In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

HALF A CENTURY OF THE LINGUISTIC SOCIETY ElNAR HAUGEN Harvard University In the first year of its existence, Leonard Bloomfield asked and answered the question, 'Why a Linguistic Society?' When it was twenty-one years old, he was satisfied that the Society had 'come of age', and he enumerated some of the benefits that had accrued from its activity. Now, in its fiftieth year, we can say that it has achieved a comfortable maturity; but it is also faced with new problems and responsibilities . What in 1945 was still a modest young society has shown extraordinary growth, beyond anything that could have been dreamed ofin Bloomfield's day. As we pause briefly to look back, are we justified in thinking that the Society has fulfilled the hopes of its founders ? Can we draw on the experiences of these years in charting our course into the future ? One of the benefits that Bloomfield named has surely continued to flow: 'We now met fellow-workers whom we had never met before; we heard and debated new topics; we learned from each other, formed lasting friendships, and gained immeasurably in the vividness of our professional life.' The truth ofthis observation is confirmed by the fact that many of us have kept coming back to meeting after meeting over the years, listening often to papers that were less than entertaining and that we could perhaps have read more comfortably at home. Now that meetings have grown huge and unwieldy and are fractionated into specialized sections, some of the old quality is lost. Like the larger societies from which it broke off, the Linguistic Society has moved toward becoming more of a job market and a nonscholastic forum. But it is still a place where younger scholars can watch their elders in personal performance, and where they can plot against their dominance in happy unawareness of the fact that their elders did the same when they were young. Each of us treasures his own memories, and I may be pardoned if I refer to the first meeting I attended, the annual meeting of 1937 in Chicago. According to the secretary's report, only 72 members attended, of a total membership of 482. In Atlanta, thirty-five years later, there were 493 in attendance, or more than the entire membership in 1937—which, by 1972, was nearly ten times as large, or 4,625. The 1937 volume of Language comprised a mere 335 pages, while that of 1972 was a massive tome of more than a thousand. Many of the founders ofthe Society were still with us in 1937: besides Bloomfield, such venerables as George Boiling, Carl Darling Buck, Franklin Edgerton, George T. Flom, Charles C. Fries, E. Adelaide Hahn, Roland G. Kent, and Edgar H. Sturtevant. I recall most gratefully how warmly we new or recent members were welcomed and quickly admitted to the fellowship of linguistics. There was a sense of excitement in the air, a realization that we were present at the dawn of a new era in the history of linguistics. We were developing the instruments for a science that would no longer be assigned a secondary role in language departments, which were increasingly turning to the study of literature. 619 620LANGUAGE, VOLUME 50, NUMBER 4 (1974) In recalling meetings attended, one is likely to remember personal rather than professional experiences. One thinks of Bernard Bloch's trenchant wit, of Adelaide Hahn's abrasive voice and magnificent hats, of Martin Joos's patient expostulation with the forces of unreason. But in looking over the list of younger persons whom I met at that 1937 meeting or at others soon to follow, the impressive thing is that they quickly became the leading generation of new American linguists. Their names have filled the pages of Language and the roster of officers ofthe Society, and they have written the textbooks of linguistics for the last quarter of a century. It was Bloomfield's impression in 1945 that American scholars started 'where the older workers left off,' and that the Linguistic Society promoted 'cumulative progress' and 'increasing social maturity' in linguistics. Americans did not make a habit of 'proclaiming themselves a "school" and denouncing all persons...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 619-621
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.