Bloomfield, Leonard

Bloomfield, Leonard, 1887–1949, American linguist, b. Chicago. Bloomfield was professor at Ohio State Univ. (1921–27), at the Univ. of Chicago (1927–40), and at Yale (from 1940). His specialty for years was Germanic languages, especially in their comparative aspects. He became interested, however, in languages from a scientific, descriptive viewpoint. His masterpiece Language (1933) is a standard text. It had a profound influence on linguistics, for it was a clear statement of principles that became axiomatic, notably that language study must always be centered in the spoken language, as against documents; that the definitions used in grammar should be based on the forms of the language, not on the meanings of the forms; and that a given language at a given time is a complete system of sounds and forms that exist independently of the past—so that the history of a form does not explain its actual meaning. His other works include Tagalog Texts with Grammatical Analysis (1917), Linguistic Aspects of Science (1939), Spoken Dutch (1945), and Spoken Russian (1945).

See R. A. Hall, Leonard Bloomfield: Essays on His Life and Work (1987).

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