Russian linguist Lev Petrovich Yakubinsky (1892-1945) attended the University of Petersburg from 1909-15, during a period of academic renewal and challenge in Russian linguistics, which had hitherto been dominated by the neogrammarian study of language. The neogrammarian, positivist and historicist approach was contested by a range of young scholars concerned with the functional and social diversity of language as an individual and collective activity. In this heated atmosphere of re-evaluation and change Yakubinsky, together with some of his fellow students and colleagues, such as Osip Brik and Viktor B. Shklovsky, founded, in 1916, the Society for the Study of Poetic Language, thus initiating the movement that would subsequently go down in history under the moniker Russian Formalism (without which, in turn, such schools of thought and criticism as structuralism, poststructuralism and deconstruction would be unthinkable).
Written between 1916 and 1931, Yakubinsky’s seminal essays offer an unprecedented view of the history of modern literary and cultural theory. Addressing core questions of poetics and (socio)linguistics – e. g. what distinguishes literature from ordinary language?, where do poems come from?, how are language and politics intertwined? – their insights are as fresh today as they were a century ago.
Published in 1923, On Dialogic Speech is the first study devoted entirely to the forms of speech in their concrete, social and inter-subjective manifestations. It is also the first study addressing the linguistic, psycho-physiological, pragmatic, semantic and socio-political aspects of dialogue and dialogic interaction.