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Vyacheslav Ivanov 

Bakhtin's Theory Of Language From The Standpoint Of Modern Science



1.Preliminary Remarks. The present paper studies the relevance of BakhtinТs theory of language and discourse for modern linguistics and trans(=meta)linguistics and for the verbal communication theory. Although Bakhtin by no means was only a professional linguist, he was well-read in modern linguistic literature (some names important for him are mentioned below) and had good philological expertise in Greek, Latin, Romance, German, Russian and Church Slavonic texts. He approached language from the point of view of some of his general philosophical anthropological concepts (such as the idea of the Other and the dialogical principle; the opposition of official and unofficial elements of culture and the role of carnival). Language played an important part in his thinking about humanities, verbal art and particularly novel. He belonged to those great thinkers of the century (as, for instance, Wittgenstein, Russell, Bohr, Florensky, Spet) whose philosophy had a characteristic Уlinguistic turnФ seen also in great poets of the period (MandelТstam, T.S.Eliot, Brodsky). BakhtinТs ideas influenced modern studies of language and helped to redefine the borders of linguistics itself. I believe that in XXI century some of these ideas might be fully appreciated and integrated into linguistic studies after the latter cease to be restricted to a dogmatic point of view of one school only (for instance, generative grammar at some American University departments).

The main difficulty in understanding Bakhtin's early views on linguistic theory consists of the peculiar mixed character of our sources. As it is also in the discussion on Freud, early Bakhtin' s thoughts on language are known only through his writings in disguise (where a mixture with Marxist point of view was made necessary by the goal of the whole work). But in this case it is possible also to study writings that Bakhtin wrote much later comparing them to his early work.

2.Bakhtinian Dialogue with Saussure. Bakhtin's attitude towards pre-structural algebraic view on system of language particularly in Saussure's Course of general Linguistics was determined by his dialogical principle. It is a general approach, valid in different spheres. Bakhtin applied it to language. This original vuew completely transformed the notional background of linguistics. He opposed all the main positions of Saussure' s theory[1]. Bakhtin rejects the point of view according to which there are only a unitary language (langue) and an individual speech (parole). To him this notion is explained by the history of European languages and does not imply universal linguistic laws: ЂThe victory of one reigning language (dialect) over the others, the supplanting of languages, their enslavement, the process of illuminating them with the True Word, the incorporation of barbarians and lower social strata into a unitary language of culture and truth, the canonization of ideological systems, philology with its methods of studying and teaching dead languages, languages that were by that very fact Ђunitiesї, Indo-European linguistics with its focus of attention, directed away from language plurality to a single proto-language- all this determined the content and power of the category of Ђunitary languageї in linguistic and stylistic thought, and determined its creative, style-shaping role in the majority of the poetic genres that coalesced in the channel formed by those same centripetal forces of verbal-ideological lifeї[2]. This general scheme seems particularly important now when the number of endangered languages grows rapidly (according to a widely accepted prediction no more than 600 languages out of 6.000 will survive in the nearest future) and such an influential theory as generative grammar has been based originally on one unitary language only (without paying much attention to heteroglossia inside American English).

Another aspect of Saussure's theory that Bakhtin opposes is connected to the nature of linguistic sign. An isolated linguistic sign does not exist in reality. A monological utterance (that according to Bakhtin, was a normal linguistic correspondence to the other monological institutions of the societies of his time) is Ђalready an abstractionї. ЂAny utterance- the finished, written utterance not excepted- makes response to something and is calculated to be responded in turnї 1. To translate it into the terms of linguistic theories that appeared after Bakhtin's main works on language had been published, one may say that for him performance and not competence is crucial. In other words, he considered a language system to be secondary whereas the text had primary significance. Bakhtin's critique of Saussure's linguistic theory is partly similar to his critique of the Formalist approach to literature. In both cases he opposes a systematic description that, as he supposed, lead to simplistic formulae. One may attempt to compare the opposition of Saussure and Bakhtin to that of Hilbert and Goedel. No matter how attractive Hilbert's program of developing mathematics as a purely formal system based on initial set of axioms might seem, according to Goedel's theorem a complete non-contradictory formalization of an even elementary relatively simple field of arithmetical knowledge is impossible. Yet even after Goedel's theorem had been proven, such great structuralists as Kuryłowicz suggested Hilbert's program of axiomatization as a pattern to be followed by linguists. An exact parallel of Hilbert's views of mathematical systems and those of Saussure concerning linguistic patterns is seen particularly in their understanding of signs as the main elements. When Bakhtin did not approve Saussure he was arguing just against those aspects of his system that make it similar to a mathematical one (in some aspects, as in Saussurean study of 'equations' of Indo-European ablaut that approach lead to magnificent discoveries, as brilliantly shown by Hjelmslev).

In a retrospect view one may distinguish two main trends in linguistics of the XXth century. The dominant line of research followed Saussure or appeared to be parallel to his work. On this way elaboration of formal and/or structural principles has been achieved by the Prague and Copenhagen linguistic circles as well as in descriptive linguistics and generative grammar as well as in related fields of computational and mathematical linguistics. But scholars like Leo Spitzer (who was Bakhtin's favorite linguist) and other philologists influenced by Vossler and Croce opposed this purely formal view finding it hostile to cultural and aesthetic apprehension of verbal texts[3]. Bakhtin was influenced by the school of Vossler . His views on Croce may be compared to the thoughts of Sapir expressed approximately at the same time. Particularly important for Bakhtin were SpitzerТs stylistic studies. Present-day poststructuralist movement has found in Bakhtin some arguments speaking in favor of the second approach. But as Bakhtin's views (particularly in his later period) were sufficiently broad, semioticians (partly developing Saussurean ideas) have also seen in Bakhtin their predecessor. In the future one may hope for a synthetic theory that would unite some achievements of post-Saussurean studies of linguistic signs and the aspects of verbal texts discovered by Bakhtin and his followers. The two approaches seem to be complementary in the sense of Niels Bohr's notion of complementarity. If a scholar is interested in a set of linguistic units and features that characterize grammar as such (for instance, in the main stream of comparative historical reconstruction), he or she would attempt to concentate on Ђlangueї in Saussurean sense. If utterances or verbal texts are the chief object of research, Bakhtinian point of view would prevail. The XXth century stressed differences between opposing points of view leaving a possible synthesis to next generations. To use another physical metaphor, the great unifying theory yet to be built should unite a macro-world of a language system (langue) and a micro-world of an utterance or a text.

