"On Dialogic Speech"

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Thanks to yesterday's post on "Linguistic Laws", I spent a few minutes looking into the life and works of the Russian linguist Lav Jakubinskiy (or Lev Yakubinsky, or whatever transliteration you prefer). I don't think I've heard of him before — but a couple of things (and not Jakubinskiy's Law) convinced me that I should have. The main thing was what I learned about his 1923 work О диалогической речи ("On Dialogic Speech"). I haven't been able to find any online scans of the Russian original, but there's a 1997 PMLA article by Michael Eskin that offers some translated fragments along with a "Translator's Introduction", and a 2016 book, also due to Eskin, that offers a larger translated sample.

Here's the start of the "Translator's Foreword" from the 2016 publication:

Published in 1923, On Dialogic Speech is the first study devoted entirely to the forms of speech in their concrete, social and intersubjective manifestations. It is also the first study addressing the linguistic, psycho-physiological, pragmatic, semantic and socio-political aspects of dialogue and dialogic interaction – both oral and written – which the author implicitly aligns with the weakening of authority and power (as opposed to the natural “alliance that monologue has with authority”). Thus, On Dialogic Speech anticipates the Bakhtin circle’s influential writings on the transformative power of dialogue, as well as such contemporary disciplines and areas of ‘academic activism’ as socio- and cognitive linguistics, pragmatics, cognitive science, and cultural and postcolonial studies, insofar as the latter appropriate and strategically implement the concept and potential of dialogue as a liberating force; moreover, Yakubinsky can also be said to describe and theorize, avant la lettre, our contemporary culture of texting, tweeting, messaging and emailing – the twenty-first-century equivalents of “passing notes” (in class, meetings and so on), which the author singles out as a unique hybrid “between mediated (written) and unmediated (properly dialogic) communication.”

And here's a sample from Yakubinsky's Section 1, "The Functional Diversity of Speech", as presented in the 2016 translation:

Language is coextensive with the diversity of human behavior, which is a psychological or biological fact if viewed as an expression of the human organism, and a sociological fact if viewed in light of its rootedness in the social, interactive life of human organisms. Thus, the factors determining speech will belong either to the psychological or the sociological order.

The psychological rootedness of speech enjoins us to distinguish between the following basic modalities: speech as a function of normal, pathological and irregular physiological states, respectively, and speech as a function of mind and emotion. Although all of these modalities (possibly with the exception of irregular physiological states) have been widely noted in contemporary linguistics, there is hardly any concrete research on the diverse manifestations of speech and its dependence on one or the other of its determinant factors and states. Linguistics and speech pathology do not share their findings. Speech as a function of emotion has not been studied at all – even the basic data have not yet been collected (with the exception of data concerning the use of words, but even here the results are far from satisfactory). The impact of emotion on pronunciation, too, has hardly been explored. Linguistics is especially ill prepared to deal with speech as a function of irregular physiological states, such as the state of poetic inspiration, a better understanding of which would allow us to isolate those aspects of lyric poetry that are the products of physiology rather than art.

The sociological determinants of speech can be broadly and preliminarily categorized as follows: (i) the conditions of interaction, in both familiar and unfamiliar environments; (ii) the forms of interaction (mediated/unmediated, one-/two-sided); (iii) the concrete goals of interaction (practical/artistic, neutral/hortatory).

The study of language in its dependence on the conditions of interaction constitutes the foundation of contemporary linguistics. The complex diversity of speech (languages, dialects, idioms and so on) – classified, depicted and genetically studied by contemporary linguists – is, first and foremost, the result of specific conditions of interaction and the concomitant formation of different interacting social groups determined by a variety of factors (territorial, national, professional and so on). Much less attention has been paid by linguists to the concrete goals and functions of utterance. I would even go so far as to say that this question has mostly been ignored, especially among traditional neogrammarians.




  1. Phillip Minden said,

    February 6, 2023 @ 10:14 am

    If you read Russian and are interested in a scan of the 1923 article, let me know where to send it. The text itself is all over the internet – simply google "о диалогической речи".

    [(myl) Thanks! A link will be fine — I did a google search and failed to see what you obviously found…]

  2. Phillip Minden said,

    February 6, 2023 @ 11:02 am

    Link is good for a week, it says: https://www.filemail.com/d/kccdfpjpfuvkhhn

  3. Jerry Packard said,

    February 6, 2023 @ 12:30 pm

    It sounds a lot like the contemporary field of CA (Conversation Analysis), whose most famous practitioner is Emanuel Schegloff.

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 6, 2023 @ 4:16 pm

    Part of the charm of the prior post (following the cartoon and the wikipedia article about the "law") was the use of the Croatian-style romanization "Jakubinskij." Treating him like just another Russian with a name in need of more conventional romanization undermines that effect.

  5. Chris Barts said,

    February 6, 2023 @ 4:49 pm

    Here's the files Phillip Minden provided, in a longer-lived location:


    I fixed the titles of the individual PDF and DJVU files, which were mojibake when I inspected the ZIP file, but I also uploaded the original ZIP file just as I got it so that contains the files with the original titles.

  6. Rodger C said,

    February 7, 2023 @ 10:53 am

    "Jakubinskij" could also be Slavicist spelling.

  7. Taylor, Philip said,

    February 8, 2023 @ 4:43 am

    Is that "Slavicist" as in "feminist" (positive) or as in "racist" (negative), Roger ?

  8. Rodger C said,

    February 8, 2023 @ 6:43 pm

    "Slavicist" as in "international transliteration used by professional scholars of Slavic literature." (Sorry, I'm a Comparative Lit. person.) I used to have a booklet on transliterations of Russian, including this one. They were the people who wrote about "Baxtin" till he caught on.

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