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Roman Jakobson

Last time we started to talk more about phonology. Now, we will enjoy an amazing journey with one of the most popular pioneers in this field. Jakobson was a famous and influential linguist of the twentieth century. He, with Nikolai Trubetzkoy, established new techniques for the analysis of linguistic sound systems, in order to founding the modern discipline of phonology.

Jakobson went on to outspread similar principles and techniques to the study of other aspects of language such as syntax, morphology, and semantics. He exerted many contributions to Slavic linguistics.

Among others, Jakobson became an essential figure in the adaptation of structural analysis to disciplines beyond linguistics, including philosophy, anthropology, and literary theory; his development of the approach pioneered by Ferdinand de Saussure, known as "structuralism".

He had changed the way that scholars studied phonology, the sound structure of language. Especially, he suggested the idea of distinctive features, which proposes that all sounds of speech are marked by binary contrasts which can be described and quantified.

Let’s take the difference between “P” and “B” as an example. “B” uses our vocal cords (it’s voiced), whereas “P” does not (it’s unvoiced). Similarly, “B” and “M” are the same, except in “M”, air comes out of the nose (it’s nasal), whereas in “B”, it does not (try it!).

Finally, though the idea of distinctive features has been questioned in recent years, it allowed linguistics to classify the sounds of languages in an organized, ordered structure, which had previously been impossible.

After knowing about Roman Jakobson; do you prefer to talk more about pioneers of phonology in upcoming articles? Well, tell us more about your interests…Always remember sharing is caring 😊

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