Publication details [#59379]

Godart-Wendling, Béatrice. 2014. L’hypothèse de Firth: Wittgenstein, héritier de Malinowski? Historiographia Linguistica 41 (1) : 79–108.
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Article in journal
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Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


The aim of this paper is to study the grounds for John Rupert Firth’s (1890–1960) assumption that the 1923 paper, “The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages” by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942), would be a source of inspiration that would lead Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) to develop a new conception of meaning in terms of ‘use’. Based on certain excerpts of Philosophical Investigations (1953), Firth established a filiation between ­Malinowski’s two key ideas, namely the importance of the notion of ‘context of situation’ and the idea that language is a ‘mode of action’) and the main theses that Wittgenstein promoted (meaning as use, language acquisition, language as a set of games). Assessing the force of that claim will lead to clarifying the synergy of ideas that took place in the matter of pragmatics in Great Britain of the first half of the 20th century.