Til bevillingsoversigt




The aim of this project is to make the numerous letters between the leading Danish structuralists accessible for theoretical and historical purposes. At the Royal Library in Copenhagen and in the archives of the University of Aarhus, a wealth of letters between the leading figures of this grouping has been preserved, first and foremost Louis Hjelmslev (1899-1965) and Hans Jørgen Uldall (1907-1957), the central theory builders of Glossematics, as they termed their special version of structural linguistics. Besides, the archives contain letters exchanged between the two leading figures and their most important discussion partners: Eli Fischer-Jørgensen (1911-2010), Paul Diderichsen (1905-1964) and Jens Holt (1904-1973).


The discussion of structuralism as an approach to language description and analysis is still a vital one, not only within linguistics, but also within many other branches of humanistic science where the strutural approach is an important tool for handling questions of meaning and interaction through language. Basically, the fundamental concept of structuralism is that meaning consists of those structures that are marked in the given context as mutually different (cp. Saussure). Whether these markings are founded in local structuring of meaning or in a structuring that is valid to a larger community, is not as important as the theoreticians of those days thought, having thier main bias on standard languages. Indeed, this opening is a seminal point in the attempt to bring structuralism into the 21st century. With this project, we want to stimulate the theoretical discussions of language, social interaction and meaning within the field of the humanities. The letters between Hjelmslev and the members of his intellectual circle are important in several respects: First of all, they contain explanations and expansions of the theory as was unfolded in the printed works. Secondly, we find possibilities and alternatives, maybe even lines of thinking that were discarded in the first line, but nevertheless still worth pursuing in the light of later practical experience.


The letters will be made accessible through the internet as picture files and will be readable as such. Since the letters were exchanged for many different reasons, we may find hardcore theoretical discussions juxtaposed with season’s greetings and academic nitty-grity. Because of this, we will select the central parts of the theoretical discussion from the letters, transscribe and comment them, so that references in passing to persons and events etc. will be elucidated as fully as possible. Also, the development of the linguistic thinking will be made clear through references to the development of the terminology.


The importance of this project lies in the possibility to renew and revitalize humanistic thinking. In many ways, the Humanities have presented muddled pictures of their objects, lacking precision and depth in their ways of research. The contribution of this project is to discuss ways of clarification of these fundamental problems.