3.Metalinguistics: study of utterances and texts. Mikhail Bakhtin was the first to discover a difference between an abstract linguistic system of signs and a concrete utterance in which each sign gets another function due to its role in the whole of discourse. Twenty years later this distinction was rediscovered by the great French linguist Émile Benveniste. Benveniste suggested that a purely semiotic approach to language would be possible only insofar as linguistic signs are concerned. The structure of the texts should be studied by semantics. The gap between system and text had constituted the main point of BenvenisteТs semiotic theory of language[4] that influenced later research[5].

In his early works Bakhtin stressed the importance of purely linguistic study of texts (utterances) that are larger than a complex sentence. Surveying the underdeveloped fields of linguistics he wrote: Ђnothing has been worked out yet in the department concerned with the study of large verbal entities- long utterances from everyday life, dialogue, speech, treatise, novel, and so on- for these utterances Е can be and must be defined and studied in purely linguistic terms, as verbal phenomena. The examination of these phenomena in old handbooks of poetics and rhetoric and in their contemporary variant- descriptive poetics- cannot be considered scientific owing to Е mixing of the linguistic point of view with those completely alien to it- logical, psychological, aesthetic. The syntax of large verbal wholes (or- composition as as a department of linguistics, as distinct from composition which takes into account an artistic or a scientific task) still awaits its foundation and validation: scientifically, linguistics has still not moved beyond the complex sentence. The complex sentence is the most extended phenomenon of language that has been scientifically examined by linguistics: one gets the impression that the methodically pure language of linguistics suddenly comes to an end at this point, and what begins at once is science, poetry, and so on, and yet the purely linguistic analysis can be continued further, no matter how difficult it is and how tempting it may be to introduce here points of view that are alien to linguisticsї[6]. This field of research (later called metalinguistics by Bakhtin and translinguistics by Roland Barthes[7]) studying discourse as a field much broader than a sentence (which has remained the upper limit of a traditional linguistic study) became quite popular among the scholars at our time.

In the studies of Russian grammar of the 1950-ies among the first to investigate Уunits that are larger than phrasesФ (sverxfraznye edinstva) was Leonid A. Bulakhovsky[8]. Nikolay S. Pospelov tried to study Уcomplex syntactic wholes У (slozhnye sintaksicheskie celye ; each of such units might include several sentences) as a problem of Russian and general linguistics[9]. But his example shows how difficult it is to separate a purely linguistic approach to syntactic wholes (on which Bakhtin insisted in his early work) from the one based on poetics. Not only types of such wholes depend on the genre and verse structure. Practically for each of larger poetical compositions by Pushkin one has to study the problem separately. A theoretical thesis on the necessity of a strict distinction between these two approaches has not been supported by concrete studies (see below on the relation between linguistics and poetics).

On the verge of linguistics of text and poetics was also VinokurТs pioneering study of the language of The Misfortune of being Clever[10]. In it Vinokur studied the structure of theatrical cues (that may contain several dozen lines each).

In his pioneering studies of larger syntactical units Nikolay S. Pospelov has shown that in Russian (as in Serbo-Croatian according to BelichТ earlier work the results of which had been summed up by Pospelov[11]) it is impossible to speak about the value of verbal tenses without describing the whole of discourse. Similar methods were applied to determine the value of Japanese verbal forms by Nikolay Syromiatnikov[12]. In 1960-ies and 1970-ies linguistics of text became one of the established fields of the Russian science of language[13]. Partly parallel ideas were seen in the works of American linguists developing discourse theory (starting with Zellig HarrisТ works of the 1950-ies and early 1960-ies) and also in some other linguistic movements that were different in their methods, but similar in an attempt to include long complexes of sentences into the sphere of linguistic research. The functional grammar stressing the difference between theme and rheme, topic and comment (УgivenФ and СnewТ in a Czech variant of the theory) was moving towards building a bridge between the study of a discourse (on the background of which the distinction between these two main parts of an utterance is made) and each separate sentence (the link between the two aspects is clear also in a referential approach to pronouns and articles). In the study of clitics that became fashionable in the 1970-ies and 1980-ies structural features of an utterance became most prominent. While in the first draft of syntactical structure as attempted by Chomsky and his followers it was supposed that a sentence can be seen as consisting of a nominal phrase and a verbal phrase (SÞNP&VP), for many languages at least a tripartite scheme of an utterance has been proved to be valid. In Anatolian and many other ancient Indo-European dialects (such as the recently studied Old Novgorodian dialect of the birch-bark documents[14]) an utterance begins with a stressed word (often a conjunction) after which a long chain of grammatical enclitic elements follows (as shown in brilliant studies by Andrey Zalizhiak). They refer to the whole pragmatic and verb-actant scheme of the discourse and may have a scope broader than a sentence[15]. To describe such structures Zalizniak introduced a notion of a УbarrierФ after which a new chain of enclitics might reappear. The place of a barrier is determined by the pragmatic features of the discourse. The necessity to reconstruct Indo-European syntactic structure including such elements shows that the new point of view enters also a field of reconstruction that earlier belonged predominantly to the field of Saussurean research (see also below on the problem of the Indogermanische Dichtersprache). At the same time to study the order of enclitic elements in a chain one should develop a rank grammar that corresponds to the general principles of structural linguistics. On this example it is possible to see how the fusion of the two different points of view can be achieved.

