Otto Jespersen was born in Randers in Jutland. He was inspired by the work of Danish philologist Rasmus Rask as a boy and with the help of Rask's grammars taught himself some Icelandic, Italian, and Spanish.
He entered the University of Copenhagen in 1877 when he was 17, initially studying law but not forgetting his language studies. In 1881 he shifted his focus completely to languages, and in 1887 earned his master's degree in French, with English and Latin as his secondary languages. He supported himself during his studies through part-time work as a schoolteacher and as a shorthand reporter in the Danish parliament. In 1887–1888, he traveled to England, Germany and France, meeting linguists like Henry Sweet and Paul Passyand attending lectures at institutions like Oxford University. Following the advice of his mentor Vilhelm Thomsen, he returned to Copenhagen in August 1888 and began work on his doctoral dissertation on the English case system. He successfully defended his dissertation in 1891.
Academic life and Work
Jespersen was a professor of English at the University of Copenhagen from 1893 to 1925, and served as Rector of the university in 1920–21. His early work focused primarily on language teaching reform and on phonetics, but he is best known for his later work on syntax and on language development.
He advanced the theories of Rank and Nexus in Danish in two papers: Sprogets logik (1913) and De to hovedarter af grammatiske forbindelser (1921). Jespersen in this theory of ranks removes the parts of speech from the syntax, and differentiates between primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries; e.g. in "well honed phrase," "phrase" is a primary, this being defined by a secondary, "honed", which again is defined by a tertiary "well". The term Nexus is applied to sentences, structures similar to sentences and sentences in formation, in which two concepts are expressed in one unit; e.g., it rained, he ran indoors. This term is qualified by a further concept called a junction which represents one idea, expressed by means of two or more elements, whereas a nexus combines two ideas. Junction and nexus proved valuable in bringing the concept of context to the forefront of the attention of the world of linguistics.
He was most widely recognized for some of his books. Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (1922) is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (1909–1949), concentrated on morphology and syntax, and Growth and Structure of the English Language (1905) is a comprehensive view of English by someone with another native language, and still in print, over 70 years after his death and more than 100 years after publication. Late in his life he published Analytic Syntax (1937), in which he presents his views on syntactic structure using an idiosyncratic shorthand notation. In The Philosophy of Grammar (1924) he challenged the accepted views of common concepts in Grammar and proposed corrections to the basic definitions of grammatical case, pronoun, object, voice etc., and developed further his notions of Rank and Nexus. In the 21st century this book is still used as one of the basic texts in modern Structural linguistics. Mankind, Nation and Individual: from a linguistic point of view (1925) is one of the pioneering works on Sociolinguistics.
Jespersen visited the United States twice: he lectured at the Congress of Arts and Sciences in St. Louis in 1904, and in 1909–1910 he visited both the University of California and Columbia University. While in the U.S., he took occasion to study the country's educational system. His autobiography (see below) was published in English translation as recently as 1995.
Jespersen was a proponent of phonosemanticism and wrote: “Is there really much more logic in the opposite extreme which denies any kind of sound symbolism (apart from the small class of evident echoisms and ‘onomatopoeia’) and sees in our words only a collection of accidental and irrational associations of sound and meaning? ...There is no denying that there are words which we feel instinctively to be adequate to express the ideas they stand for.”
After his retirement in 1925, Jespersen remained active in the international linguistic community. In addition to continuing to write, he convened and chaired the first International Meeting on Linguistic Research in Geneva in 1930, and acted as president of the Fourth International Congress of Linguists in Copenhagen in 1936.
Jespersen was an important figure in the international language movement. He was an early supporter of the Esperanto offshoot Ido and in 1927 published his own project Novial. He also worked with the International Auxiliary Language Association.
Jespersen received honorary degrees from Columbia University in New York (1910), St. Andrews University in Scotland (1925), and the Sorbonne in Paris (1927). He was one of the first six international scholars to be elected as honorary members of the Linguistic Society of America.
Fruitful work of Danish scientist in various fields of linguistics is reflected in more than 450 published works. Most of them are written in Danish (approximately 350). Perhaps this is the main reason for linguistic inattention to the writings of Otto Jespersen in our country. In addition, the research makes it difficult to search a variety of sources that would help to systematize the theories and views of the scientist, to trace their evolution. Among his works and major monographs, and little notes, and basic tutorials for beginners and serious linguophilosophical works, and newspaper essays, work and memoirs. Throughout the century the works of the scientist are of interest to linguists of different schools and directions. These features made the relevance of the proposed work.
