no edit summary
'''Ferdinand de Saussure''' (November 26, 1857 –
[[February 22 ]], [[1913 ]]) was a [[Switzerland|Swiss ]] [[linguist ]], considered by many to be the father of [[structuralism ]].
[[Geneva ]], he laid the foundation for many developments in [[linguistics ]] in the [[20th century ]]. He perceived linguistics as a branch of a general [[science ]] of signs he proposed to call ''semiology '' (now generally known as [[semiotics ]]).
Life and Work:= == Saussure was born in Geneva to a family known for its scholastic achievement. Relatively little is known about his life apart from his academic pursuits, where his interest and ability in linguistics were recognized early. His first professional essay was written at fourteen, a response to the works of the paleontologist Pictet, a family friend . Before starting his graduate work at the University of [[Leipzig]] in 1876 (at nineteen), Saussure had taught himself [[Sanskrit]], attended a year of courses at the University of Geneva, submitted various articles for publication and joined the Société de linguistique de Paris. This would suggest he was a well-prepared and largely self-taught teen prodigy by the time he arrived at Leipzig. The German academic community was undergoing violent disagreements about language at this time; the advent of the [[Comparative Method]] in the late nineteenth century made it possible to reconstruct the history of certain parent languages and scholars were reexamining all elements of their field. However, it did not succeed in establishing the next wave of linguistics which Saussure would dominate because it did not pursue the nature of its object of study, that nature is to be found in more than the elemental words of which a language consists; it speaks to the formal relations between those components. The [[Neogrammarians]], who led the emergent school of linguistic thought at Leipzig, embraced the Comparative Method. While Saussure would work under them as a student, he would eventually break with their teachings. In 1878 Saussure spent a year studying at [[Berlin]]. At twenty-one he wrote four articles plus a 300-page monograph: ''Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européenes''. This would be the only full-length book published by him in his lifetime. The Mémoire was revolutionary and considered ingenious by many, although some of his mentors and peers at Leipzig were highly dismissive of its individuality. It did, however, establish his reputation and provide the foundation of his work on the ''Cours de linguistique générale''. After the Mémoire, Saussure returned to Leipzig to finish his dissertation, which was submitted in 1880; he received his doctorate and the thesis was published in 1881. In 1880 he moved to [[Paris]] and became a senior lecturer at l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. There he taught Gothic and [[Old High German]], Sanskrit, [[Latin]], [[Persian language|Persian]] and [[Lithuanian language|Lithuanian]]. When he arrived in Paris, the graduate education system was transforming at a magnificent rate. There was much enthusiasm – especially in language and linguistics. Two strands of linguistics vied for prominence: that anchored at the [[Sorbonne]], which published in Revue de linguistique et philologie comparée, and that led by Michel Brèal, which published in Société de linguistique de Paris. Saussure followed Brèal's group. French psychologists and sociologists were also making great strides in the study of the workings of the mind and the nature of consciousness and unconsciousness, which held great potential for linguistic scientists. Saussure studied the work of [[Broca]], [[Wernicke]], [[Bergson]], [[Carl_Jung|Jung]], [[Max_Weber|Weber]], and [[Durkheim]] with interest, and applied it to his own. However, over the years, Saussure became ever more obsessed with the idea of plagiarism, for fear of inadvertently incorporating the theories of one of his colleagues into his own research. He thereafter increasingly isolated himself. In reviewing the work being done in linguistics at this time, we find that many of the concepts that would appear in Saussure's Cours were already in development by other scholars, but not to the same degree or in the same manner. What was original about his concepts was his approach, his use of terminology and his incorporation of sociology, anthropology and philosophy. Saussure returned to Geneva in 1891 and became a professor at the University. He was to teach there for the rest of his life. He began by giving courses in Sanskrit and Indo-European languages as well as historical and comparative linguistics. Only after a colleague died in 1906 did he add general linguistics; this would lead to the development of his famous three courses. As his curiosity and the complexity of his research increased, his published output decreased. In the last fifteen years of his life he produced only three papers. After 1906 the majority of his academic energy went into his series, ''Cours de linguistique générale''. He approached these courses from three directions, without using any course notes.
Saussure's systematic reexamination of language is based on four assumptions:
* The eastern European/Russian or [[Formalist]] school, centered in the Prague Linguistic Circle, led by Roman Jakobson and heavily influenced by the works of Saussure,
* The North American school, led by [[Leonard Bloomfield]], who synthesized and systematized Saussure's insights, introducing his own modifications and discoveries. The Neo-Bloomfieldians (including Chomsky's teacher, [[Zellig Harris]]) subsequently formalized Saussure's theory, reducing its scope and the social nature of its explanations, paving the way for the autonomous syntactic formalism of [[Noam Chomsky]], who began discussing Saussure in remarks made at the 1962 International Congress of Linguists and in papers thereafter. While Chomsky did not fully agree with many of Saussure's theories, he did find certain commonalities between his own concepts and those of the Swiss linguist.
Meanwhile, in France, as experiments with applications of Saussure's theories to more branches of the social and human sciences and philosophy were tested, there were misunderstandings over the relationship between his teachings and the development of structuralism. The question of who really could be identified as the rightful "father" of the system was argued, and elements of the originality of Saussure's Cours were challenged. When Lacan attempted to reconfigure Saussure's signifier/signified algorithm for psychoanalitic purposes, it was dismissed by many as being too focused on the study of psychosis and the unconscious to provide real linguistic value. Had Saussure's work been overdetermined by too many theorists who were too eager to test its boundaries, only to discover that the system in fact had limits - that the model could not be applied infinitely?
While the early mania for Saussure has cooled somewhat, and the contributions of other scientists to twentieth-century linguistics are now rightfully recognized, it is important that we also acknowledge Saussure for his incredible achievements. He always said he would never publish any reflections on the 'essence' of linguistics, and yet we look to his Cours as his life's work – in a sense, a sign for him. If anything, Saussure had only identified the foundations of his work, and the Cours might have been viewed as one facet of that, rather than its whole. The key may lie in his famous challenge for scientists to pursue a new discipline: "By studying rites, customs, etc. as signs, I believe that we shall throw new light on the facts and point up the need for including them in a science of semiology and explaining them by its laws." (''Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism'', 962)
* [[Roman Jakobson]]
* [[Claude Lévi-Strauss]]
* [[Julia Kristéva]]
* [[Jacques Derrida]]
* [[Noam Chomsky]]
*[http://www.egwald.com/ubcstudent/theory/heidegger.php Hearing Heidegger and Saussure, by Elmer G. Wiens]