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Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR 1917-1938

The Birth of Sociological Linguistics

Edited by Craig Brandist and Katya Chown

Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR 1917-1938

Ground-breaking research into the complex interrelations of linguistic theory and politics during the first two decades of the USSR.

Imprint: Anthem Press
ISBN 9781843318408
March 2010 | 206 Pages | 229 x 152mm / 9 x 6
PRICE:  £70.00  /  $115.00  Buy from Amazon.co.uk  Buy from Amazon.com

About This Book

‘This succinct volume of articles straddles the interdisciplinary divide between history, political science, linguistics and literary studies […].  It opens a new vista for future research that will take into account the entire milieu of the interwar Soviet theoreticians and implementers of linguistic and social engineering.’ —Tomasz Kamusella, Cracow University of Economics, ‘European History Quarterly’ Book Reviews

‘This volume is a key contribution to the intellectual history of socially grounded studies of language, and it will be valuable to scholars interested in the place of theories of language in early Soviet politics, as well as to scholars examining the links between language, power, and society in general.’ —Laada Bilaniuk, University of Washington, in ‘Slavic Review’

‘This is an excellent volume with a set of extraordinarily thoughtful and insightful papers. It is an intellectual history and is of immense relevance to linguists and literary scholars alike as well as historians of the Soviet period.’ —Lenore A. Grenoble, University of Chicago, ‘The Russian Review’

'Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR 1917-1938' provides ground-breaking research into the complex interrelations of linguistic theory and politics during the first two decades of the USSR. The work examines how the new Revolutionary regime promoted linguistic research that scrutinised the relationship between language, social structure, national identity and ideological factors as part of an attempt to democratize the public sphere. It also looks at the demise of the sociological paradigm, as the isolation and bureaucratization of the state gradually shifted the focus of research.

Through this account, the collection formally acknowledges the achievements of the Soviet linguists of the time, whose innovative approaches to the relationship between language and society predates the emergence of western sociolinguistics by several decades. These articles are the first articles written in English about these linguists, and will introduce an Anglophone audience to a range of materials hitherto unavailable.

In addition to providing new articles, the volume also presents the first annotated translation of Ivan Meshchaninov's 1929 'Theses on Japhetidology', thereby providing insight into one of the most controversial strands within Soviet linguistic thought.

Readership: Advanced undergraduate and graduate students and those interested in Soviet history, the relationship between language and politics, Marxism, cultural theory and intellectual history more generally.

Author Information

Craig Brandist is Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History and Director of the Bakhtin Centre at the University of Sheffield.

Katya Chown is Lecturer in Russian at Leeds University and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield.

Table of Contents

Introduction; Soviet Linguistics of the 1920s and 1930s and the Scholarly Heritage; 'Sociology' in Soviet Linguistics of the 1920-30s; Theoretical Insights and Ideological Pressures in Early Soviet Linguistics; Early Soviet Linguistics and Mikhail Bakhtin’s Essays on the Novel of the 1930s; Language as a Battlefield - the Rhetoric of Class Struggle in Linguistic Debates of the First Five-Year Plan Period; The Tenacity of Forms; The Word as Culture; Language Ideology and the Evolution of Kul´tura iazyka ('Speech Culture') in Soviet Russia; Psychology, Linguistics and the Rise of Applied Social Science in the USSR; Appendix 1: Introduction to Japhetidology: Theses - Ivan Meshchaninov; Appendix 2: Glossary of Names; Appendix 3: Contributors; Index of Names