There are several trends of modern science that helped to elaborate the theory of utterance. Particularly rewarding became works on the theory of speech acts, theory of reference and pragmatic methods[16]. In the writings of the Tartu-Moscow School an attempt was made to overcome the line separating system and text (that was evident at least for semioticians following Bakhtin and Benveniste). In the works of the scholars belonging to this school literary and other verbal texts became main objects of their study. They attempted to overcome the border separating the study of language as a system and that of an utterance without constructing different disciplines that Bakhtin and Bartes had proposed.

4.Monoglossia and Polyglossia. Bilingulism in the dialogical light. Monoglossia (absolute dominance of one language) typical of such an ancient city as Athens is opposed to polyglossia (coexistence of two languages, for instance of English and French in medieval England ). A spoken language in a modern society may seem to be more or less unified, but there are not only different social dialects (such as layers of New York English studied in the modern sociolinguistics), but also individual differences between speakers. A monological attitude is connected to monoglossia while a true dialogue is made possible through polyglossia. УLanguage is transformed from an absolute dogma it had been within the narrow framework of a sealed-off and impermeable monoglossia into a working hypothesis for comprehending and expressing reality. But such a full and complete transformation can occur only under certain conditions, namely, under the condition of thoroughgoing polyglossia. Only polyglossia fully frees consciousness from the tyranny of its own language and its own myth of languageФ[17]. Synthesis of a synchronic and diachronic view of language (again different from an orthodox Saussurean position[18]) is necessary to discern polyglotic elements inside seeming monoglossia. Synchronically speaking a modern literary language might seem representing monoglossia. But its history reveals traces of polyglossia. Bakhtin says: Ђ After all, one's own language is never a single language : in it there are always survivals of the past and of a potential for other- languagedness that is more or less sharply perceived by the working literary and language consciousnessї[19].

Recent research on the Greek dialects and on different layers of substrate words and later borrowings in Greek supports the general scheme suggested by Bakhtin: УContemporary scholarship has accumulated a mass of facts that testify to the intense struggle that goes on between languages and within languages, a struggle that preceded the relatively stable condition of Greek as we know it. A significant number of Greek roots belonged to the language of the people who had settled the territory before the Greeks. In the Greek literary language we encounter behind each separate genre the consolidation of a particular dialect. Behind these gross facts a complex trial-at-arms is concealed, a struggle between languages and dialects, between hybridizations, purifications, shifts and renovations, the long and twisted path of struggle for the unity of a literary language and for the unity of its system of genresФ[20].

Particularly interesting seems Bakhtinian explanation of the reasons for the success of Roman laughter (as in early comedies by Plautus): У Roman literary concsiousness was bilingual. The purely national Latin genres, conceived under monoglotic conditions, fell into decay and did not achieve the level of literary expression. From start to finish, the creative literary concsiousness of Romans functioned against the background of the Greek language and Greek forms. From the very first steps, the Latin literary word viewed itself in the light of the Greek word, through the eyes of the Greek word, it was from the very beginning a word Уwith a sideways glanceФ, a stylized word enclosing itself, as it were, in its own piously stylized quotation marksФ[21]. According to Bakhtin Latin area was characterized by Уthe interanimationФ of at least three languages and cultures that intersected with one another- Greek, Oscan and Roman[22] to which probably one should add two more: Etruscan and Punic (a literary form of Carthaginian Phoenician as seen, for instance in the beginning of PlautusТ УPoenulusФ).

A specific stress on the importance of bilingualism and on the mixed character of every language was characteristic of Baudouin de Courtenay and his students and followers (such as Shcherba and Polivanov). The views of these scholars of the St.-Petesburgh linguistic school might have been known to Bakhtin since his formative University period. Similar points of view of Hugo Schuchardt (who had partly anticipated linguistic geography in its Romance part familiar to Bakhtin) influenced Leo Spitzer whose works Bakhtin read in early twenties. In respect to the role of spatial differentiation of dialects an approach different from a unitary monoglotic one was developed by Bartoli[23]. At the time when Bakhtin reformulated this linguistic position in a dialogical way and applied it to the theory of novel and its languages, comparable ideas lead to the introduction of the concept of a Sprachbund by Prince Nikolaj Troubetzkoy and Roman Jakobson. Recent research on Creole and Pidgin languages continues the trend started by Baudouin and Schuchardt. A coming change is seen clearly in such a traditional field as Indo-European comparative grammar. To interpret its reconstructions the notions of Indo-European dialects and isoglosses between them (anticipated already at the second half of the XIXth century in the theory of waves of J. Schmidt) become more and more important: Troubetzkoy and later Vittore Pisani completely transformed the unitary concept of Proto-Indo-European to which Bakhtin referred in his critical remark cited above. In the reconstruction of Indogermanische Dichtersprache it became possible to deal with utterances in different dialects (particularly in the Eastern Indo-European one to which Greek and Indo-Iranian might be traced back) belonging to a particular speech genres. But wider cultural implications of these notions still elude the majority of linguists working in a dogmatic way (as seen, for instance, in an interest in one unitary language viewed in a strictly synchronic monoglotic manner in most works on generative grammar).

5.The Language of the City. Bakhtin was among those few scholars of the second quarter of the XXth century who had attempted to develop urban linguistics- a new field of linguistics that studies features of speech communications in the large cities. As also Larin who was the first to write a theoretical work on the subject [24] Bakhtin was continuing the pioneering work by Sainéan. For Bakhtin particularly important was a collection of materials presented by Sainéan in his study on the language of Rabelais[25]. Bakhtin reinterpreted these data (given by Sainéan as a neutral description[26]) from a point of view close that of sociolinguistics. To him characteristic features of Rabelais looked as belonging to the city market. He analyzed such genres as curses and Уcries of Paris Ф. The latter represented a special type of advertising. Much later he same type of cries of tradesmen became an object of a special study of Peter G.Bogatyrev, the grest Russian folklore specialist who had been among the first to study ethnology in a structural functional way of the early Prague circle to the founders of which he had belonged. In a magnificent study of an Old Czech УMedieval Mock MysteryФ completely parallel to the work of Bakhtin on carnival Roman Jakobson analyzed similar verbal devices of advertising found in the polyglotic texts of medieval Prague [27].

