Doctorial thesis in progress: “Epistemology and Theory in Hjelmslev’s Sprogteori. The case of the analysis of verbless sentences compared with an analysis based on a Minimalist approach”

Mohammad Amin Shakeri, PhD candidate at HTL, is currently preparing a thesis entitled “Epistemology and Theory in Hjelmslev’s Sprogteori. The case of the analysis of verbless sentences compared with an analysis based on a Minimalist approach” under the supervision of Christian Puech (université Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Sémir Badir (université de Liège).

Here is a short presentation of his dissertation:

Louis Hjelmslev delivering Forelæsninger over sprogteori (Course in the theory of language) at the University of Copenhagen (1942-43)

My thesis is a significant step forward in my long-term personal project of “investigating the Glossematics”- a project which has at least two intentions: inquiring into various novel issues raised by this particular approach to language and semiotic, and, providing introductive materials for Persian readers. My project is focused on the work of Louis Hjelmslev. His Glossematics radicalizes Saussurean problems for which it has clear and rational solutions, while, at the same time, going much further and developing a fundamental semiotic theory from an innovative “Immanent” epistemological perspective. Examining the works of this seminal figure, who has undoubtably received insufficient attention, will be crucial not only from a historical point of view, but also from an epistemological one for today’s theorization in linguistics and semiotics.

My dissertation deals with the core part of Hjelmslevian Glossematics, i.e. Sprogteori, within various layers of survey, each of which serves as a prerequisite for the next:

1. from a historical perspective, I will provide a genetic description of Sprogteori’s evolution along with a biography of the theorist. This preliminary product, being quite stimulating in itself and providing a new accumulation of some historical details, serves as an effective source of reference and allows us to address epistemological and theoretical questions more directly in the following.

2. from an epistemological perspective, I will carry out an investigation of the foundations and fundamental issues which I found to be essential for any engagement with Hjelmslevian theory. As expected, I will address a dozen major questions in a reasoned manner from the most basic ones to what leads us to the next layer (i.e. immanence; apriori/aposteriori – deduction/induction; universal/general; form/substance – stratification; logic/prelogic/sublogic; science/object – classification of sciences; Empiricism – reflexivity and harmony – Isomorphism/conformity; theory and procedure).

3. from a theoretical perspective, I will focus on the apparatus of Sprogteori and the major questions it raises. It would be impracticable to explore the immense calculus of Sprogteori in its entirety; instead, I will investigate it and its procedures through the perspective of the main syntactic problem, namely, the sentence structure analysis.

4. from an analytical perspective, I will particularly come to grips with a crucial syntactic problem: the analysis of “verbless sentences”. I will examine Hjelmslev’s solution for this syntactic conundrum in detail.

5. from an applied perspective, I will undertake the demanding task of reconfiguring a glossematic analysis of the verbless sentences through the labyrinth of Sprogteori. This will be followed by an application on a selective corpus of Persian texts (provisionally, the poems of a specific branch of New Vague known as the Poetry of the Seventies), as well as a comparison to an analysis from a Minimalist approach in order to demonstrate the performance and applicability of these analyses.

It should be highlighted that a comparative approach will be applied, not only within the last layer of the survey, but also in the other layers, particularly the epistemological one.


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Université Sorbonne Nouvelle