Louis Hjelmslev

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Louis Hjelmslev (born October 3, 1899 in Copenhagen , † May 30, 1965 ibid) was a Danish linguist , representative of European structuralism and a founder of the Copenhagen School .


Louis Hjelmslev - son of mathematician Johannes Hjelmslev - studied comparative linguistics at the University of Copenhagen from 1917 to 1923 , where he received his doctorate under Holger Pedersen . Hjelmslev specialized in the Lithuanian language , which he studied in Lithuania in 1921. In 1919 he received the university's gold medal for an essay on Oscar inscriptions.

In 1934 Louis Hjelmslev became a professor in Aarhus and in 1937 at the University of Copenhagen. During this time the development of the glossematics began together with Hans Jørgen Uldall . From 1956 he was director of the Institute for Linguistics and Phonetics he founded . Most recently he suffered from a long-standing brain disease.


Hjelmslev's theory - which he called " glossematics " - carried Saussure's concept of linguistic signs further. The sign is represented by a sign relationship (also a sign function) between two levels, the expression level and the content level. If you swap two units in one level, there is in principle a difference in the other. In each level, the units are characterized by their relationships to other, upstream or downstream units on this level ( syntagmatic relationships, can be illustrated as "horizontal") as well as by the relationships to possible alternatives for occurrence in the same place ( paradigmatic relationships, as " Vertical "can be illustrated). So syntagmatic relations are relations between elements that are part of the same form, e.g. B. "Win" in "Winter" or the subject-verb relationship in "Bernd writes". Paradigmatic semantic relationships are relationships between units that can replace one another, for example synonymy and antonymy . Both types of relationships create a "shape" at both levels, defined as a structure of relationships between linguistic units. This “form” is then - in Hjelmslev's terminology - “projected onto the mind, like a stretched net casts its shadow over an undivided surface” in order to generate what Hjelmslev calls “substance”.

Louis Hjelmslev's approach tries, especially in the early work phases, to conduct the language analysis purely in-linguistic and to consider extra-linguistic aspects in a separate discipline - " paralinguistics ". He treats sounds, registers and gestures, for example - so-called connotators - as belonging not to the "form of expression" but to the "substance". Therefore they do not appear in semiological analysis, but in "paralinguistics" with its neighboring disciplines kinesics and proxemics .


  • Principes de grammaire générale . Høst, København 1928.
  • An outline of glossematics . Levin and Munksgaard, København 1936.
  • Mélanges linguistiques offerts à M. Holger Pedersen à l'occasion de son soixante-dixième anniversaire 7 avril 1937 . Universitetsforlag., Aarhus 1937.
  • Omkring sprogteoriens basics. København 1943.
    • English edition: Prolegomena to a Theory of Language . University of Wisconsin, Madison 1969.
    • German edition: Prolegomena to a language theory. Hueber, Munich 1974.
  • Sur l'indépendance de l'épithète . Munksgaard, København 1956.
  • Sproget. En introduction. Berlingske, København 1963.
    • German edition: The language. An introduction. Translated from Danish by Otmar Werner. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1968.
  • La catégorie des cas: étude de grammaire générale . Fink, Munich 1972.
  • Essays on Linguistics . Klett, Stuttgart 1974, ISBN 3-12-923550-7
  • Résumé of a theory of language . Nordisk Sprog- og Kulturforlag, København 1975.
  • Breve from and to Rasmus Rask . On behalf of the Rask-Örsted Fond. Munksgaard, København 1941.


For an extensive selection bibliography cf. José Roberto do Carmo Jr. et al .: Bibliography of glossematics , also integrally as a PDF file
  • Michel Arrive / James Leader (eds.): Linguistics and Psychoanalysis : Freud, Saussure, Hjelmslev, Lacan and Others, John Benjamin, Amsterdam 1992.
  • Robert de Beaugrande: Louis Hjelmslev , in: Linguistic Theory: the Discourse of Fundamental Works, Longman, London 1991, 122-146.
  • Cosimo Caputo / Romeo Galassi (eds.): Louis Hjelmslev. Linguistica, Semiotica, Epistemologia , Il Protagora XXV / 7-8 (1985).
  • H. Spang-Hanssen: Glossematics , in: C. Mohrmann et al. (Ed.): Trends in European and American linguistics, 1930-1960, Utrecht 1961, 128-64.
  • Jørgen Dines Johansen: Hjelmslev and Glossematics. In: Roland Posner , Klaus Robering, Thomas A. Sebeok (eds.): A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1998, 2272–2289.
  • Jørgen Rischl: The Cercle linguistique de Copenhague and glossematics , in: Sylvain Auroux / EFK Koerner / Hans-Josef Niederehe / Kees Versteegh (eds.): An International Handbook on the Evolution of the Study of Language from the Beginnings to the Present. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2001, 1790–1806.
  • Geoffrey Sampson: Relational Grammar : Hjelmslev, Lamb, Reich, Schools of Linguistics, Stanford University Press, Stanford 1980, 166-186.
  • Bertha Siertsema: A study of glossematics . Critical Survey of its fundamental concepts, Martinus Nijhoff, Den Haag 2. A. 1965.
  • Alessandro Zinna (ed.): Hjelmslev aujourd'hui , Brepols, Turnhout 1997.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hjelmslevs 1974, p. 60.
  2. Umberto Eco : Introduction to Semiotics . 5th edition. Fink, Munich 1985, p. 42.