Polyglossia was the main feature of most large cities throughout the history[28]. Describing linguistic situation at Samosata, LucianТs native city, Bakhtin remarks: УThe original inhabitants of Samosata were Syrians who spoke Aramaic. The entire literary and educated upper classes of the urban population spoke and wrote in Greek. The official language of the administration and and chancellery was Latin, all the administrators were Romans, and there was a Roman legion stationed in the city. A great thoroughfare passed through Samosata (strategically very important) along which flowed the languages of Mesopotamia , Persia and even India . LucianТs cultural and linguistic consciousness was born and shaped at this point of the intersection of cultures and languagesФ[29]. This polyglot situation is seen as a dialogical prereqisite for creativity of a novelist.

6.Heteroglossia. The word means simultaneous use of different kinds of speech or other signs, tension between them and their conflicting relationship inside one text. The term was coined (from the Greek stems meaning УotherФ and УspeechФ: etero- + gloss- +ia) by Bakhtin in his theoretical work on novel in 1934-1935 and became extraordinarily popular in linguistic, literary and anthropological works since 1980-s. In BakhtinТs view, Уat any given moment of its evolution, language is stratified not only into linguistic dialects in the strict sense of the word (according to formal linguistic markers, especially phonetic), but also- and for us this is an essential point- into languages that are socio-ideological : languages of social groups, СprofessionalТ and СgenericТ languages, languages of generations and so forth. From this point of view, literary language is itself only one of these heteroglot languages- and it in its turn is stratified into languages (generic, period-bound, and others). And this stratification and heteroglossia, one realized, is not only a static invariant of linguistic life, but also what insures its dynamics: stratification and heteroglossia widen and deepen as long as language is alive and developing. Alongside the centripetal forces, the centrifugal forces of language carry on their uninterrupted work; alongside verbal-ideological centralization and unification, the uninterrupted processes of decentralization and disunification go forwardФ[30]. Bakhtin had in mind both the stylistic and social differences inside a language of any modern developed society and a writerТs intention to recreate them in prose, particularly in novel that could operate with different artistic images of languages and styles (JoyceТs УUlyssesФ each chapter of which was written in a different linguistic style may serve an example). Heteroglossia is opposed to both monoglossia and polyglossia.

Conflicting tendencies are hidden in a semantic potential of almost every word and they can be realized in everyday speech. But particularly pronounced such features are in the social contexts that make such ambivalence relevant for the whole society. This aspect of language in a totalitarian country was depicted in the image of OrwellТs Newspeak. In a single utterance different speech attitudes may appear together. It was told that the Soviet Communist party leader Leonid Brezhnev used to say to his family at night: УItТs time for me to go to read MarxФ. Without knowledge of the real situation a stranger might have heard in this sentence a genuine intention of a Marxist official to reread works of the founder of the whole movement in his spare time (comparable, for instance, to rereading of a Biblical text by a bishop). But actually Brezhnev had in mind his cynical hatred for this old-fashioned duty that had become a senseless ritual. To him MarxТs works that he barely knew were terribly dull and might cause one to get drowsy. Thus what he really meant was his wish to go to bed. Even if this joke was not real and belonged to the Soviet folklore of the period, it was quite symbolic as it showed the complete loss of the former communist creed in which Marx had acquired a role of a substitute for an apostle. A similar problem but in connection to a real religion (and not its fake substitute to which Soviet ideology deteriorated) has been discussed by Bakhtin in his study of Rabelais and the folk culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In this work finished by 1945 Bakhtin (as later Le Goff[31]) has discovered linguistic and semiotic heteroglossia that was characteristic of the medieval European culture. It was characterized by a possible use of signs and words pertaining to the sphere of the official Church culture and of those which belonged to the unofficial folklore. The latter used parody of the official language as well as another set of symbols continuing the carnival tradition. As the rites with the inversion of the official symbols seem to be universal (according to anthropological works of Leach[32] and Turner[33]) semiotic heteroglossia that includes grotesque carnival images may belong to the most important features of almost all known societies. Heteroglossia (very often called by different terms having the same meaning) as a parallel or simultaneous use of different signs and images belonging to partly opposed or conflicting spheres may represent one of the common features of all cultures.

In the particular case of medieval carnival as studied by Bakhtin heteroglossia may be seen at the purely linguistic level as well as on the higher level of signs encoded with verbal expressions. Thus in a medieval Old Czech mystery studied from a similar point of view by Roman Jakobson Latin songs coexist with grotesque jokes in Old Czech and remarks in Hebrew[34].

7.Dialogical Theory of Speech Genres in BakhtinТs last Works. In his last years Bakhtin was working on the general system of speech genres. The manuscript of a whole book that he had finished before leaving Saransk was lost (as Bakhtin told me when he lived in PodolТsk). But its contents may be reconstructed from what was published (Bakhtin 1990). Developing some ideas close to those of Spitzer Bakhtin tried to see which forms of verbal communication are used in a given society and are reflected (selected and/or transformed) in its literature. In one of his later polemical remarks concerning Saussurean opposition of langue vs. parole Bakhtin says: УSaussure ignores the fact that in addition to forms of language there are also forms of combinations of these forms, that is, he ignores speech genresФ[35]. УCertain features of language (lexicological, semantic, syntactic) will knit together with the intentional aim, and with the overall accentual system inherent in one or another genre: oratorical, newspaper and journalistic genres, the genres of low literature (penny thrillers, for instance),or , finally, the various genres of high literature. Certain features of language take on the specific flavor of a given genre; they knit together with specific points of view, specific approaches, forms of thinking, nuances and accents characteristic of a given genre. In addition, there is interwoven with this generic stratification of language a professional stratification of language, in the broad sense of the term УprofessionalФ: the language of the lawyer, the doctor, the businessman, the politician, the public education teacher and so forth , and these sometimes coincide with, and sometimes depart from, the stratification into genres. It goes without saying that these languages differ from each other not only in their vocabularies, they involve specific forms for manifesting intentions, forms for making conceptualization and evaluation concrete. And even the very language of the writer (the poet or novelist) can be taken as a professional jargon on a par with professional jargonsФ[36].

