Apart from various shortcomings, structural linguistics undoubtedly had also its positive features, which became manifest in the historical and comparative studies of Slavic language especially in their phonemic analyses. Some of the principles structural linguists had fought out were to become, in course of time, more or less unquestionable maxims of linguistic research in general, and thus of Slavic linguistic work as well. We want to point out, in these lines, the most important of these principles, with regard to the study of Slavic languages. At the same time, we are fully conscious of the fact that structural lin guistics had never been uniform, and that there have always been fairly large differences of opinion even among the membership of the Prague linguistic group, with which we are chiefly concerned here.
As the first important principle of structural linguistics should be regarded the conception of 1 a n g u a g e as a system. Language is a system whose component parts are mutually interrelated in various ways and at the same time condition one another. The systemic character of language has not been declared by the structuralists alone: the latter, however, were the first to try and delimit both the nature of language systems and the character of the relations found within these systems. In some cases a universally accepted solution has not been reached, but on the whole the structural conception has proved its efficiency both in descriptive (synchronistic) and in historically (diachronically) oriented writings. Thus, e.g., one has demonstrated the importance of binary relations and of distinguishing between the marked and unmarked members in functionally opposed pairs. In stressing the binary relations, however, the members of the Prague group sometimes went too far (e.g., in analysing the case system of Slavic nouns).
The linguists belonging to the Prague group saw an essential feature of language systems in the f u η c ? i o η ? 1 tasks of language, in its practical application. They stressed not only the importance of the relations existing within language systems but also the relations of language systems and language utterances to extra-lingual reality. In phonemics, to which chief attention was paid in the Prague group, the material substratum, i.e., the acoustic and physiological facts, was duly considered. Stress laid on the functional aspect of language implied also attention to the relations between language and thinking, but this relation was not satisfactorily respected. This was due, among other things, to the negative attitude towards the so-called linguistic psychologism. This attitude was, in its time, historically legitimate - it contributed, e.g., to a more exact conception of the phoneme, but in the course of time it was to slow down the progress of Prague structuralist linguistics.
The fruitfulness of the systemic conception was demonstrated in the examination of the development of language. In studying Slavic languages most of the work was done in historical phonology (most attention was paid to the phonemics of Proto-Slavic). The interdependence of phonic development and the development of the grammatical system was mainly considered in connection with the development of the declension of Czech nouns. The explanatory capacity of the systemic conception was also demonstrated in the historical comparative study of the Slavic verb, where one ascertained, e.g., the variability of relations of the categories of tense and verbal aspect. On the other hand, the Prague structuralists have failed to work out a methodological basis for the examination of syntax, and thus they hardly influenced, on the whole, the historical comparative study of the syntax of Slavic languages.
The systemic and functionalist conception led the members of the Prague group to visualize language as a complex, intrinsically differentiated whole with distinct stratification. In the standard language one distinguished functional languages or styles, suchas, e.g., specialized (expert) style, poetic style, colloquial style, etc. Sometimes one even spoke of a complex system consisting of a number of functional partial systems. In some writings of the Prague group the functional autonomy of such partial systems was over-emphasized. Thus the poetic language was said to be an entirely independent functional structure the specific feature of which lay in the violation of the norm of the standard language. Upon the whole, however, the conception of language as a functionally differentiated whole has worked well, and good results have also been obtained in studying the developments of standard Slavic languages (the most notable contributions dealt with the Czech language).
A consistently systemic conception of language led the structurally oriented linguists to stress the synchronous aspect of language. In examining the development of language one realized the need of confronting language systems of different historical periods and of examining i η d i vi d u a 1 phenomena as sys- temically conditioned, conformably to the principle urging that a system is given by a synchronous co-existence of its individual component parts. In the synchronistic approach one emphasized the advantage of examining what is actually going on in language: this, in fact, is the only approach enabling the analyst to get hold of the language system in its multiform, unreduced complexity. The experience and the results obtained in analysing the present state of language were subsequently to be made use of in studying language development.
The programmatic principles of the Prague group included the non-opposing of synchronistic and diachron- istic analysis of language, such as would suggest the methodological incompatibility of both kinds of analysis. It was emphasized that in the historical analysis one should start from the systemic (i.e., synchronistic) conception, and that in the synchronistic analysis one must take into consideration the dynamism of the system of language. The emphasis has led, among other things, to a fruitful distinction between productive and nonproductive grammatical types, such as is also common in Soviet linguistics.
One of those outstanding features of the structuralist approach, which even nowadays may be evaluated in the positive, is the distinction established between language as a system (‘langue’) and concrete happenings in language, language-events (‘parole’, speech). The mutual relation of ‘langue’ and ‘parole’ was not always properly understood, but the critics of the structuralist conception, too, were sometimes unable to see the issue quite correctly. ‘Langue’ should be conceived as an abstract system of norms; it is a necessary prerequisite of mutual understanding, but it has no independent form of existence and can be recognized only from concrete utterances [specimens of ‘parole’, J. V,]. It should be added that ‘parole’, the process of speaking, includes not only concrete acts of speaking, but also acts of listening and decoding. In examining concrete happenings in language one should also consider the so-called ‘inner speech’, which necessarily accompanies all psychical processes, and also silent reading. Admittedly, structurally oriented linguists have made more progress in examining the problems of ‘langue’ than in studying ‘parole’. In the study of the latter, most attention has been devoted so far to contexts of poetry and fiction. Structuralist research of the Prague group in poetics and sty- listics has achieved remarkable results only in the study of Czech and Russian.
As the most outstanding feature of the theory of the structuralists of all shades should be denoted the emphasis laid on the sign-like character of language. The structuralists, however, have not always been able to explain where the essence of this sign-like character should be seen and they have not always been able to give a convincing answer to those who denied that character. Nowadays it is almost commonly admitted that the essence of the sign-like character of language lies in the absence of motivation in the relation binding together the phonic form and the extra-lingual reality to which this phonic form refers. Some linguists of the Prague group (in the first place, the late J. M. Koffnek) held the view that in language one should distinguish between conventional and natural signlike relation. The natural sign-like relation implies intrinsic motivation of the phonic form by the extra-lingual reality referred to; it was ascertained in the phonic make-up of some words (mainly interjections), and in some means shaping the phonic form of sentences (mainly in the intonation of the sentence).
In examining these phenomena, structurally oriented linguists have not been able to work out reliable methods. The same is true of phono-stylistics, where all that was done was the setting forth of the plan of work. The chief domain of structuralist phonemics remained the examination of sound systems: for this examination, a genuinely scholarly method, based on a precise system of concepts, was successfully worked out. On the other hand, in working out a methodological basis for the examination of grammatical systems the members of the Prague group have never reached unanimity on the main issues. The principle of isomorphism, urging that the grammatical system is organized, essentially, on the same lines as the system of sounds, has never reached anything like general acceptance in the Prague group and no use has been made of it in the study of Slavic languages.
*Originally published in Czech, no title. From Rkponses -aux questions lin uistiques a u IVe Congres International -de -Sla - -vistes (Moscow* . ~OTXran.slat ed by Josef Vachek.