Book Review: Zellig Harris

Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism [Kindle Edition]

This book filled in some of the gaps of structural linguistics before Chomsky.  Zellig Harris founded and chaired the oldest linguistics department in the US and that was not by accident.  It took considerable effort on Harris’ part and this book details a lot of the people and correspondence to give the reader an in-depth perspective of the time.

I read this at the same time as his 1951 Methods in Structural Linguistics.  Still, reading the book above, really gives perspective to knowing who was reading the manuscript and when.  How the communication was occurring and what in their lives lead up to it.  Him giving the manuscript to a young Chomsky and its implications.  Reading this book even brought to life the concluding lines of the preface of Harris’ Methods of Structural Linguistics which concludes with,

“N. Chomsky has given much-needed assistance with the manuscript.

PHILADELPHIA                                                                   Z.S. HARRIS

January 1947”

A highly recommended read for people looking for additional background in that period or anyone finding the material in structural linguistics in need of the personality and perspective this book brings to it.


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