This main notion of BakhtinТs later works has been developed by Anna Wierzbicka in her outstanding study on speech genres in the modern Polish society of the totalitarian period. According to her, the Polish system of speech genres included denunciation absent in such varieties of English as the Australian one (it does not seem that this distinction would be relevant for a comparison with some other systems inside the English-speaking communities).

8.Direct-Indirect Speech and the Dialogical Principle. It seems that one of the main problems in BakhtinТs studies is presented by interconnections between different parts of BakhtinТs work. The link between the Spitzer-influenced study of the reported/indirect/ direct speech and the dialogical principle is a key question. Different forms of the direct, quasi-direct and indirect speech, reported speech and transposed discourse and pseudo-objective motivation as studied by Lerch, Lorch and Spitzer were seen in much broader perspective: Bakhtin incorporated these discoveries into his general theory of the speech of the other person connecting it also to main problems of the poetics of novel.

An extraordinarily interesting discovery that was made by Bakhtin was his finding of the possibility to connect the philosophical dialogical principle to the stylistic study of the speech of the other person. This field of research in Bakhtinian sense covered not only the sphere of the quasi-direct speech as studied by Spitzer (whose book is cited by Bakhtin), but also the formalist studies of narration (skaz) inaugurated by Eichenbaum at the time when the device became fashionable in the modern Russian prose (BakhtinТs interest in this experiment may be seen from his lectures on the modern Russian authors). In his book on Dostoevsky Bakhtin suggested a whole system of labels meant to describe the different kinds of the OtherТs speech that can be seen in a sort of a Уperiodic tableФ in which any new particular item should find its place. He studied the use of these metalinguistic devices in DostoevskyТs writings.

In an early work in disguise Bakhtin was particularly interested in the relation between the direct speech and the free indirect speech. In the latter using the transformation of the verbal tenses and persons it is possible to put the characterТs actual utterances, preserving their word order, into the past tense as if they were parts of a narrative. In VoloshinovТs book in disguise (Voloshinov 1986) Bakhtin repeats a French example from Balzac analyzed by Lerch:

Direct Speech: il protesta et sТécria: УMon père te haitФÞ

Indirect Speech: il protesta et sТécria que son père la haïssaitÞ

Free Indirect Speech : il protesta: Уson père, sТécria-t-il, la haïssaitФ

Among different forms of the speech of the other person analyzed by Spitzer Bakhtin became particularly interested in pseudo-objectivized sppech. Due to this device common truths are fprmulated in the atemporal present tense:Et cТest auprès de sa soeur, á sa sortie de lТhopital que Berthe vécut. Auprès de sa soeur, parce que les idées de famille sont plus fortes que toutes les autres idées at parce quТune soeur sera notre soeur, qoui quТil arrive Уit was with her sister that Berthe lived when she came out of the hospital.With her sister because family values are stronger than any other, and because a sister will be our sister whatever happensФ[37].

As Bakhtin explains, the pseudo-objective motivation is characteristic of a certain type of novelistic style. It can be called a hidden word of the other[38].

9.History od Direct and indirect Speech. Bakhtin remarks that Уthe representation of anotherТs word, anotherТs language in intonational quotation marks was known in the most ancient times, we encounter it in the earliest stages of verbal cultureФ[39]. In the oldest written traditions such Сquotation marksТ usually render the direct speech. Let us compare data of the languages of the Ancient Near Est. In ancient Egyptian inscriptions of the Old Kingdom quotations were introduced by the verbs of speaking dd (>Coptic čw[40]), wd (Уto orderФ), dbh in constructions with embedding, cf. jnk mjw pw С3 nt(j) m jwnw dd(.w) rТw [p]w r z3=f hrw УТI am this great cat who is (ntj) in Heliopolis .Т This (pw) is what Re says (dd.w) to his son (r z3=f) HorusФ[41]; in Sinuhe text: jnj wj Сmmwnnšj hq3 pw h(j) (r0tnw-hrj.t dd=f n=j nfr tw hn=j sdm=k r3 n(j) km.t УAmmunenshi, the ruler of Upper Retjenu, took me (jnj wj) and said to me (dd=f n=j): СYou will be happy (nfr twФyou are goodФ) with me , and you will hear (sdm-k) the language of EgyptФ[42]; in the texts of Pyramids 1295a: wd.n jnpw hntj zh-ntr h3y=k m sb3 m ntr dw3(j) УAnubis, who presides over the godТs booth (zh-ntr) has ordered (wd.n) that you descend (h3y=k) as star (sb3), as the Morning Star (ntr dw3j Уthe morning godФ)Ф[43].

In Sumerian a particle of direct speech Цe-še is supposed to be derived from the verbal root e-Уto sayФ. As an example one of the oldest written specimens of a laughter fable belonging to the sphere of the Bakhtinian carnival imagery might be given: A.AB.BA TUN-bi kas-gu10Цum-e Цše У[The fox, having urinated into the Sea,] said:ТThe whole of the sea is my urineТФ[44]. In Akkadian the particle of direct speech Сum-ma precedes the words of the other person that may be marked also by the enclitical particle Цmi. Hittite and Luwian use enclitic particles of direct speech Цwa(r)-/ -wa-[45] (cf. also later Milyan or Lycian B we). They originated from a verb of speaking preserved in Palaic wer-ti Ђcries outї (about the Sun-god). In a Hurrian-Hittite bilingual text Hittite wa(r) translates Hurrian Цan[46].

In Sanskrit a very restricted use of indirect speech is limited by by such specific cases as indirect questions. In them there is a tendency to leave the reported speech unchanged, adding to it some markers of direct speech as iti [47].

Bakhtin has analyzed later development of the indirect speech in Western European and Russian literature. His work influenced such studies as that of Vinogradov on ЂThe Queen of Spadesї.

