John (Ed.): Leonard Bloomfield: Critical Assessments of Leading Linguists . 3 volumes. Routledge, London / New York 1999.
  • Hall, Robert A. Jr. (Ed.): Leonard Bloomfield. Essays on his Life and Work (= Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of the Linguistic Science , Series III: Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 47). John Benjamin, Amsterdam / Philadelphia 1987.
  • Hall, Robert A. Jr .: A Life for Language: A Biographical Memoir of Leonard Bloomfield (= Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of the Linguistic Science , Series III: Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 47). John Benjamin, Amsterdam / Philadelphia 1990.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Charles F. Hockett: Foreword . In: Leonard Bloomfield: Language. Ed. by Charles F. Hockett. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984, pp. Ix – xiv, here: pp. Xiii.
  2. ^ Member History: Leonard Bloomfield. American Philosophical Society, accessed May 6, 2018 .
  3. ^ Dürr / Schlobinski, Deskriptive Linguistik (2006), p. 82.
  4. ^ EFK Koerner: Bloomfieldian Linguistics and the Problem of 'Meaning': A chapter in the history and study of language . In: Jahrbuch für Amerikastudien 15 (1970), pp. 162-183.
  5. Cf. EF K Koerner: Remarks on the origins of morphophonemics in American structuralist linguistics . In: Language & Communication 23 (2003), pp. 1-43.