From the need to understand and translate languages comes the study of their structure.
In the early 20th century, language scholars decided they needed a theory of linguistic structure and a strategy for analyzing those structures. And so was born the field of structural linguistics. Some of the first pioneers included the anthropologists Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, and Leonard Bloomfield. When historical comparative linguistics bumped up against unfamiliar languages, the linguist’s first job was to thoroughly dissect and delineate the language for closer study.
In Europe there was a parallel development of structural linguistics most strongly inspired by Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss student of Indo-European and general linguistics. His lectures on general linguistics, published posthumously by his students, set the tone and direction of European linguistic analysis from the 1920s forward. His approach has been widely embraced in other fields under the umbrella of the term “Structuralism.”
For most of the Second World War, Leonard Bloomfield and several of his protégées and colleagues improved and refined teaching materials for a variety of languages whose expertise was needed for the war effort. This work led to an escalating eminence in the field of linguistics, which became a recognized discipline in most American universities only after the war. Starting in 1980, pragmatic, functional, and cognitive approaches have steadily gained ground in both the U.S. and Europe.” 1
Which approach do you find most effective in the study of linguistics? Or do you find a combination of the three necessary for a true understanding of the material?
1 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_linguistics