The purpose of the present Reader has been to make accessible to the linguistically trained reader a number of basic papers on general linguistic issues by some members of the Prague lin- guistic group, which supply information on the approach by the Prague group to some fundamental problems. It has been considered useful to publish such an anthology, since most of the books or periodicals in which the papers originally appeared have long been out of print (especially the volumes of the series Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague). The papers are given here in their original languages if they were written in English, French, or German; papers originally written in Czech or Russian are given in English translation. One of these papers deserves to be noted especially: V. Mathesius’ article “On the Potentiality of the Phenomena of Language,” published as far back as 1911, which anticipated much of the approach to be taken by the Prague group some twenty, or even more, years later.
Most of the papers originated between the years 1928 and 1948, which delimit what might be called the “classical” period of the Prague linguistic group. The further development of Prague linguistic thought is reflected in some of the most recent Prague publications, mainly in the collective volume L’école de Prague d’aujourd’hui (Travaux Linguistiques de Prague, vol. 1), to be published in the fall of 1964. The title of the book suggests the link between the present-day Prague linguistic approach and the prewar Prague tradition, even though some of the prewar theses have been critically reevaluated and systematically con- fronted with the achievements of other groups of modern Unguis- tic thinking.
Many important papers which might have been included in this Reader have been omitted on the ground that they have been printed in recent years in other generally accessible editions. This is mainly true of some papers by N. S. Troubetzkoy which are included in the Appendix to the French translation of his Grundzuge der Phonologie (Principes de phonologie, trans, by J. Cantineau, Paris, 1949). and of all articles on phonemic issues written by R. Jakobson, which may be found in Vol. I of his Selected Writings (‘s Gravenhage, 1962).
The editor thankfully recalls the initiative and friendly help of Professor Thomas A. Sebeok, who kindly suggested that a reader of this sort should be issued, and recommended its publication to the Indiana University Press. Thanks are also due to Academician B. Havránek and other members of the Prague group, who were very helpful in providing the materials for the Reader or in advising on how to handle them.
Prague, December 1963J. V.