Historical journey in a linguistic archipelago: Descriptive concepts and case studies

Émilie Aussant   Jean-Michel Fortis  


This volume offers a selection of papers presented during the 14th International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences (ICHoLS XIV, Paris, 2017). Part I brings together studies dealing with descriptive concepts. First examined is the notion of “accidens” in Latin grammar and its Greek counterparts. Other papers address questions with a strong echo in today’s linguistics: localism and its revival in recent semantics and syntax, the origin of the term “polysemy” and its adoption through Bréal, and the difficulties attending the description of prefabs, idioms and other “fixed expressions”. This first part also includes studies dealing with representations of linguistic phenomena, whether these concern the treatment of local varieties (so-called patois) in French research, or the import and epistemological function of spatial representations in descriptions of linguistic time. Or again, now taking the word “representation” literally, the visual display of grammatical relations, in the form of the first syntactic diagrams. Part II presents case studies which involve wider concerns, of a social nature: the “from below” approach to the history of Chinese Pidgin English underlines the social roles of speakers and the diversity of speech situations, while the scrutiny of Lhomond’s Latin and French textbooks demonstrates the interplay of pedagogical practice, cross-linguistic comparison and descriptive innovation. An overview of early descriptions of Central Australian languages reveals a whole spectrum of humanist to positivist and antihumanist stances during the colonial age. An overarching framework is also at play in the anthropological perspective championed by Meillet, whose socially and culturally oriented semantics is shown to live on in Benveniste. The volume ends with a paper on Trần Đức Thảo, whose work is an original synthesis between phenomenology and Marxist semiology, wielded against the “idealistic” doctrine of Saussure.


  • Introduction
    Émilie Aussant, Jean-Michel Fortis
  • Le terme accidentia chez les grammairiens romains
    Vladimir I. Mazhuga
  • From localism to neolocalism
    Jean-Michel Fortis
  • Spatialization of time as a scientification strategy
    Beauzée, Guillaume and the conceptual school of cognitive linguistics
    Lin Chalozin-Dovrat
  • Grammar and graphical semiotics in early syntactic diagrams
    Clark (1847) and Reed-Kellogg (1876)
    Nicolas Mazziotta
  • Aux origines de la notion de polysémie en français
    La formation du concept
    Bruno Courbon
  • The unfixed status of fixed expressions
    Past and present approaches to a pervasive linguistic feature
    T. Craig Christy
  • Language history from below
    Pidgins and Creoles as examples
    Michelle Li
  • Analyse comparative des Élémens de la grammaire françoise de Lhomond et de ses Élémens de la grammaire latine
    Sophie Piron
  • Crosscurrents in linguistic research
    Humanism and positivism in Central Australia 1890–1910
    David Moore
  • La Revue des Patois Gallo-Romans (1887–1892) et la représentation de l’oral
    Gabriel Bergounioux
  • “Mithra aux vastes pâturages”
    L’antropologia di Émile Benveniste
    Silvia Frigeni
  • Per una semiologia materialista e dialettica
    Trần Đức Thảo critico di Saussure
    Jacopo D’Alonzo



Émilie Aussant, CNRS / Université de Paris
Emilie Aussant is a member of the group Histoire des Théories Linguistiques (CNRS / Université de Paris). Her research focuses on the history of classical Sanskrit grammar (vyākaraṇa).
Jean-Michel Fortis, CNRS / Université de Paris
Jean-Michel Fortis is a member of the group Histoire des Théories Linguistiques (CNRS / Université de Paris). His main research areas are the history of American and of cognitive linguistics, and the interplay between linguistic and psychological ideas, especially during the 20th century.


December 12, 2020
LaTeX source on GitHub

Online ISSN


Print ISSN

Cite as
Aussant, Émilie & Fortis, Jean-Michel (eds.). 2020. Historical journey in a linguistic archipelago: Descriptive concepts and case studies. (History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences 3). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.4269397


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Details about the available publication format: PDF


ISBN-13 (15)


Publication date (01)




Details about the available publication format: Hardcover


ISBN-13 (15)