On Saussure’s Linguistic Theory Essay

1. Introduction Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure ( 1857-1913 ) is one of the most celebrated and influencing linguists in the last century. His lingual theory of sing linguistic communication as a synchronous and inactive mark system has turned the historical tendency of linguistics and opened up a new form of modern linguistics. therefore makes linguistics acquire great accomplishment in the twentieth century. His work Course in General Linguistics ( 1916 ) that comes from the notes of his lessons collected by his pupils is one of classical plants and is called “Bible” of linguistics.

It has caused extended response with its novel and alone idea. and Saussure is praised as “Father of Modern Linguistics” excessively. Saussure is an epochal giant in the development history of linguistics. His new theory. new rule. and new construct have become the foundation rock for the setting-up of the modern lingual sign of the zodiac. 2. Langue and parole Saussure begins with the two basic expressive signifiers of linguistic communication. viz. langue and parole to analyze the whole linguistic communication phenomenon foremost. He thinks that address activity is assorted. and its nature is complicated.

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It covers several Fieldss of natural philosophies. physiology and psychological science at the same clip. and it still belongs to personal field and societal field. We are non able to include it in any class of humane fact. because we do non cognize how to understand its entia ( Saussure. 1980. p. 30 ) . He points out that in dividing langue from word we are at the same clip separating: ( 1 ) what is societal from what is single ; and ( 2 ) what is indispensable from what is accessary and more or less inadvertent ( Saussure. 1980. p. 35 ) .

This is the first fork in Saussure’s ideas of linguistic communication: the address activity is divided into the langue and word. Saussure says that. “No uncertainty. these two marks are closely linked and both as the requirement. To allow parole understood by people and do all its effects. there must be linguistic communications. But to set up linguistic communication. there must be speech” ( Saussure. 1980. p. 41 ) . “The address activity has personal facets and societal 1s ; one can non be without the other” ( Saussure. 1980. p. 29 ) .

We can reason from the statements above. that Saussure thinks langue and word are inseparable. and closely linked. Without langue. parole loses the incorporate system. and can non be understood. its consequence is unable to be verified. Without word. langue will non be set up either. Therefore. it is easy to state that. Saussure’s distinguishing of langue and word is on the intent of explicating the differences between the two. viz. emphasizes the systematisation of linguistic communication.

However. at the same clip Saussure says that “Research of address activity includes two parts. one is primary. which is societal basically. and does non take the personal address as research target…Another is less of import. that it takes the personal portion of address activity. viz. parole. including articulation as research target…” ( Saussure. 1980. p. 41 ) . “It is an semblance to joint langue and parole together with the same position. The whole of the address activity is unable to cognize. because it is non homogeneous” ( Saussure. 1980. p. 42 ) .

This sort of apparently paradoxical position is truly really disposed to do people produce uncertainty and misinterpretation on the relation between langue and word. The significance of Saussure is that linguistic communication is systematic and can be studied because of the upset of interior nexus between langue and word. but parole can non be studied consistently. and hence is cast out. And so people criticize Saussure for separating langue and word on the intent of cutting off the connexion between them and sing them as irrelevant to each other.

In fact. Saussure does non believe there are unpassable spreads between langue and word. For Saussure. langue and word are two incorporate facets in address activity. He besides thinks that. “We must be clear: we believe linguistics…is a scientific discipline that tries to meet two exhaustively different things into a whole. it emphasizes that they form a research object” . It is obvious that Saussure non merely finds the antithesis of langue and word. but besides finds the connexion and integrity between them while depicting the relation between them. 3. Saussure’s theory of lingual mark.

As the laminitis of modern semiotics. Saussure proposes and establishes the subject of semiotics officially for the first clip. The influences of Saussure’s theory of semiotics on ulterior age are known by everyone. but the disadvantages are rarely mentioned. How to understand the nucleus intension of the theory right is the primary topic of semiotics. The part of Saussure’s theory of semiotics prevarications in the undermentioned several facets.

First. it proposes the subject of semiotics officially for the first clip. Second. it points out the indispensable differentiation between lingual mark and non-linguistic mark clearly. Third. it has carried out systematic analysis on the features of the lingual mark. The research of mark is non initiated by Saussure. As everyone knows. in the West in ancient Grecian period. and in China in the early period of Qin. there was already big sum of difference about the phenomenon of signal.

The mark of the difference is chiefly lingual mark. and the kernel of the difference is chiefly about the relation between lingual mark and the object it represents.

