Primitive Structures and Defective Language

Part of the Kommunikation und Kybernetik in Einzeldarstellungen book series (COMMUNICATION, volume 2)


It was pointed out already in Chap. III and IV that certain solid1 distinctions (within the vowel systems the extreme values i - u - a) have to be looked upon as basic in the sense that all languages have at least those oppositions. The distinction stop consonant ~ vowel is the most extreme of all phonemic distinction, whereas fricatives, nasals, laterals etc. are to be regarded as intermediate types and therefore also, in fact, are less general than stops. Some of these contoids may, on account of this, be used as consonants or as vowels. Phonemic fricatives presuppose stops but not inversely. On the syntagmatic level we have pointed out that the open syllable is the most general one and has to be looked upon as more primitive then the closed syllable. Closed syllables suppose open syllables but not inversely. We have also stressed that the primitive (most simple) structures, on both levels, are those which appear first in the child’s linguistic development and those which are the most resistant ones in aphasia. These facts, which were for the first time systematically described, and utilized for linguistic theory, by Roman Jakobson, reflect a basic principle in language structure.


Human Language Syllabic Structure Linguistic Communication Primitive Structure Linguistic Capacity 
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Bibliographical Notes

  1. The chapter is based on R. Jakobson‘s great theory of linguistic (phonemic) hierarchy as expressed particularly in his “Kindersprache” (quoted in Chap. IV). Cf. also my own article “Om vår förmåga” (quoted in the same chapter), and my report to the IXth International Congress of Linguists, 1962. For further examples of children’s speech and nursery words, see Jakobson, “Why ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ ?” (quoted in Chap. VII), and the classical work by R. Meringer and K. Mayer, “Versprechen und Verlesen”, 1895. — Some other general works on children’s speech and on aphasia: A. Grégoire, “L’apprentissage du langage” I—II, 1937 – 1947;Google Scholar
  2. O. Jespersen, “Language”, 1922 and fî. (particularly Chap. II “The Child”), and other works of the same author;Google Scholar
  3. E. Fröschels etc., “Psychological Elements in Speech”, 1932;Google Scholar
  4. A. Ombredane, “L’aphasie et l’élaboration de la pensée explicite”, 1950;Google Scholar
  5. M. Fog and K. Hermann, “Om afasi”, 1941;Google Scholar
  6. R. Luchsinger and G. E. Arnold, “Lehrbuch der Stimm- und Sprachheilkunde”, 2nd ed., 1959;Google Scholar
  7. W. Penfield and L. Roberts, “Speech and Brain Mechanisms”, 1959;Google Scholar
  8. M. Joos, in “Language”, XXXIII, 1957, pp. 408 – 415.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1967

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArtsUniversity of LundSweden

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