- Saussure, Ferdinand de
- (1857–1913)Swiss linguist generally considered the father of structural linguistics, and of structuralism in its wider application. Saussure locates the study of linguistics in the synchronic relationships of langue rather than parole : the structural and common aspects of language responsible for its use as a medium of communication. Signs, which for Saussure are combinations of signifier and signified (something like a concept or element of thought, rather than a thing that is represented), are the product of ‘systems of differences’: a sign has the value that it does in virtue of its place in a network of other possible choices. In his famous phrase, ‘there are only differences’. A word has its place in a sentence or other stretch of discourse (its ‘syntagmatic’ relations) but also its ‘associative’ relations with other words of its family (the terms that might be listed as partial substitutes in a thesaurus, for example). Saussure's work puts in its own vocabulary many of the distinctions of analytical semantic theory : see competence/performance, Sinn/Bedeutung, holism . His lectures were collected and published in 1916 as the Cours de linguistique générale (trs. as Course in General Linguistics, 1959).
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.