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« A quoi reconnaît-on la tagmémique ? Entre structuralisme périphérique et grammaire de texte : essai de modélisation épistémologique » (2011)

Histoire, Epistémologie, Langage, n° 34-2, pp. 123-154.

How Tagmemics is consistent with the main features of structuralism ? How does it differ from more well known forms of structuralism, such as the Sapir-Boas or Bloomfieldian paradigms of empirical linguistics ? We shall address this question through a model of sixteen criteria proper to tagmemics, and through an array of seven additional criteria suggested by Gilles Deleuze about how to define structuralism. Tagmemics turns out to be a fairly paradoxical form of functionalism. As a matter of facts, modern typological and computer linguistics are highly indebted to its data and models, though Tagmemic is hardly considered nowadays as a leading trend in modern linguistics. This paper revisits Tagmemics through some programmatic texts by Kenneth Pike and Robert Longacre, with special attention to Mazatec data. Mazatec and Mixtec happen to be language which strongly induced some characteristics of the theoretical framework of Tagmemics. This case study shows that not only should some currents of 20th Century structuralism be defined by a strong commitment to empiricism, but empirical data from specific languages provided modern linguistics with a bulk of fundamental intuitions and insights. As Tagmemics may not be the only case of strongly data-driven paradigm feeding linguistic typology, this trend should be investigated further, in order to disentangle historical sources of empirical linguistics.