10. Quotations. As a special linguistic device that is particularly interesting from Bakhtinian point of view one should study types of quotation. Bakhtin himself discussed the problem mainly on the example of the Mediaeval Latin texts. In Sanskrit there is a way to point to long quotations without repeating the whole text. In that case the latter is given only in the beginning of the discourse. In later occurrences only the first words are indicated, then itiady (<iti, marker of the direct speech+ ady) follows : ato 'ham (=aham) bravīmi anagatavatim cintām itiady ЂTo this I'll say: 'The thoughts related to the future' etc.ї (ЂHitopadeshaї).

For earlier stages of development the importance of direct speech in rendering quotations is not only documented by the most ancient written languages as those cited above. Recent ethnolinguistic work on the languages of the South America has shown the extraordinary importance of such means of introducing quotations in direct speech as verbs of speaking. In Kuna the role of quotations was found particularly striking in the language of the chief medicine man Olowitinappi. As regards his talk, ' reported, quoted speech is a formal property of the text, which is literally punctuated with soke (say) and takken soke (see he says). The repetition of these forms, at the end of lines, typical of the Kuna formal speech-making styleї[48] may be illustrated by a following fragment:'Teki teukki nainukanki ina tiket' takken soke. 'nainu, tayleku pulalet pe niymartipa' soke.'pinsa pe tiko' soke. 'nekkwepurkatitte' soke УТwell with regard to the fields planting medicineТ see he says. УIf you, indeed have a communal farmТ, he says. СYou must plant for freeТ see he says. СNo moneyТ he says. СFor it belongs to the villageФ, he saysФ[49]. In Bakhtinian terms we may speak of the monological use of quotations to render the authoritative opinion of a single person. The verb of speech follows each separate part of this monological discourse used by the speaker.

In УAvestaТ the verb mru- Уto speakФ follows Ahura MazdaТs speeches in the frame of a pattern typologically close to this Kuna formal structure.

Quotation to Bakhtin becomes an important criterion to distinguish different branches of knowledge: У In the humanities- as distinct from the natural and mathematical sciences- there arises the specific task of establishing, transmitting and interpreting the words of others ( for example, the problem of sources in the methodology of the historical disciplines). And of course in the philological disciplines, the speaking person and his discourse is the fundemental object of investigationФ[50]

11.Semantics. Language and the World View. While discussing different languages contrasting each other in a heteroglotic text, Bakhtin often speaks about Уlanguage and world outlookФ. To him they constituted a single notion. From this point of view Bakhtin might be compared to those scholars who continued Humboldt-influenced tradition of finding linguistic base for a mental model of the universe as Sapir, Whorf and Spitzer did. The latter seems again particularly close to Bakhtin as he studied verbal expression of ideas[51].

While insisting on lack of semantic studies in contemporary linguistics, Bakhtin suggested an idea that contradicts recent semantic research constructing a system of lexical meanings or semantic features comparable to a phonemic or morphological pattern. According to Bakhtin, Уthe word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language (it is not, after all, out of a dictionary that the speaker gets his words!), but rather it exists in other peopleТs mouths, in other peopleТs contexts, serving other peopleТs intentions; it is from these that one must take the word, and make it oneТs ownФ[52]. To Bakhtin semantics is concrete and social.

Among particularly interesting discoveries made by Bakhtin in his semantic studies one may point out his conclusion about combination of praising and abuse in the language of the city market in Rabelais. This ambivalent semantics as well as the grotesque verbal imagery of the bottom of the body reminds of similar ideas of Freud studied in the first BakhtinТs book in disguise. In a critical article on the place of language in FreudТs discovery Benveniste did not agree with this psychoanalytic concept. But at the same time when Bakhtin studied ambivalent meanings of Rabelaisian verbal abuse a similar discovery has been also made by a great Russian-Ossetian specialist in Iranian Abaev who was influenced by MarrТs semantic concepts. In his article on the topic Abaev finds linguistic correlation to Catullus line УOdi et amoЕФ or to similar passages in Dostoevskij. Words with magical connotation are usually ambivalent according to his study[53].

To Bakhtin internal contradiction was connected to heteroglossia: У It frequently happens that even one and the same word will belong simultaneously to two languages, two belief systems that intersect in a hybrid construction- and, consequently, the word has two contradictory meanings, two accentsФ[54].

12.Parody of Language. The use of language in parody has been studied by Bakhtin particularly in connection to the process of setting the thinking free of language. A position of an observer who becomes absolutely independent of language is possible because of the role of parody. It is a prerequisite for a future novelistic word. It is based on the new apprehension of language as a thing to be described. A representative case of heteroglossia is found in an ironical use of speech forms, particularly in a parody. In several places in УUlyssesФ Joyce suggests a parody of the new Irish drama: У ItТs what I am telling you, mister honey, itТs queer and sick we were, Haines and myself, the time himself brought it inФЕ ; in a chapter УNausicaaФ womanТs magazine style is taken over, in a chapter УEumaeusФ a parody of provincial journalese is introduced. In the other parts of the novel there is a grotesque mixture of several styles, as in a mockery of learned English in the speech of a ghost of BloomТs grandfather.

13.Names. Theoretical Problems of Onomastics. In his study of RabelaisТlanguage Bakhtin comes to the conclusion that Уhis common and proper names are not differentiatedФ[55]. Most of the personal names have clear etymologies and thus can be understood as nicknames (in a brilliant Russian translation by Nikolay Liubimov some of them are rendered in Russian as nicknames : that would have been impossible for usual proper names). Some of traditional names that are not clear are explained by the artificial etymology, for instance, Gargantua from GrangousierТs exclamation Que grand tu as (le gousier) УWhat a big (gullet) you have!Ф. All such nicknames

belong to one semantic sphere (that of words related to a gullet or a throat in our example). To prove it Bakhtin reverts also to scholarly etymologies of some names.

On the example of the name Nemo in scholarly Latin Bakhtin discusses linguistic paradoxes that might seem parallel to famous logical paradoxes.

