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Ferdinand de Saussure (/sˈsjʊər/;[3] French: [fɛʁdinɑ̃ də sosyʁ]; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss linguist, semiotician and philosopher. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in both linguistics and semiotics in the 20th century.[4][5] He is widely considered one of the founders of 20th-century linguistics[6][7][8][9] and one of two major founders (together with Charles Sanders Peirce) of semiotics, or semiology, as Saussure called it.[10]

One of his translators, Roy Harris, summarized Saussure's contribution to linguistics and the study of "the whole range of human sciences. It is particularly marked in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology."[11] Although they have undergone extension and critique over time, the dimensions of organization introduced by Saussure continue to inform contemporary approaches to the phenomenon of language. Prague school linguist Jan Mukařovský writes that Saussure's "discovery of the internal structure of the linguistic sign differentiated the sign both from mere acoustic 'things'... and from mental processes", and that in this development "new roads were thereby opened not only for linguistics, but also, in the future, for the theory of literature".[12] Ruqaiya Hasan argued that "the impact of Saussure’s theory of the linguistic sign has been such that modern linguists and their theories have since been positioned by reference to him: they are known as pre-Saussurean, Saussurean, anti-Saussurean, post-Saussurean, or non-Saussure".[13]

While a student, Saussure published an important work in Indo-European philology that proposed the existence of ghosts in Proto-Indo-European called sonant coefficients. The Scandinavian scholar Hermann Möller suggested that they might actually be laryngeal consonants, leading to what is now known as the laryngeal theory. It has been argued that the problem that Saussure encountered, trying to explain how he was able to make systematic and predictive hypotheses from known linguistic data to unknown linguistic data, stimulated his development of structuralism. His predictions about the existence of primate coefficients/laryngeals and their evolution proved a success when Hittite texts were discovered and deciphered, some 50 years later.

Influence outside linguistics

The principles and methods employed by structuralism were later adapted in diverse fields by French intellectuals such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Such scholars took influence from Saussure's ideas in their own areas of study (literary studies/philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology, respectively).

View of language

Saussure approaches theory of language from two different perspectives. On the one hand, language is a system of signs. That is, a semiotic system; or a semiological system as he himself calls it. On the other hand, a language is also a

One of his translators, Roy Harris, summarized Saussure's contribution to linguistics and the study of "the whole range of human sciences. It is particularly marked in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology."[11] Although they have undergone extension and critique over time, the dimensions of organization introduced by Saussure continue to inform contemporary approaches to the phenomenon of language. Prague school linguist Jan Mukařovský writes that Saussure's "discovery of the internal structure of the linguistic sign differentiated the sign both from mere acoustic 'things'... and from mental processes", and that in this development "new roads were thereby opened not only for linguistics, but also, in the future, for the theory of literature".[12] Ruqaiya Hasan argued that "the impact of Saussure’s theory of the linguistic sign has been such that modern linguists and their theories have since been positioned by reference to him: they are known as pre-Saussurean, Saussurean, anti-Saussurean, post-Saussurean, or non-Saussure".[13]

Saussure was born in Geneva in 1857. His father was Henri Louis Frédéric de Saussure, a mineralogist, entomologist, and taxonomist. Saussure showed signs of considerable talent and intellectual ability as early as the age of fourteen.[14] In the autumn of 1870, he began attending the Institution Martine (previously the Institution Lecoultre until 1969), in Geneva. There he lived with the family of a classmate, Elie David.[15] Graduating at the top of class, Saussure expected to continue his studies at the Gymnase de Genève, but his father decided he was not mature enough at fourteen and a half, and sent him to the Collège de Genève instead. Saussure was not pleased, as he complained: "I entered the Collège de Genève, to waste a year there as completely as a year can be wasted."[16]

After a year of studying Latin, Ancient Greek and Sanskrit and taking a variety of courses at the University of Geneva, he commenced graduate work at the University of Leipzig in 1876.

Two years later, at 21, Saussure published a book entitled Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européennes (Dissertation on the Primitive Vowel System in Indo-European Languages). After this he studied for a year at the University of Berlin under the Privatdozent Heinrich Zimmer, with whom he studied Celtic, and Hermann Oldenberg with whom he continued his studies of Sanskrit.[17] He returned to Leipzig to defend his doctoral dissertation De l'emploi du génitif absolu en Sanscrit, and was awarded his doctorate in February 1880. Soon, he relocated to the University of Paris, where he lectured on Sanskrit, Gothic and Old High German and occasionally other subjects.

