|This article relies on references to primary sources. (May 2011)|
Martinet agrégated in English and received his doctorate after submitting, as is traditional in France, two theses: La gemination consonantique d'origine expressive dans les langues germaniques and La phonologie du mot en danois. From 1938 to 1946 he was a director of studies of the École pratique des hautes études. Following World War II he moved to New York, where he was to remain until 1955.
During his time in New York Martinet directed the International Auxiliary Language Association and taught at Columbia University, where he served as chair of the department from 1947 to 1955. Also, during this time, he became editor of Word, a linguistics journal. In 1955 he returned to his position at École Pratique des Hautes Études and took up a chair in general linguistics at the Sorbonne, and then Paris V. He continued to be active professionally, serving as president of the European Linguistic Society and founding both the Society for Functional Linguistics and the journal La Linguistique.
The Prague School of linguistics was one of Martinet's main influences, and he is known for pioneering a functionalist approach to syntax which led to a violent polemic with Noam Chomsky. He wrote over twenty books on topics ranging from historical linguistics (Économie des changements phonétiques, 1955) to general linguistic theory. His most widely known work, Elements of General Linguistics (1960) has been translated into seventeen languages and has influenced a generation of students both in France and abroad. Other works include General Syntax (1985), The Function and Dynamics of Language (1989), and an intellectual autobiography entitled Memories of a Linguist and the Life of Language.
- La gémination consonantique d'origine expressive dans les langues germaniques, Copenhague, Munksgaard, 1937.
- La phonologie du mot en danois, Paris, Klincksieck, 1937.
- La prononciation du français contemporain, Paris, Droz, 1945.
- Économie des changements phonétiques, Berne, Francke, 1955.
- La description phonologique avec application au parler francoprovençal d'Hauteville (Savoie), coll. « Publication romanes et françaises », Genève, Librairie Droz, 1956.
- Éléments de linguistique générale, Paris, Armand Colin, 1960.
- Langue et fonction, 1962.
- La linguistique synchronique, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1965.
- Le français sans fard, coll. « Sup », Paris, PUF, 1969.
- André Martinet, Langue et Fonction, Paris : Denoël, 1969, ©1962.
- Studies in Functional Syntax, München, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1975.
- Évolution des langues et reconstruction, Paris, PUF, 1975.
- Syntaxe générale, 1985.
- Des steppes aux océans, Paris, Payot, 1986.
- Fonction et dynamique des langues, Paris, Armand Colin, 1989.
- Mémoires d'un linguiste, vivre les langues, Paris, Quai Voltaire, 1993 (with G. Kassai and J. Martinet).
Martinet was married twice:
- To Karen Martinet (née Mikkelsen Sørensen)
- To Jeanne Martinet (née Allard).
- Francois Dosse, History of Structuralism: The Sign Sets, 1967-Present, University of Minnesota Press (May 1997), ISBN 978-0-8166-2370-9.