‘The Phonetic Structure of a Cypriotic Dialect’: A Rediscovered Paper by J. R. Firth1

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The Philological Society President and Secretary's Annual Report for 1937 (Braunholtz & Woodward 1938) reports that J. R. Firth read a paper on ‘The Phonetic Structure of a Cypriotic Dialect’ to the meeting of the Society on 29 May 1937. Firth's paper was never published, and its very existence was subsequently forgotten. Happily, a manuscript and handout for the lecture as well as copious background notes relating to the study have recently come to light at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Though somewhat incomplete, much of the content of the paper can be pieced together to yield a surprising new addition to the body of Firth's work.

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... Among the better understood differences between CG and SMG are lexical, phonetic, and (morpho)phonological properties of the language (e.g. Menardos 1969;Newton 1972;Arvaniti 2001;Coleman 2006). However, there is a research gap for morphosyntactic description and analysis of adult CG grammar other than treatments of the clitic systems, first raised by Terzi (1999aTerzi ( , 1999b and subsequently investigated by other researchers over the past decade (in between Agouraki 2001 and Neokleous in progress). ...
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This article presents a sketch of the life and work of J. R. Firth, the first professor of general linguistics in Great Britain and President of the Philological Society from 1954 to 1957, based on a study of existing biographical literature and commentary, Firth’s publications, and various hitherto unpublished archive materials. The article sheds new light on matters such as Firth’s entry into the fledgling field of linguistics in Britain, his relationships with colleagues such as Daniel Jones and Arthur Lloyd James, and his alleged attempts to present a book-length exposition of his views on linguistics and phonetics.
SUMMARY The present paper is a report on research on the British linguist John Rupert Firth (1890–1960) carried out in Britain during the academic year 2000–2001. It sketches some characteristics of Firth’s personality, scholarly life and thinking based on two kinds of different sources: the testimonies of people who were close to him and recently found historical documents. The main contribution of this paper is to furnish fresh data about Firth’s biography with particular reference to the question of how he became interested in the science of language. RÉSUMÉ Le présent article est un rapport de recherche dont le sujet est la vie et l’oeuvre du linguiste britannique John Rupert Firth (1890–1960). On présente les résultats de la recherche que l’auteur a menée en Grande Bretagne pendant l’année académique 2000–2001. Quelques caractéristiques de la personnalité de Firth, aussi bien que de sa vie et de sa pensée scientifique sont esquissées. Deux sources sont à la base du présent rapport: les témoignages des personnes qui l’ont connu et des documents récemment retrouvés. La contribution principale de ce rapport est d’ajouter de nouvelles données à la biographie de Firth, et en particulier, à l’intinéraire intellectuelle de Firth qui l’a amené à la science du langage. ZUSAMMENFASSUNG Der Beitrag ist ein Bericht über Nachforschungen zu Leben und Werk des britischen Sprachwissenschaftlers John Rupert Firth (1890–1960), die während des akademischen Jahres 2000–2001 in Grossbritannien durchgeführt wurden. Im wesentlichen wird Firths Persönlichkeit und Werdegang auf Grundlage von zwei unterschiedlichen Quellensorten skizziert: Zeugnisse von Personen, die Firth nahe standen, und erst kürzlich aufgefundene Schriftstücke. Das Hauptanliegen dieses Beitrags ist es, neue Fakten zu Firths Biographie zu liefern, und zwar insbesondere unter der Fragestellung, wie sich Firths Interesse an Sprache und Sprachwissenschaft entwickelt hat.
Any new attempt at synthesis in linguistics must consider the origins of our theories and terminology. That necessitates the application of the technique of semantics, both historical and descriptive, to the language used about language. To begin with, such terms as speech and language must be examined. Speech as the expression of language and personality. Semantic links with the biological and social sciences. Outline of a new approach in phonetics and phonology involving a rectification of terms and technique.
The author has developed a theory of speech which stresses the fact that speech is no bilateral affair consisting of articulate sounds as distinct from meaning, but is really quadrilateral, requiring a speaker, listener, words, and things to be spoken about. The speech arises from a desire of a speaker to acquaint a listener with the "thing-meant." The listener must think as actively as the speaker and must draw upon his past experiences with the speech symbol to identify his thinking with that of the speaker. Words in themselves do not mean anything, although they may represent sentences when supplemented by figures of speech, gesture, or past experience on the part of listener and speaker. Word-function is "the work which a spoken word has to perform in order to present the thing meant by the speaker in the formal character in which he must be supposed to have intended the listeners to see it." Word-function is distinguished from word-form, which the author discusses in reference to syntax, grammar, and the internal and external attributes of the word. The sentence, not the word, is the unit of actual speech and differs from language because it is language meaningfully applied to some state of things and purposely addressed to some listener. Speech is elastic, so that two sentences with the same words may have entirely different meanings, depending on the various factors concerned, such as sentence form, word order, meaning of silence, and the uses of various parts of speech. The book contains detailed discussions and illustrations of these various points. These are based on examples found in the English language, although other languages are freely drawn upon. The author compares his theories with those of others, particularly Jespersen, Ries and Wundt. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Battaner-Moro (2003), a paper presented at the 15th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences, advances several erroneous claims concerning J. R. Firth's contributions to prosodic phonology. In this note, I show that the central aspects of Firth's phonological thinking were already manifest in his publications from the 1930s.
This paper presents a Firthian Prosodic Analysis of the French verb. The original analysis was done by J. C. Carnochan, N. C. Scott and E. M. Whitley at SOAS in the early 1950s, and was presented at a departmental seminar in 1954. The paper is important for several reasons: it is one of the few extant pieces of work in which Eileen Whitley had a hand; it is the only documented prosodic analysis of a major Indo–European language carried out at SOAS by Firth's co–workers, and as such it has great historical value; and finally it portrays an important stage in the development of FPA. Our paper describes the history of the original manuscript and explains the phonological analysis it contains. Some comparison is made with a contemporaneous phonemic analysis of French.
  • Collins
‘International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Section H. Languages and Writing’
  • Firth
‘The accent in French - What is accent?’
  • Jones
‘The early career of J. R. Firth’
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‘J. R. Firth: life, work and legacy’
  • Plug
‘Annual Report for 1937’
  • Braunholtz
‘Projet de terminologie phonologique standardisée,’
  • Cercle Linguistique de Prague
‘Phonological features of some Indian languages’
  • Firth
‘Alphabets and phonology in India and Burma’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies
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