Ferdinand de Saussure is one of the world's most quoted linguists, which is remarkable as he himself hardly published anything during his lifetime. Even his few scientific articles are not unproblematic. Thus, for example, his publication on Lithuanian phonetics[18] is grosso modo taken from studies by the Lithuanian researcher Friedrich Kurschat, with whom Saussure traveled through Lithuania in August 1880 for two weeks, and whose (German) books Saussure had read.[19] Saussure, who had studied some basic grammar of Lithuanian in Leipzig for one semester but was unable to speak the language, was thus dependent on Kurschat.

Saussure taught at the École pratique des hautes études for eleven years during which he was named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor).[20] When offered a professorship in Geneva in 1892, he returned to Switzerland. Saussure lectured on Sanskrit and Indo-European at the University of Geneva for the remainder of his life. It was not until 1907 that Saussure began teaching the Course of General Linguistics, which he would offer three times, ending in the summer of 1911. He died in 1913 in Vufflens-le-Château, Vaud, Switzerland. His brothers were the linguist and Esperantist René de Saussure, and scholar of ancient Chinese astronomy, Léopold de Saussure. In turn, his son was the psychoanalyst Raymond de Saussure.

Saussure attempted, at various times in the 1880s and 1890s, to write a book on general linguisti

After a year of studying Latin, Ancient Greek and Sanskrit and taking a variety of courses at the University of Geneva, he commenced graduate work at the University of Leipzig in 1876.

Two years later, at 21, Saussure published a book entitled Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européennes (Dissertation on the Primitive Vowel System in Indo-European Languages). After this he studied for a year at the University of Berlin under the Privatdozent Heinrich Zimmer, with whom he studied Celtic, and Hermann Oldenberg with whom he continued his studies of Sanskrit.[17] He returned to Leipzig to defend his doctoral dissertation De l'emploi du génitif absolu en Sanscrit, and was awarded his doctorate in February 1880. Soon, he relocated to the University of Paris, where he lectured on Sanskrit, Gothic and Old High German and occasionally other subjects.

Ferdinand de Saussure is one of the world's most quoted linguists, which is remarkable as he himself hardly published anything during his lifetime. Even his few scientific articles are not unproblematic. Thus, for example, his publication on Lithuanian phonetics[18] is grosso modo taken from studies by the Lithuanian researcher Friedrich Kurschat, with whom Saussure traveled through Lithuania in August 1880 for two weeks, and whose (German) books Saussure had read.[19] Saussure, who had studied some basic grammar of Lithuanian in Leipzig for one semester but was unable to speak the language, was thus dependent on Kurschat.

Saussure taught at the École pratique des hautes études for eleven years during which he was named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor).[20] When offered a professorship in Geneva in 1892, he returned to Switzerland. Saussure lectured on Sanskrit and Indo-European at the University of Geneva for the remainder of his life. It was not until 1907 that Saussure began teaching the Course of General Linguistics, which he would offer three times, ending in the summer of 1911. He died in 1913 in Vufflens-le-Château, Vaud, Switzerland. His brothers were the linguist and Esperantist René de Saussure, and scholar of ancient Chinese astronomy, Léopold de Saussure. In turn, his son was the psychoanalyst Raymond de Saussure.

Saussure attempted, at various times in the 1880s and 1890s, to write a book on general linguistic matters. His lectures about important principles of language description in Geneva between 1907 and 1911 were collected and published by his pupils posthumously in the famous Cours de linguistique générale in 1916. Some of his manuscripts, including an unfinished essay discovered in 1996, were published in Writings in General Linguistics, but most of the material in it had already been published in Engler's critical edition of the Course, in 1967 and 1974. (TUFA) It is also questionable to what extent the Cours itself can be traced back to Saussure alone. Studies have shown that at least the current version and its content are more likely to have the so-called editors Charles Bally and Albert Sèchehaye as their source than Saussure himself.[21]

Saussure's theoretical reconstructions of the Proto-Indo-European language vocalic system and particularly his theory of laryngeals, otherwise unattested at the time, bore fruit and found confirmation after the decipherment of Hittite in the work of later generations of linguists such as Émile Benveniste and Walter Couvreur, who both drew direct inspiration from their reading of the 1878 Mémoire.[22]

Saussure had a major impact on the development of linguistic theory in the first half of the 20th century with his notions becoming incorporated in the central tenets of structural linguistics. His main contribution to structuralism was his theory of a two-tiered reality about langu

Saussure had a major impact on the development of linguistic theory in the first half of the 20th century with his notions becoming incorporated in the central tenets of structural linguistics. His main contribution to structuralism was his theory of a two-tiered reality about language. The first is the langue, the abstract and invisible layer, while the second, the parole, refers to the actual speech that we hear in real life.[23] This framework was later adopted by Claude Levi-Strauss, who used the two-tiered model to determine the reality of myths. His idea was that all myths have an underlying pattern, which form the structure that makes them myths.[23] These established the structuralist framework to literary criticism.

