Ferdinand de Saussure

April 26, 2010

“The Course in General Linguistics”, written by Ferdinand de Saussure, edited by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye in collaboration with Albert Reidlinger and translated from french by Wade Baskin. Ferdinand de Saussure provides a theoretic foundation to trend of linguistics study.

The nature of the sign

Language is identified by its elements with each corresponding to a thing it names. This approach is naive in its manner and brings us to the fact that the linguistic unit is a double entity, one formed by associating two terms. The linguistic sing unites a concept and a sound-image (the psychological imprint of the sound- the one it makes on our senses). This combination of a concept and sound-image is what makes up a sign, but in current usage it only refers to the sound-image, or the word. For example, the word “arbor” carries the concept tree, with the result the idea of the sensory part implies the idea of the whole. In this case, sign now designates the whole and concept and sound-image is replaced respectively by signified and signifier.

The bond between the signified and signifier is arbitrary, and thus the linguistic sign is arbitrary. This means it is unmotivated, arbitray in that it has no natural connection with the signified.


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