The Copenhagen School, officially the "Linguistic Circle of Copenhagen (Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague)", was a group of scholars dedicated to the study of structural linguistics founded by Louis Hjelmslev and Viggo Brøndal. In the mid twentieth century the Copenhagen school was one of the most important centers of linguistic structuralism together with the Geneva School and the Prague School.
The Copenhagen School of Linguistics evolved around Louis Hjelmslev and his developing theory of language, glossematics. Together with Viggo Brødal he founded the Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague a group of linguists based on the model of the Prague Linguistic Circle.
Within the circle the ideas of Brøndal and Hjelmslev were not always compatible and Hjelmslevs more formalist approach attracted a group of followers, principal among them Hans Jørgen Uldall and Eli Fischer Jørgensen, who would strive to apply Hjelmslevs abstract ideas of the nature of language to analyses of actual linguistic data.
The basic theoretical framework, called Glossematics was laid out in Hjelmslevs two main works: "Prolegomena to a theory of Language" and "résumé of a theory of Language."
In 1989 a group of members of the Copenhagen Linguistic circle inspired by the advances in cognitive linguistics and the functionalist theories of Simon C. Dik founded the School of Danish Functional Grammar aiming to combine the ideas of Hjelmslev and Brøndal, and other important Danish linguists such as Paul Diderichsen and Otto Jespersen with modern functional linguistics.
Among the prominent members of this new generation of the Copenhagen School of Linguistics were Peter Harder, Elisabeth Engberg Petersen, Frans Gregersen and Michael Fortescue, and the basic work of the school is "Danish Functional Grammar."
Louis Hjelmslev (October 3, 1899, Copenhagen – May 30, 1965, Copenhagen) was a Danish linguist whose ideas formed the basis of the Copenhagen School of linguistics. In 1931, he founded the Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague. Together with Hans Jørgen Uldall he developed a structural theory of language which he called glossematics, which developed the semiotic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure. Glossematics as a theory of language is characterized by a high degree of formalism, it is interested only in describing the formal characteristics of language, and a high degree of logical rigour.
Hjelmslev and a group of Danish colleagues founded the Linguistic Circle of Copenhagen on September 24, 1931. Their main inspiration was the Prague Linguistic Circle, which had been founded in 1926. It was, in the first place, a forum for discussion of theoretical and methodological problems in linguistics. Initially, their interest lay mainly in developing an alternative concept of the phoneme, but it later developed into a complete theory which was coined glossematics, and was notably influenced by structuralism. Membership of the group grew rapidly and a significant list of publications resulted, including an irregular series of larger works under the name Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague.
In his general grammar, Hjelmslev tries to articulate the basic principles for a description of language as form. The grammar itself is a system of forms from which the specific forms of any natural language can be generated.
These forms are obtained inductively from an analysis of the syntactical chain. Although his book on case foregrounds morphology and semantics, Hjelmslev still attempts to isolate a few formal features from which all possible manifestations of case can be constructed through calculated combinations.
The center of a given case system, called an intensive case, is established inductively, but it acquires its status as a true linguistic element only through the system to which it belongs.
Such systems of interrelated elements function according to two general language-specific structural principles:
1. The differences between the elements are more fundamental than the elements themselves; and
2. The elements enter into the system through participation—that is, certain cases, called extensive cases, can absorb or take over the role of the intensive cases, or they might occupy a neutral position, being alternatively extensive and intensive.
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