Prague School

di | 07/19/2014

The Prague school, or Prague linguistic circle,[1] was an influential[2] group of literary critics and linguists in Prague. Its proponents developed methods of structuralist literary analysis[3] and a theory of the standard language and of language cultivation during the years 1928–1939. The linguistic circle was founded in the Café Derby in Prague, which is also where meetings took place during its first years.[4]

The Prague School has had significant continuing influence on linguistics and semiotics. Following the Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948, the circle was disbanded in 1952, but the Prague School continued as a major force in linguistic functionalism (distinct from the Copenhagen school or English Firthian — later Hallidean — linguistics). American scholar Dell Hymes cites his 1962 paper, “The Ethnography of Speaking,” as the formal introduction of Prague functionalism to American linguistic anthropology. [5]

The Prague linguistic circle included the Russian émigrés Roman Jakobson, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, and Sergei Karcevskiy, as well as the famous Czech literary scholars René Wellek and Jan Mukařovský. The instigator of the circle and its first president was the Czech linguist Vilém Mathesius (President of PLC until his death in 1945).

In 1929 the Circle promulgated its theses in a paper submitted to the First Congress of Slavists. “The programmatic 1929 Prague Theses, surely one of the most imposing linguistic edifices of the 20th century, incapsulated [sic] the functionalist credo.”[6] In the late 20th century, English translations of the Circle’s seminal works were published by the Czech linguist Josef Vachek in several collections.

Also in 1929, the group launched a journal, Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague. World War II brought an end to it. The Travaux was briefly resurrected from 1966–1971. The inaugural issue was devoted to the political science concept of center and periphery. It was resurrected yet again in 1995. The group’s Czech language work is published in Slovo a slovesnost (Word and Literature).



See also


  1. ^ Czech: Pražský lingvistický kroužek, Russian: Пражский лингвистический кружок Pražskij lingvističeskij kružok, French: Cercle linguistique de Prague.
  2. ^ George Steiner. Linguistics and Poetics. In Extraterritorial. 1972. 137ff.
  3. ^ “Semiotic poetics of the Prague Scholl (Prague School)”: entry in the Encyclopedia Or Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms, University of Toronto Press, 1993.
  4. ^ Roman Jakobson: My Futurist Years, New York 1992, p. 86
  5. ^ Hymes, Dell (1982). “Prague Functionalism”. American Anthropologist 84 (2): 398–399. doi:10.1525/;”> 
  6. ^ Luelsdorf 1983, p. xvi.
  7. ^ Linguistics. Volume 7, Issue 53, pages 100–127.


  • Luelsdorf, Philip A. (1983). On Praguian functionalism and some extensions. In Josef Vachek, Libuše Dušková, (eds.). Praguiana: Some Basic and Less Known Aspects of The Prague Linguistic School. John Benjamins. Linguistic and literary studies in Eastern Europe; 12. pp. xi-xxx.
  • Sériot, Patrick (2014). Structure and the Whole: East, West and Non-Darwinian Biology in the Origins of Structural Linguistics. (Semiotics, Communication and Cognition 12.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Toman, Jindřich (1995). The Magic of a Common Language: Jakobson, Mathesius, Trubetzkoy, and the Prague Linguistic Circle. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-20096-1

External links

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