Prague School

The Prague school, or Prague linguistic circle, was an influential group of literary critics and linguists in Prague. Its proponents developed methods of structuralist literary analysis during the years 1928–1939. It has had significant continuing influence on linguistics and semiotics. Following the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948, the circle was disbanded in 1952, but the Prague School continued as a major force in linguistic functionalism (distinct from the Copenhagen school or English Firthian — later Hallidean — linguistics). American scholar Dell Hymes cites his 1962 paper, "The Ethnography of Speaking," as the formal introduction of Prague functionalism to American linguistic anthropology.

The Prague linguistic circle included the Russian émigrés Roman Jakobson, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, and Sergei Karcevskiy, as well as the famous Czech literary scholars René Wellek and Jan Mukařovský. The instigator of the circle and its first president was the Czech linguist Vilém Mathesius (President of PLC until his death in 1945).

In 1929 the Circle promulgated its theses in a paper submitted to the First Congress of Slavists. "The programmatic 1929 Prague Theses, surely one of the most imposing linguistic edifices of the 20th century, incapsulated the functionalist credo." In the late 20th century, English translations of the Circle's seminal works were published by the Czech linguist Josef Vachek in several collections.

Also in 1929, the group launched a journal, Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague. World War II brought an end to it. The Travaux was briefly resurrected from 1966–1971. The inaugural issue was devoted to the political science concept of center and periphery. It was resurrected yet again in 1995. The group's Czech language work is published in Slovo a slovesnost (Word and Literature).

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