Ferdinand de Saussure A Presentation by Barbara Robinson and Michaela Densmore © 2001 Edited By: Dr. Picart Associate Professor of English Associate Professor of Law Ferdinand de Saussure-Bio Born 26 November 1857 – (French origin, moved to Geneva) From a family of many scholars Studied Latin, Greek, chemistry, theology and law at University of Geneva (1875-76) At age 21, wrote Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelle dans les langues indoeuropéennes in which he proved scholars wrong. Ferdinand de Saussure-Bio 1880 awarded doctorate at University Leipzig (Germany). Taught at Paris. 1891 returned to Geneva to teach there. Taught ancient Sanskrit for 21 (!) years! Was asked to teach a course in General Linguistics (taught it three times 1907 - 11) Ferdinand de Saussure-Bio Influenced many different linguists, but also other disciplines: Anthropology Psychiatry Literary criticism Ferdinand de Saussure-Influence Some names include: Claude Lévi-Strauss (Structural Anthropology) (http://encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?ti=06AA4000) Roland Barthes Early works in Semiotics, put principles into application (http://we.got.net/~tuttle/) Ferdinand de Saussure-Influence Roman Jakobson Linguist in the “Frankfurt School” (http://www.heartfield.demon.co.uk/jakobson.htm) Jacques Lacan Psychiatry (http://www.slip.net/~lacan/) Ferdinand de Saussure-Influence Jacques Derrida Literary criticism (http://www.hydra.umn.edu/derrida/) Ferdinand de Saussure -Linguistics / Key Terms Linguistics – Analysis of language Semiology: – The “Science of the life of signs within the heart of social life” (Saussure) Ferdinand de Saussure -Linguistics / Key Terms Sign: – combination of a concept and a sound-image Signifier: – the sound-image Signified: – concept What does all this mess mean? An Example of Saussure’s words Signifier I Signified I (Image) (Concept) (Roses) (Passion) Sign I (passionified roses) What does all this mess mean? An Example of Saussure’s words Signifier II Signified II (Image) (Concept) (Passionified Roses) (Valentine’s Day) (i.e. Sign becomes new Signifier) Sign II (Product consumption, expenditure of money as romantic obligation) ... Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Arbitrary Nature of the Sign – We have inherited language from our ancestors. – Language is connecting sound-images – “Fenster” and the concept of or Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Arbitrary Nature of the Sign (2) – Boundaries become blurred when we look at different types of “language” (e.g. body language, pantomime, spoken language, written language, deaf-mute language, sign language, Braille, etc.) Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics The Linear Nature of the Signifier – Signifier = sound-image – it is measurable only in terms of time. – Sounds are “Schall und Rauch” (“sound and smoke”) – Problem: when writing down the “soundimage” the sound component gets lost. Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Immutability of the Sign – The signifier (sound-image) “is fixed, not free” – “community itself cannot control so much as a single word; it is bound to the existing language.” – Problem: modern language has added many different words (e.g. computers, “teen” language) Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Immutability of the Sign (2) – Language is a law, not a rule which we can opt to follow. – We inherit these laws from our ancestors. – Language is a social “institution” and must be seen in the setting. – “Speakers are largely unconscious of the laws of language.” Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Immutability of the Sign (3) (1) Arbitrary Nature of the Sign (2) Multiplicity of Signs Needed for Language (3) System is “overly complex” (4) Community does not care to change things. Tradition follows no law arbitrary Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Mutability – Time changes the relationship between signifier (sound-image), signified (concept) and therefore the sign. – E.g. “mouse” = = = “mouse” Ferdinand de SaussureLinguistics Mutability (2) – Language = product of both social force and time. – It holds true even for artificial languages, such as Esperanto. Ferdinand de Saussure-Summary Langue = speech minus speaking Language is a social construct which re- quires a community of speakers. Linguistic sign is arbitrary and cannot be taken out of social or temporal context. This is exactly, where signifier and signified are able to shift their relationships (compare “mouse” and “mouse”). Ferdinand de Saussure-Summary Because of the addition of time to the social context, Saussure feels that there should be two branches of linguistics, which he calls: – Synchronic – Diachronic Ferdinand de Saussure-Summary Synchronic – confined to one point of view in order to show the whole language system Diachronic – traces evolution of language, looking not at the whole system but at individual elements of it at different times. Ferdinand de Saussure-Voilà! Saussure died in 1913. His Course in General Linguistics was published by students posthumously in 1916 and has been translated into many different languages.