Ferdinand de Saussure quotes

Ferdinand de Saussure photo
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Ferdinand de Saussure

Birthdate: 26. November 1857
Date of death: 22. February 1913

Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist and semiotician. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in both linguistics and semiology in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the founders of 20th-century linguistics and one of two major founders of semiotics/semiology.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." 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". 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".

Works

Course in General Linguistics
Course in General Linguistics
Ferdinand de Saussure

Quotes Ferdinand de Saussure

„Time changes all things; there is no reason why language should escape this universal law.“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), Context: The causes of continuity are a priori within the scope of the observer, but the causes of change in time are not. It is better not to attempt giving an exact account at this point, but to restrict discussion to the shifting of relationships in general. Time changes all things; there is no reason why language should escape this universal law. p. 77

„Language is a system of signs that express ideas,“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), Context: Language is a system of signs that express ideas, and is therefore comparable to a system of writing, the alphabet of deaf-mutes, symbolic rites, polite formulas, military signals, etc. But it is the most important of all these systems. p. 16 ; Partly cited in; Geza Revesz, The Origins and Prehistory of Language, London 1956. p. 126

„The characteristic role of language with respect to thought is not to create a material phonic means for expressing ideas but to serve as a link between thought and sound,“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), Context: The characteristic role of language with respect to thought is not to create a material phonic means for expressing ideas but to serve as a link between thought and sound, under conditions that of necessity bring about the reciprocal delimitations of units. Thought, chaotic by nature, has to become ordered in the process of its decomposition. Neither are thoughts given material form nor are sounds transformed into mental entities; the somewhat mysterious fact is rather that "thought-sound" implies division, and that language works out its units while taking shape between two shapeless masses. Visualize the air in contact with a sheet of water; if the atmospheric pressure changes, the surface of the water will be broken up into a series of divisions, waves; the waves resemble the union or coupling of thought with phonic substance. p. 112

„Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula.“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), Context: Psychologically our thought-apart from its expression in words-is only a shapeless and indistinct mass. Philosophers and linguists have always agreed in recognizing that without the help of signs we would be unable to make a clear-cut, consistent distinction between two ideas. Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula. here are no pre-existing ideas, and nothing is distinct before the appearance of language. p. 111-112

„Psychologically our thought-apart from its expression in words-is only a shapeless and indistinct mass.“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), Context: Psychologically our thought-apart from its expression in words-is only a shapeless and indistinct mass. Philosophers and linguists have always agreed in recognizing that without the help of signs we would be unable to make a clear-cut, consistent distinction between two ideas. Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula. here are no pre-existing ideas, and nothing is distinct before the appearance of language. p. 111-112

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„Language can be compared to a sheet of paper: thought is its recto and sound its verso: one cannot cut the verso without simultaneously cutting the recto.“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), Similarly, in the matter of language, one can separate neither sound from thought nor thought from sound; such separation could be achieved only by abstraction, which would lead either to pure psychology, or to pure phonology. p. 157; as cited in: Schaff (1962:11)

„Language is a system whose parts can and must all be considered in their synchronic solidarity.“

—  Ferdinand de Saussure, book Course in General Linguistics
Cours de linguistique générale (1916), La langue est un systéme dont toutes les parties peuvent et doivent être considérés dans leur solidarité synchronique. p. 87 (1916, p. 124; Part 1, Ch. 3, sec. 3.)

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