Terminological innovations have contributed to the simplification and clarification of the terminology that had methodological value. The doctrine of "three ranks" based on the study of speech material, marked important in the development of syntax stage - the division of the term "offer" two"sentence" and "utterance" that took place in the 30-ies of XX century. Defining the relationship of this theory and the theory of parts of speech, the scientist stressed the autonomy of morphology, and "open" nature of the syntax. Jespersen his theory was extended to the constituent parts of the complex sentence, highlighting the types of clauses. Analysis of specific speech situations allowed the linguist to discover new facets of grammatical and logical relationships between words in a sentence. Continued his theory of three grades found in American linguistics from the end of the XX century in the theory of directly components.
In theory, the "nexus and dependency" fundamentally, the division carried out between predicative and depreciative phrases. Jespersen has identified the dependent and independent nexus found in simple and compound sentences. The scientist also identified the types of nexus: the infinitive, the lack of verbs, nexus-addition. A linguist described the phenomenon nexus deny, which further contributes to the explanation of the newly introduced concept. The idea of the scientist became the impetus to the study of structural-semantic entity structures with complex subject, complex addition that as a result influenced the emergence of the theory of predicative actants with further study of the influence of verb semantics on the organization of syntactic structures.
Jespersen was the first to unite the study of the forms of the abstract noun, the object-predicate trafficking and subordinate clauses in a theory of the nexus, where they put forward the unifying principle of nomination of the event, which is opposed to the nomination of the subject - uncle. Scientists described dependence comparable to apredictive phrase, which is characterized by subjectcontent.
In his historiographical studies, Jespersen tried to cover the entire process of development of the science of language, to comprehend its stages, to identify trends and the role of scientific schools and directions in the Genesis of science. In the earlier stages of the development of science is, in our opinion, not possible. Objective analysis was able to provide only in the late XIX early XX centuries. Danish linguist was one of the few who came out of the scope of the existing young grammar, psychological and structural trends and tried to present to posterity a picture of the development of science from its origins to the modern period. Productive analysis of the works of linguists of various schools and epochs gave the opportunity to the scientist to determine the main directions in the development of the science of language, identify their strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of the state of science at an appropriate stage (the end XIX - beginning of XX centuries). Uncritically a number of language provisions, the scientist, however, argued for the continuity of scientific ideas, rejected the negation of "old" ideas as a tribute to scientific fashion.
Semasiologically orientation of the grammatical part of the research scientist is to consider the morphological grammar sections as "forms directory" in exclusively functional mode with its subsequent assignment to the syntax, where the main place is given to the function. The formal side of language ("form") scientist has received considerable attention. Morphology associated exclusively with the language system, according to the scientist. And, indeed, in extralinguistic reality, we find units (referents), the relevant morphemes. Specifying part-of-speech system, O. Jespersen, highlighted, perhaps, the main property of grammar to increase economy of language semiotic system. The iconic nature of morphemes and the morphological consistency of language level, selected scientists, emphasize his desire to show the consistency of morphology as a section, not logic. Phonation form semasiologically approach is, primarily, no doubt, the value of the scholar.
Given the close relationship of language form with function with the conceptual notion, O. Jespersen sought to explore the formal and substantial organization realized the conceptual categories and to prove the relatedness of formal, functional and conceptual areas. Thus, "the catalogue of forms" before Jespersen in morphology, in syntax, is studied in the framework of the theory of "three ranks", "the nexus and uncle", theory of "conceptual categories". The author revealed the interdependence of the three syntactic theories have highlighted the need for further description of language patterns communicative situations and defined the tasks of semantic syntax.
Алпатов В. М. Происхождение языка / В.М. Алпатов // Детский энцикл. словарь, 1998. Русский язык.
Ахманова О.С. Словарь лингвистических терминов / 1969
Березин Ф.М. История лингвистических учений. Учебное пособие для филол. специал. Ун-тов и пед. ин – тов / 1975
Бондарко А. В. Грамматические категории и контекст / 1971
Бондарко A.B. Функциональная грамматика / 1984
Воронцова Г.Н. Вторичная предикативность в английском языке / 1950
Гринбаум С. Словарь трудностей английского языка / 1990