In Europe, the most important work after Saussure's death was done by the Prague school. Most notably, Nikolay Trubetzkoy and Roman Jakobson headed the efforts of the Prague School in setting the course of phonological theory in the decades from 1940. Jakobson's universalizing structural-functional theory of phonology, based on a markedness hierarchy of distinctive features, was the first successful solution of a plane of linguistic analysis according to the Saussurean hypotheses. Elsewhere, Louis Hjelmslev and the Copenhagen School proposed new interpretations of linguistics from structuralist theoretical frameworks.

In America, where the term 'structuralism' became highly ambiguous, Saussure's ideas informed the distributionalism of Leonard Bloomfield, but his influence remained limited.[24][25] Systemic functional linguistics is a theory considered to be based firmly on the Saussurean principles of the sign, albeit with some modifications. Ruqaiya Hasan describes systemic functional linguistics as a 'post-Saussurean' linguistic theory.[13] Michael Halliday argues:

Saussure took the sign as the organizing concept for linguistic structure, using it to express the conventional nature of language in the phrase "l'arbitraire du signe". This has the effect of highlighting what is, in fact, the one point of arbitrariness in the system, namely the phonological shape of words, and hence allows the non-arbitrariness of the rest to emerge with greater clarity. An example of something that is distinctly non-arbitrary is the way different kinds of meaning in language are expressed by different kinds of grammatical structure, as appears when linguistic structure is interpreted in functional terms [26]

Course in General Linguistics

The principles and methods employed by structuralism were later adapted in diverse fields by French intellectuals su

The principles and methods employed by structuralism were later adapted in diverse fields by French intellectuals such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Such scholars took influence from Saussure's ideas in their own areas of study (literary studies/philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology, respectively).

View of language

Saussure approaches theory of language from two different perspectives. On the one hand, language is a system of signs. That is, a semiotic system; or a semiological system as he himself calls it. On the other hand, a language is also a social phenomenon: a product of the language community.

Language as a semiotic system

There had long been disagreements between structuralists and Marxists, and after the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe,

Conversely, other cognitive linguists claim to continue and expand Saussure's work on the bilateral sign. Dutch philologist Elise Elffers, however, argues that their view of the subject is incompatible with Saussure's own ideas.[57]

There had long been disagreements between structuralists and Marxists, and after the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, structural linguists who found themselves behind the Iron Curtain were labelled dissidents. From 1948 onwards the communist government of Czechoslovakia forced the Prague Linguistic Circle to publish a series of writings repudiating structuralism, and to rally around the banner of dialectical materialism. For example, Jan Mukařovský publicly denounced structuralism in his 'confession' as the product of 'bourgeois scholarship', arguing that its role

"in the service of the warmongers is to subvert the worker's consciousness by stirring a distrust of the power of knowledge, spreading individualism and subjectivism, concealing the insoluble inner contradictions of perishing capitalism."[58]

The original Prague Linguistic Circle disbanded in 1953 due to its problems with the socialist regime.

In Western Europe, in contrast, Saussure's work became widely influential as the structuralists led by Michel Foucault rose to academic power at the Sorbonne after the student revolts of S

In Western Europe, in contrast, Saussure's work became widely influential as the structuralists led by Michel Foucault rose to academic power at the Sorbonne after the student revolts of Spring 1968. Their intention was to replace Marxism[59][m] by redefining leftism as a struggle for equality of all social categories.[59][page needed] Structural linguistics was taken as the model science for humanities.[31][n] Soon enough it was however noted that, as a scientific enterprise, structuralism was too conservative to serve the purpose.[60][o] This led to new paradigms of post-structuralism. Jacques Derrida's deconstructionism, for example, does not take as its goal the recognition of binary oppositions but that of their deconstruction.[59] Structuralism also became criticised for its denial that the individual can change the social norm, and labelled as 'anti-humanistic' by many.[61][page needed]

The post-structuralists, after having extended their method to natural sciences, were eventually attacked by Chomsky's allies, including Jean Bricmont,[62] in the Science Wars.

The term 'structuralism' continues to be used in structural–functional linguistics[63][64] which despite the contrary claims defines itself as a humanistic approach to language.[65]