Émile Benveniste


Émile Benveniste

Émile Benveniste (1902, Aleppo (Syria) – 1976) was a French structural linguist, an apprentice of A. Meillet and his successor, who, in his later years, became enlightened by the structural view of language through the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, although he was unwilling to grasp it at first, being a convinced follower of the sociological stance of his teacher.

He is best known for his work on Indo-European languages and his expansion of the linguistic paradigm established by Saussure. Initially studying under Antoine Meillet, a former student of Saussure, at the Sorbonne, he began teaching at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and was elected to the Collège de France a decade later in 1937 as professor of linguistics. By this time he had already begun his investigation into the status of names within the history of Indo-European linguistic forms. He held his seat at the Collège de France until 1969 when he retired due to deteriorating health. However, he has served as the first President of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, 1969–1972.

At the start of his career, Benveniste's highly specialised and technical work limited his influence to a small circle of scholars. The publication of his monumental text, "Problèmes de linguistique générale" or "Problems in General Linguistics", would elevate his position to much wider recognition. The two volumes of this work appeared in 1966 and 1974 respectively. The book exhibits not only a scientific rigour but also a lucid style accessible to the layman, consisting of various writings culled from a period of more than twenty-five years. In Chapter 5, "Animal Communication and Human Language", Benveniste refutes behaviourist linguistic interpretations by demonstrating that human speech, unlike the so-called languages of bees and other animals, cannot be merely reduced to a stimulus-response system.

The I-you polarity is another important development explored in the text. The third person acts under the conditions of possibility of this polarity between the first and second persons. Narration and description illustrate this.:"I" signifies "the person who is uttering the present instance of the discourse containing "I"." This instance is unique by definition and has validity only in its uniqueness ... "I" can only be identified by the instance of discourse that contains it and by that alone."You", on the other hand, is defined in this way::by introducing the situation of "address," we obtain a symmetrical definition for "you" as "the individual spoken to in the present instance of discourse containing the linguistic instance of "you"." These definitions refer to "I" and "you" as a category of language and are related to their position in language. -- from "Problems in General Linguistics"

A pivotal concept in Benveniste's work is the distinction between the "énoncé" and the "énonciation", which grew out of his study on pronouns. The "énoncé" is the statement independent of context, whereas the "énonciation" is the act of stating as tied to context. In essence, this distinction moved Benveniste to see language itself as a "discursive instance" - fundamentally as discourse. This discourse is, in turn, the actual utilisation, the very enactment, of language.

Publications translated to English

*1969: "Indo-European language and society", translated by Elizabeth Palmer. London: Faber and Faber 1973. ISBN 0870242504.
*1966-1974: "Problems in general linguistics", translated by Mary Elizabeth Meek, 2 vols. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami, P 1971. ISBN 087024132X.

elected works

* "Hittite et indo-européen : études comparatives"
* "Indo-European language and society"
* "Les infinitifs avestiques"
* "Langue, discours, société"
* "Origines de la formation des noms en indo-européen"
* "The Persian religion, according to the chief Greek texts"
* "Problèmes de linguistique générale"
* "Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes"
* "Inscriptions de bactriane extraits"


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  • Emile Benveniste — Émile Benveniste (* 27. Mai 1902 in Aleppo, Syrien; † 3. Oktober 1976 in Paris) war ein französischer Linguist in der Tradition des de Saussureschen Strukturalismus. Eine bekannte Aufsatzsammlung Benvenistes trägt den Titel Problèmes de… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Émile Benveniste — (* 27. Mai 1902 in Aleppo, Syrien; † 3. Oktober 1976 in Paris) war ein französischer Linguist in der Tradition des de Saussureschen Strukturalismus. Eine Aufsatzsammlung Benvenistes trägt den Titel Problèmes de linguistique générale (Deutsch:… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Emile Benveniste — Émile Benveniste Pour les articles homonymes, voir Benveniste (homonymie). Émile Benveniste (prononciation : [bɛ̃venistə]), né à Alep en Syrie le 27 mai 1902 et mort à Paris le 3 octobre 1976, est un linguiste français, qui s est… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Émile Benveniste — Nacimiento 27 de mayo de 1902 Alepo …   Wikipedia Español

  • Émile Benveniste — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Benveniste (homonymie). Émile Benveniste Linguiste occidental XXe siècle Naissance : 27 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • BENVENISTE (É.) — Émile Benveniste fut l’un des plus grands linguistes contemporains. Ses contributions essentielles concernent les études indo européennes, la linguistique synchronique et la linguistique théorique. Il fut élu au Collège de France en 1937 et il y… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • BENVENISTE, ABRAHAM — (1406–1454), court rabbi in Castile mentioned in crown documents dating from about 1430. The young king, John II, handed over the government of Castile to two noblemen, who appointed Benveniste, a native of Soria, to restore its shaky fiscal… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Benveniste — ist der Name folgender Persönlichkeiten: ben Chijja al Dajjan Benveniste (1170–1200?), jüdischer Dichter Émile Benveniste (1902–1976), französischer Sprachwissenschaftler Hayyiim ben Israel Benveniste (1603–1673), Rabbi von Smyrna Jacques… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Benveniste — (Spanish bien venida = welcome) is the surname of an old, rich, and scholarly family of Narbonne, France, several branches of which were found all over Spain and the Provence, France, as well as at various places in the Orient. It is also borne… …   Wikipedia

  • Benveniste (Homonymie) — Benveniste Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Le patronyme Benveniste a été porté par plusieurs personnalités (par ordre alphabétique) : Émile Benveniste est un linguiste français,… …   Wikipédia en Français


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