This article addresses the relation between Russian Formalism and linguistic thought in the first decades of the twentieth century. The theory of literary language proposed by the Formalist School assigns a central role to the linguistic devices that characterize a text as poetic or literary; the basic idea is that these devices work as a system, a notion derived from Saussurean linguistics. The leading figure we consider is Roman Jakobson, a key interpreter of Formalism, and, at the same time, an original and influential linguist. In his work the interpretation of poetic language is related to an overall linguistic theory, where the properties of natural languages, crucially phonology, and the use (functions) of language have a theoretical characterization.
history of linguistics; phonology; poetic language; Roman Jakobson; Russian Formalism