In connection to BakhtinТs interest in proper names a new approach to his publications in disguise might be suggested. His play with the last names of some of his friends and followers can be connected with the idea of linguistic games as studied later in WittgensteinТs writings.

14.Linguistics and Poetics. In his early work Bakhtin distanced himself from an attempt to unify linguistics and poetics as it was suggested by scholars linked to the Formalist movement. Bakhtin insisted on the necessity to study language before linguistic results are used to understand stylistic devices.

But at the same time Bakhtin agreed that a material of the art is not absolutely neutral. It has expressive side that is particularly important for the verbal art. У And these expressive habits of using language (giving utterance to oneself and designating objects) are transposed by us into our apprehension of verbal artФ[56]. Bakhtinian point of view was close to the studies of the expressive or affective language begun at the beginning of the century in the works of Bally, Vendryes, van Ginneken and Sapir (not to mention again the above mentioned school of Vossler and Spitzer). Later development of linguistics (particularly in generative grammar) went far away from these brilliant insights as a one-sided rationalist approach made investigation of the expressive side of language difficult if not impossible. Still there are such important exceptions as the last book of Roman Jakobson written in collaboration with Linda Waugh..

15.Word in the Novel: the Core of Bakhtinian View of the Genre. To Bakhtin the Word (Slovo) was the central problem of his theory of the novel. The importance of the theory was determined by his particular attitude towards novel as the most important literary genre. The neglect of the novel to him was a proof of the internal deficiency of the formalistsТ study of the prose. His literary studies step by step concentrated on the theory, prehistory and history of novel. By that time a true theory of novel was absent. Post-Hegelian and Marxist philosophical foundations were crucial for LukaczТs classical books on the topic in which the novel was studied in connection to the history of consciousness. Later works by Lukacz (and some his followers such as L.Goldmann) were concentrated on the social background and the reasons for its transformation of decay (the idea had been anticipated in Osip MandelТstamТs brilliant essay on the end of novel).

BakhtinТs theory of novel was in its essence a theory of Word in novel. The dialogical word is considered to be the main constructive element of the novel (as the symbol is for poetry). The word is described and represented by a word. The essence of a novel is its heteroglossy. This feature of a novel is reflected in the way how a writer characterizes each of the heroes. In a novel usually a main hero speaks in a way different from the rest of them. Each of heroes may have his or her own stylistic sphere or linguistic УzoneФ. As an interesting parallel to a literary reflection of the urban heteroglossia and polyglossia in JoyceТs novel one can see the structure of Velimir KhlebnikovТs УsupertaleТ (sverkhpovestТ) УZangeziФ each part of which is written in a special language (of gods, of birds etc.).

The following main types of compositional and stylistic units are distinguished by Bakhtin inside the novelistic whole:

У1)Direct authorial literary-artistic narrationЕ

2) Stylization of the various forms of oral everyday narration [skaz],

3) Stylization of the various forms of semiliterary (written) everyday narration (the letter, the

diary, etc.);

4)Various forms of literary but extra-artistic authorial speech (moral, philosophical or scientific statements, oratory, ethnographic descriptions, memoranda and so forth);

5)The stylistically individualized speech of charactersФ[57].

In BakhtinТs studies of classical Russian and Western European novel each of these types has been investigated.

A completely new approach was suggested in BakhtinТs idea of an image of a language (for instance, in a parody). УThe author encases his own thought in the image of anotherТs language without doing violence to the freedom of that language or to its own distinctive uniquenessФ [58].

16.Bakhtinian View of the History of Linguistics. Sacred Word and free Word. According to Bakhtin linguistic consciousness Уconstituted itself outside Еdirect wordФ[59]. He supposed several main periods in the process of the development of this possibility. In the period the word is sacred. The first linguists were priests. This point of view may be corroborated by the recent research on Indogermanische Dichtersprache, particularly, SaussureТs notes on Indo-European priests being the first linguists (in this special field of study one may find complete coincidence of the ideas of Saussure and Bakhtin[60]). At this period the native language is studied on the background of a sacred one. The Old Indian grammar based on Sanskrit as an artificial (sams-krta) language may be given as an example. From the written languages of the Ancient Near East starting with the Ebla cuneiform archive (middle of the I I I mil. B.C.) one may cite a special mark of a heteroglotic word: the scribes who wrote documents in a sacred or official language used a so-called Glossenkeil ×× to point to a word borrowed from their own native speech (Luwian in the Hittite empire, Old Canaanite in Egypt of the time of El-Amarna).

According to Bakhtin the next period was marked by a parody of a sacred word. УThe Middle Ages produced a whole series of variants on the parodic-travestying Latin grammar. Case inflections, verbal forms and all grammatical categories in general were reinterpreted either in an indecent, erotic context, in a context of eating and drunkenness or in a context ridiculing church and monastic principles of hierarchy and subordination. Heading this unique grammatical tradition is the seventh-century work of Virgilius Maro Grammaticus. This is an extraordinarily learned work, stuffed with an incredible quantity of references, quotations from all possible authorities of the ancient world including some that had never existed; in a number of cases even the quotations themselves are parodic. Interwoven with serious and rather subtle grammatical analysis is a sharp parodic exaggeration of this very subtlety, and of the scrupulousness of scholarly analyses; there is a description, for example, of a scholarly discussion lasting two weeks on the question of the vocative case of ego, that is, the vocative case of УI.Ф Taken as a whole, Virgilius grammaticusТ work is a magnificent and subtle parody of the formalistic-grammatical thinking of late antiquity. It is grammatical Saturnalia, grammatica pileata. Characteristically, many medieval scholars apparently took this grammatical treatise completely seriously. And even contemporary scholars are far from unanimous in their evaluation of the character and degree of the parodic impulse in itФ[61]. In this description (as also in all the other BakhtinТs works on Medieval and Renaissance culture) one may see one feature that distinguishes it from the official academic literature on the subject. Bakhtin sincerely followed Rabelais poetic instruction in the motto to his novel (also translated also in Umberto EcoТs Il nome de la rosa as Il riso é proprio dellТuomo):

