Saturday, July 12, 2008

Leonard Bloomfield in the news!

Check out this piece by Kenan Heise in the Chicago Daily Observer. The article reports a recollection from activist Leon Despres, now over 100, about a class at the University of Chicago:
In the mid-1920s, few experts in the world were more concerned with the meaning of a word than U. of C. Professor Leonard Bloomfield—noted in linguistics for having introduced rigorous scientific methodology to the study of language.

In this instance, the word was “democracy.”

“We cannot call this nation a democracy,” he told the U. of C. class in which Despres sat, “until we have elected a Negro President.”
Yeah, I know, Bloomfield's role in the history of linguistics isn't exactly accurately portrayed here, but it's an interesting bit about Bloomfield's politics, at the very least.


Anonymous said...

Go Bloomfield! May we have democracy in this country.

JJM said...

Bloomfield got it entirely wrong, of course.

What he should have said was:

"We will not have democracy in this country until we have a president who just happens to be a Negro."

G.E. said...

"...until we no longer notice whether our president is a negro."

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks, everybody. Yeah, those are good options, but he was on the right track and ahead of his time.