HomeMarxist linguistics and philosophy of language in the Soviet Union (1920’s & 1930’s)

HomeMarxist linguistics and philosophy of language in the Soviet Union (1920’s & 1930’s)

Marxist linguistics and philosophy of language in the Soviet Union (1920’s & 1930’s)

Philosophies et sciences marxistes russes du langage (1920-1930)

History and perspectives

Histoire et perspectives

*  *  *

Published on Thursday, February 01, 2018


Ce numéro de la revue META acueille des articles sur les philsophies marxistes russes du langage (1920-1930). Il a pour objectif de questionner l'actualité de la philosophie marxiste russe du langage, mais se propose également de comprendre le contexte socio-historique dans lequel elle est née. 


Guest Editors 

  • Oleg Bernaz (Center for the Philosophy of Law, Catholic University of Louvain)
  • Evgeny Blinov (Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow)


Marxist theories of language grew out in quite diverse directions in the first two decades of the budding Soviet Union. Of first notice is the field of philosophy itself, split as it was by heterogeneous debates that we can largely frame as a tension between idealism and materialism, though each took on a color of its own based on the specific variables at play. One such debate dealt with the question of whether language made its mark on the infrastructure or the superstructure of a society. Another took on the question of the type of causality that determined language’s functioning: can this be understood as the mere passive reflection of a class struggle or does it involve its own sort of action, which might have specific consequences on the way the class struggle is organized in political and economic practice?

Philosophy was not the only stage on which the debates on the social and political statuses of language where held. Linguistic science played an equally important role in Marxist thought at the beginning of the twentieth century in the Soviet Union. The works of Evgenij Polivanov, Lev Jakubinskij and Nikolaï Jakovlev are just a couple noteworthy examples of Russian Marxist linguistic science. Their fieldwork as much as their conceptual approaches had a considerable impact on linguistic movements that did not explicitly align themselves with Marxist, as with Jakobson or Troubetzkoy’s structural phonology, but they also impacted actual political decisions on the status of national languages in the young USSR.

The French-speaking cultural world has had little access to the richness of the Soviet Marxist linguistic theories and practices of the early twentieth century, which nonetheless had a decisive impact on the development of pedagogy, psychology and literary theory in the same period. Of course, some figures such as Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari – and before them Julia Kristeva, Michel Pêcheux and still Trân Duc Thao – built their philosophies of language in dialogue with Russian Marxist linguistic theories, as is evidenced by their analyses of Valentin Volochinov, Lenin and Mikhail Bakhtin. Nonetheless the frame of this dialogue remains limited by an incomplete knowledge of the Russian work in philosophy, linguistics and pedagogy from the 1920’s and 30’s. The recent French translations of Medvedev, Polivanov, and Jakubinskij, as well as the retranslation of Volochinov’s Marxism and the philosophy of language, call us to rekindle, on new practical-theoretical bases, the dialogue between contemporary French philosophy and the Russian Marxist theories of language.

Is there a Marxist theory of language, and if so, what are its main features? What relationship can be established between Russian Marxist philosophy of language and the different human sciences (pedagogy, psychology, linguistics) that consider themselves Marxist? How can we analyze the articulation between practice and theory in the framework of these different Marxist approaches to language? What potential do the concepts of these century-old theories have for understanding pressing political issues at the beginning of the twenty-first century? These are the questions we aim to tackle through a dialogue between philosophy of language and human sciences in light of Russian Marxist thought.

We are looking for proposals from different approaches that fit within the framework defined here:

  1. Philosophy of language and linguistic structuralism.
  2. Sociolinguistics and philosophy of language.
  3. Philosophy of language and literary theory.
  4. Philosophy of language, pedagogy and psychology.
  5. Philosophy of language and linguistic politics.
  6. The reception of Russian Marxist philosophy of language in contemporary French philosophy.

Submission guidelines

Proposals will be sent at philomarx2019@gmail.com. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at philomarx2019@gmail.com.

  • Summary deadline (1000 words max): 31/03/2018.

  • Notification of acceptance/refusal: 30/04/2018.
  • Article submission deadline: 30/09/2018.
  • Articles sent back with revision: 30/01/2019.

After revision, the editors decide which of the contributions are definitively accepted.

  • Publication of the issue : 15/06/2019.


Brandist C., The Dimensions of Hegemony. Language, Culture and Politics in Revolutionary Russia, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2016.

Brandist C. et Chown K. (eds), Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR 1917-1938. The Birth of Sociological Linguistics, Anthem Press, London, 2011.

Deleuze G. et Guattari F., Mille plateaux, Minuit, Paris, 1980.

Jakobson R.O., Selected Writings I. Phonological Studies, Hague, Mouton, 1962.

Jakubinkskij L., Une linguistique de la parole, trad. Sériot P. et Ivanova I., Lambert-Lucas, Limoges, 2012.

Kristeva J., Semeïotikè. Recherches pour une sémanalyse, Seuil, Paris, 1969.

Lecercle J.-J., Une philosophie marxiste du langage, Puf, Paris, 2004.

L’Hermitte R. (dir.), La linguistique en URSS, numéro spécial de la revue Langages, nr. 15, 1969.

Medvedev P., La méthode formelle en littérature. Introduction à une poétique sociologique, Presses Universitaires du Mirail, Toulouse, 2008.

Pêcheux M., Les vérités de la palice, Maspero, Paris, 1975.

Polivanov E.D., Pour une linguistique marxiste, trad. Sériot P. et Simonato E., Lambert-Lucas, Limoges, 2014 (1re édition 1931, Moscou).

Thao T.D., Recherches sur l’origine du langage et de la conscience, Editions Sociales, Paris, 1973.

Troubetzkoy N.S., Correspondance avec Roman Jakobson et autres écrits, trad. Sériot P. et Schönenberger, Payot, Lausanne, 2006.

Todorov T., Mikhaïl Bakhtine. Le principe dialogique. Écrits du Cercle de Bakhtine, Seuil, Paris, 1981.

Tylkovswki I., Volochinov en contexte. Essai d’épistémologie historique, Lambert-Lucas, Limoges, 2012.

Volochinov V., Marxisme et philosophie du langage. Les problèmes fondamentaux de la méthode sociologique dans la science du langage, trad. Sériot P. et Tylkowski-Ageeva I., Lambert-Lucas, Limoges, 2010 (1re édition 1929, Leningrad).

Vygotski L., Pensée et langage, trad. Sève F., La Dispute, Paris, 1997 (1re édition 1934, Moscou).


  • Saturday, March 31, 2018


  • marxiste, langage, Volochinov, Marx, linguistique marxiste, langue, Deleuze, Bakhtine


  • Oleg Bernaz
    courriel : oleg [dot] bernaz [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Evgeny Blinov
    courriel : moderator1979 [at] hotmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Oleg Bernaz
    courriel : oleg [dot] bernaz [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Marxist linguistics and philosophy of language in the Soviet Union (1920’s & 1930’s) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, February 01, 2018, https://doi.org/10.58079/zgn

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