Le rire est le propre de lТhomme

Bakhtin explains this new function of Latin word by its interplay with the native one: УanotherТs sacred word, uttered in a foreign language, re-evaluated and reinterpreted against the backdrop of these languages, and congeals to the point where it becomes a ridiculous image, the comic carnival mask of a narrow and joyless pedant, an unctious hypocritical old bigot, a stingy and dried-up miser. This manuscript tradition of Уparodia sacraФ, prodigious in scope and almost a thousand years long, is remarkable and as yet poorly read document testifying to an intense struggle and interanimation among languages, a struggle that occurred everywhere in Western Europe. It was a language drama played out if it were a gay farceФ[62]. Bakhtin found that Уin the linguistic satires of the Renaissance (The letters of Obscure People, the poetry of the macaronics0 three languagesЕ animate one another: medieval Latin, the purified and rigorous Latin of the humanists and the national vulgar tongueФ[63].

At the last stage of development, У language, no longer conceived as a sacrosant and solitery embodiment of meaning and truth, becomes merely one of many possible ways to hypothesize meaningФ[64].

Bakhtin has transformed the history of linguistics adding this new dimension to the history of human thought on language and verbal communication[65].


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[1] See on this: Stewart 1986 (with references).

[2] Bakhtin 1994, p. 271.

[3] Polemics between Spitzer and Bloomfield in which both points of view had been expressed was commented in : Vinokur 1957. As an interesting exception one should consider Edward Sapir. Being exceedingly formal in his approach to phonology and morphology he (as to some degree also Roman Jakobson, especially in his later years) did not lose an aesthetic and cultural perspective while studying language. Such linguists as Sapir and Jakobson as well as Bakhtin may be viewed upon as forerunners of a synthetical view of the future century. Wilhelm HumboldtТs view of language as creative energy (important for early Chomsky, but not for his followers) seems particularly interesting from the point of view of a projected synthesis.

[4] Benveniste 1969. Cf. Ivanov 1976.

[5] Malmberg 1977, pp.202-203; Tobin 1989.

[6] Bakhtin 1990a, p. 293.

[7] On the problems of terms dasignating the field of discourse studies cf. Ivanov 1998, p. 72.

[8] Bulakhovsky 1952, pp. 392-395.

[9] Pospelov 1948;1948a; 1960.

[10] Vinokur 1990, pp.196-240, cf. M.ShapirТs comments: ib., pp.348-357.

[11] Pospelov 1947; 1948b; 1966; Belich 1958.

[12] Syromiatnikov 1971.

[13] Gindin 1977.

[14] See the excellent analysis of this aspect of the Old Novgorodian and other Old Russian documents: Zalizniak 1993, pp.280-308; 1995, pp.167-171.

[15] Watkins 1997, p.613; Ivanov 1999, p. 103 (with a brief history of the problem and further references).

[16] In connection to BakhtinТs theories contribution of these disciplines is surveyed in : Paducheva 1998.

[17] Bakhtin 1994, p.61.

[18] In this respect (as in some other points) Bakhtinian view of language can be compared to that of Roman Jakobson and other representatives of the Prague linguistic school of the 1930-ies.

[19] Bakhtin 1994, p.66. For other references of a similar kind cf. also Crowley 1989.

[20] Bakhtin 1994, p.66.

[21] Bakhtin 1994, p.61.

[22] Bakhtin 1994, p.63.

[23] Thus a sililarity between Bakhtin and Gramsci (see: Crowley 1989, pp.83-85) should be explained by this linguistic atmosphere of the fist quarter of the century.

[24] Larin 1977.

[25] Sainéan 1922.

[26] See critical remark; Bakhtin 1994, p.42, fn.5.

[27] Jakobson 1985.

[28] Ivanov 1998a (with references).

[29] Bakhtin 1994, p.64.

[30] Bakhtin 1994, pp.271-272.

[31] Le Goff 1977, cf. also the idea of Huizinga on Homo Ludens.

[32] Leach 1961.

[33] Turner 1969.

[34] Jakobson 1985.

[35] Bakhtin 1986, p.81.

[36] Bakhtin 1994, pp. 288-289.

[37] Spitzer 1961, II; 1988, p.62.

[38] Bakhtin 1994.

[39] Bakhtin 1994, p. 50.

[40] Černý 1976, p.310.See on the use of the verb : Till 1955, pp. 128-130, 354.

[41] CT IV 412 (162ff.), Loprieno 1995, pp. 110-111. On constructions with these verbs see collection of examples: Goedike 1955.

[42] Loprieno 1995, pp. 195-196.

[43] Loprieno 1995, p. 201.

[44] Gordon 1962, p.234; Thomsen 1984; Ivanov 1998, p. 82.

[45] Fortson 1994; Cotticelli-Kurras 1992; Pecora 1984.

[46] Neu 1996, pp. 417, 435-436.

[47] Debrunner 1947.

[48] Sherzer 1986, p.176.

[49] Sherzer 1986, p.78.

[50] Bakhtin 1994, p. 351..

[51] Spitzer 1948; 1963; 1988.

[52] Bakhtin 1994, p. 294.

[53] Abajew 1935.

[54] Bakhtin 1994, p. 305.

[55] Bakhtin 1984, p. 459.

[56] Bakhtin 1990a, p. 96.

[57] Bakhtin 1994, p.262.

[58] Bakhtin 1994, p. 409.

[59] Bakhtin 1994, p.60.

[60] Ivanov 1998b, p.622 (with references).

[61] Bakhtin 1994, p.73.

[62] Bakhtin 1994, p.77.

[63] Bakhtin 1994, p. 81.

[64] Bakhtin 1994, p. 370.

[65] The essence of the article has been based on a position-paper for Bakhtin Workshop "Bakhtin in Context(s)", Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana University (Bloomington), December 3-4, 1999, and on a series of lectures on Bakhtin presented at UCLA in the following years. The author is grateful to his colleagues and friends in Moscow , St.Petersburg and Los Angeles for many fruitful remarks and suggestions.

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