This concise history of structural linguistics charts its development from the 1870s to the present day. It explains what structuralism was and why its ideas are still central today. For structuralists a language is a self-contained and tightly organised system whose history is of changes from one state of the system to another. This idea has its origin in the nineteenth century and was developed in the twentieth by Saussure and his followers, including the school of Bloomfield in the United States. Through the work of Chomsky, especially, it is still very influential. Matthews examines the beginnings of structuralism and analyses the vital role played in it by the study of sound systems and the problems of how systems change. He discusses theories of the overall structure of a language, the 'Chomskyan revolution' in the 1950s, and the structuralist theories of meaning.

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