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  • Dictionary of the Prague School of linguistics ed. by Libuše Dušková
  • Jan Holeš
Dictionary of the Prague School of linguistics. Ed. by Libuše Dušková. Translated from the French, German, and Czech by Aleš Klégr, Pavlína Šaldová, Markéta Malá, Jan Čermák, and Libuše Dušková. (Studies in functional and structural linguistics 50.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2003. Pp. 213. ISBN 1588113787. $102 (Hb).

The volume is an English translation of Josef Vachek’s Dictionnaire de linguistique de l’école de [End Page 521] Prague published in 1960 by Spectrum Éditeurs in Utrecht and Anvers. The dictionary draws material from the works of such outstanding linguists as Vilém Mathesius, Roman Jakobson, Vladimír Skalička, Bohuslav Havránek, Eugen Pauliny, Bohumil Trnka, and Pavel Trost.

Since the publication of its original French version, research within the context of the Prague School has been ongoing. The post-war developments of the School’s concepts are discussed in the introduction written by František Čermák and Eva Hajičová. Even if functional and structural linguistics in Central Europe faced various restrictions during the Communist era, the younger adherents of the School constructed an original formal framework of linguistic description applying functional principles. This introduction pays attention to various aspects of the language system (la langue) and of the text (la parole), such as: questions of system and norm, the distinction between center and periphery, the concept of markedness (developed originally by Jakobson), levels of the language system, functional sentence perspective (formulated by Mathesius), language typology (founded by Skalička), functional stratification in language, and other issues. The authors mention a number of links between linguistics and other branches of science established already in the classical period of the Prague School.

The dictionary itself (covering pages 47–166) starts after the translation of Vachek’s preface to the original edition. As the Czech translators put it, more than a traditional linguistic dictionary, it is a programmatic manifesto of the Prague School arranged in alphabetical format. This explains some of its specific features. Most of the entries are direct quotes from well over 160 papers and monographs by more than thirty representatives of the Prague School. References are included in the entries. The list of the excerpted sources precedes the dictionary itself. Some entries do not contain mere terminological definitions, but rather explain the essential theoretical positions of the Prague School and its differences from the approaches of other related schools. This is attested to by entries such as function in the Prague conception, linguistics—its future tasks, language and the game of chess, the study of the history of language/historical linguistics/and Prague structuralism, and so forth. Other entries show the breadth of interest of the Prague School representatives: language and music, language and society, language and thought, and so on. The book contains indices of French, German, and Czech equivalents of headwords contained in the dictionary.

The English translation of the Dictionnaire will surely contribute to a better understanding of the ideas promoted by the Prague School, proving their vitality. The volume is highly recommended to general linguists, to historians of linguistics, and to all who want to enrich their work with the concepts of this important linguistic school.

Jan Holeš
Palacky University, Czech Republic


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pp. 521-522
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