Leonard Bloomfield and the Exclusion of Meaning from the Study of Language

Basel Al-Sheikh Hussein


In this study the attempt was made to find out whether Bloomfield was only interested in the structural description of language, and therefore he excluded the study of meaning. This was done by the examination of his (1933) published book LANGUAGE which is still considered to be the most relevant study on language ever written, because it covers all traditions of language study – historical-comparative, philosophical-descriptive and practical-descriptive.
The present paper has shown that Bloomfield regarded meaning as a weak point in language study and believed that it could be totally stated in behaviorist terms. For Bloomfield, the context of situation was an important level of linguistic analysis alongside syntax, morphology, phonology, and phonetics, all of which contribute to linguistic meaning. Meaning then covers a variety of aspects of language, and there is no general agreement about the nature of meaning. This paper, therefore, should be considered only as a clarification of Bloomfield’s understanding of meaning.


Context of situation; Traditional grammarians; Behaviourism; Mentalistic psychology; Linguistic meaning; Generative grammar


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968%2Fj.sll.1923156320130602.3131


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