Namely whether there is natural relation of different extents between lingual mark and the signified. Namely whether the forming of words and phrases can be proved. and whether the beginning cause of lingual sign’s formation can be found from the marks represented. Different replies to this inquiry have formed the “natural theory” and “conventional theory” of ancient Greek. and “nominalism” and “realism” correspondingly in China. Such differences are non yet settled down today. Saussure’s semiotics is non merely reappraisal and scrutiny on the footing of the related differences in the history of linguistic communication.

The more of import thing is that he realizes the human society has used legion comparatively self-sufficient signifier systems consciously or unconsciously while showing and conveying the accomplishment of understanding about environing environment and oneself. These systems have really obvious generalization that they can replace. represent. and reflect the objects on different extents ( LU. 2001. p. 101 ) . To Saussure. linguistic communication is an organic mark system. In this system. lingual mark has two facets of a signifier ( signifier ) and content ( signified ) .

It is arbitrary to utilize a mark to stand for any content. and it is determined by the society. However. when it is fixed. it has compelling force. and any person can non alter it optionally. The debt relation of lingual mark is non of import. and the more of import thing is the difference and relation between it and other marks. That is to state. the value of lingual mark is non decided by its physical belongings but the relation between marks. On the footing of this theory. Saussure thinks that linguistics face the 2nd fork on the route. the linguistic communication in address activity can be divided into synchronous and historical.

Therefore. Saussure advocates separating two sorts of linguistics: synchronous linguistics and historical linguistics. and the synchronous linguistics are more of import. On this foundation. Saussure explains syntagmatic and paradigmatic dealingss decidedly. He thinks that in the organisation of linguistic communication. all cardinal elements are based on “relation” . and this sort of relation is nil more than two sorts. syntagmatic and paradigmatic dealingss. Syntagmatic relation is a relation between one point and others in a sequence ; and paradigmatic relation is a relation that points can replace for each other without go againsting syntactic regulations.

These two dealingss are the basic dealingss in linguistic communication system. and are our keys to detect. analyze. and sum up the intricate linguistic communication phenomenon. While puting up new linguistic communication theory. Saussure points out that the inquiry of linguistic communication is chiefly the inquiry of semiotics. and all of our presentation should obtain intending from this of import fact. To cognize the kernel of linguistic communication. we must cognize what common qualities it has with other congener mark system foremost. He thinks that we can conceive of there is one scientific discipline analyzing the life of mark in societal life ; we call it semiology… .

Because this scientific discipline does non be. we can non state what it will be like. but it has the right of being. and its place is confirmed in progress. Linguistics is merely a portion of this general science… ( HU. 2001. p. 105 ) . The theory of semiotics proposed by Saussure is limited. but it is really of import to the research subsequently. In add-on. although his definitions of mark. form. and signified are made for lingual mark. they inspire all of the modern semiologists. Therefore. people praise Saussure as the laminitis of semiotics ( JI. 1994. p. 19 ) .

4. Decision Saussure’s part to linguistics is unerasable. However. his theory of linguistic communication has restriction. excessively. Since the coming out of Course in general linguistics. Saussure’s positions have been accepted by the lingual circle by and large. Harmonizing to his sentiment. linguists throw into the synchronous inactive research and description of the building relation in the linguistic communication system. in order to accomplish the “scientific” purpose of “research linguistic communication harmonizing to and for language” .

In the linguistic communication universe of Saussure. what he values is construction. signifier. regulation. generalization. manner. and system. which makes the linguistic communication research measure on a route that repels humane factors. and departs from the societal environment and the people who use linguistic communications. If this manner is convenient to set up an accurate and “scientific” linguistics. it makes distance with the active. abundant. and mutable human addresss. Linguisticss may go “lean” and “sere” . Surely. we should non deny Saussure’s theory from this angle wholly.

As a sort of “scientific linguistics” . Saussure’s position should hold its certain historical place. and it has finished matching historical mission. What we truly necessitate to make is that we should non see Saussure’s lingual manner as the lone possible being. We should interrupt the traditional manner of detecting linguistic communication phenomenon. and analyze them from different sides and different points of position. so that to understand linguistic communication more roundly. and set up more scientific lingual position. alternatively of lodging to one sort of apprehension ( JI. 1994. p. 20 ) .

In the field of lingual research today. the research object has already expanded from Saussure’s construction analysis to societal linguistics. address linguistics. practical linguistics. etc. which brings new energy to the development of universe linguistics. This development tendency will do linguistics breathe more brilliant and superb beams in humane scientific research.


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