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Ferdinand de Saussure | Langue - Printable Version

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Ferdinand de Saussure | Langue - Ontical - 01-09-2017 01:22 AM


In the 20th Century, Structuralists shared the view that man is defined by his outward language as opposed to his inward powers of the mind. How could ideas exist in the mind without words? How could powers of reasoning operate without sentences?

Analytic philosophy claims man has a unique instrument with which to do his thinking, but Structuralists have a notion of this instrument that is founded upon the concept of 'langue', first used by Ferdinand de Saussure, a linguist. He argued that the down to earth reality of speech should take precedence over the idealised propriety of writing. He then argued at the same time that langue should take precedence over parole.

The system of language in general should take precedence over the sum total of all the actual utterances ever actually uttered.

This was strange to the natural sciences, where positive physical facts are the only appropriate evidence. Saussure recognised the positive physical facts are not sufficient to account for language as language, as signifying and bearing relevance.

Chess analogy

One should study chess in terms of the sum total of all the moves in all the games that have ever actually been played. We would fail to account for chess as a game unless one also understands that every actual move is selected from a much larger range of possible moves.

To study chess properly -

  1. You must look at the simultaneous system of principles for making moves which lie implicitly behind every move at every single moment
  2. You have to recognise that this system precedes any actual moves
  3. The player has already internalised this system before they can ever begin to play
The system of langue precedes any actual utterances (parole). The speaker must have it already internalised before they can speak. A speaker who knows how to speak only those words which they actually do speak can hardly be using language to signify or bear information. The utterance would be more like a bird call. Signals are directly proportional to the range of possibile signals that have not been selected.

The speaker and listener must have the system of langue already internalised. Langue must always be shared.

Quote:Langue is the social side of speech, outside the individual who can never create or modify it by himself; it exists only by virtue of a sort of contract signed by the members of the community.

We absorb language before we can evaluate it, before 'signing' the contract. You can throw off particular beliefs that society forces upon you - but language is always accepted.