Nineteenth-century Russian philology was dominated by an approach derived from German Völkerpsychologie. Language and social consciousness were viewed as embodiments of "national-popular psychology." The shortcomings of this approach were becoming apparent at the end of the prerevolutionary period, but it was only in the 1920s that the hegemony of Völkerpsychologie was decisively challenged. Völkerpsychologie was attacked in the name of "objective psychology," and concrete studies of the relationship between language and social structure were carried out. By the end of the 1920s, völkerpsychologische ideas were subsumed into a new and progressive form of sociological linguistics.
The work of Lev Iakubinskii, Boris Larin and Viktor Zhirmunskii working at the Institute of Discursive Culture in Leningrad in the 1920s and 1930s deserves to be recognised as an early version of sociolinguistics. These thinkers combined dialect geography with Marxist sociological thought and contemporary work on linguistic con¯icts and planning to produce very sophisticated sociological re¯ections on language. The in¯uence of their teacher, Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, was crucial to their work, as was the tradition of Russian dialect research carried out by Aleksei Shakhmatov and others. However, the sociopolitical conditions for linguistic research brought about by the 1917 revolution were decisive. The historical signi®cance of the reception and reinterpretation of these ideas is considerable, leading to a reconsideration of the origins of sociolinguistics and of the relationship between Marxism and the language sciences in the early years of the Soviet Union.
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