Ferdinand de Saussure

Ferdinand de Saussure (* November 26, 1857 in Geneva, † February 22, 1913 at Castle Vufflens, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland ) was a Swiss linguist. He notably structuralism and semiotics marked ( the doctrine of the characters) sustainable.

Life and work

Ferdinand was the son of the scientist Henri de Saussure and of Louise Elisabeth de Pourtàles, grandson of Nicolas Theodore de Saussure and great-grandson of Horace Bénédict de Saussure. He studied in Leipzig and also a semester 1878/1879 at Heinrich Zimmer in Berlin Indo-European studies. In 1882 he married Marie Faesch ( 1867-1950 ), daughter of Swiss engineer Jules Faesch ( 1833-1895 ). Through his wife's Vufflens castle came into the possession of Ferdinand de Saussure and his descendants.

After receiving his doctorate in Leipzig Ferdinand de Saussure taught from 1881 to 1891 at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris. From 1891 until his death he was professor of history and Indo- European comparative linguistics at the University of Geneva. From 1906 to 1911 he held lectures there on general linguistics.

He is considered the founder of modern linguistics and structuralism. His students Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye published in 1916, that is, after his death, the Cours de linguistique générale ( German to basic questions of general linguistics ). The Cours developed a general theory of language as a system of signs (as described later in specialist semiotics ).

The two editors stuck to notes taken from Saussure's lectures. However, they did not participate even in those lectures. Text Critical studies have shown that central theses of the Cours just do not come from Saussure, but by the editors. Among them is the often -quoted statement that language is "a form, no substance."

Only in the 1950s was a source of critical reception, which since then have endeavored to develop the authentic language Saussure's idea from his fragmentary estate. The reception history of Saussure is therefore characterized by a gap between the reception of the Cours and the reception of his authentic estate. The reconstruction efforts of the authentic voice thinking Saussure impacted across disciplines in the media, and cultural studies as well as the Neurolinguistics and shaped the development of structuralism and post-structuralism with decisive. However, not detracted the importance of the Cours.

During his lifetime, Saussure was famous as Indo-Europeanist, so as a scientist for the languages ​​spoken mainly from Europe to India. This branch of research is part of the historical- comparative linguistics, that is just not for structuralism.

In his Mémoire sur le système dans les langues Voyelles primitif of the Indo- européennes (1879 ) developed Saussure even as a 21- year-old student using young grammatical methods, the laryngeal theory. During the reconstruction of Indo-European vowel system he postulated theoretically the existence geschwundener According to "coefficients " ( coefficients sonantiques ), then the Danish linguist Hermann Møller yet been identified in the 19th century as laryngeals. In 1917, four years after Saussure's death, Bedřich Hrozný deciphered the Hittite, which in this case turned out to be Indo-European language. In some places, where Saussure had reconstructed his sound coefficients, the Polish linguist and Indo-Europeanist Jerzy Kurylowicz found in Hittite laryngeals. Although it is to be expected with important limitations that laryngeals be considered in the Hittite in general as confirmation of Saussure's reconstruction.

His son, Raymond de Saussure was a psychoanalyst and was one of the main organizers of psychoanalysis in western Switzerland.


Langue and Parole

Saussure distinguishes three aspects, which he describes three different expressions in the language:

  • Langage is the human language to speak the biological wealth of the people;
  • Langue refers to a language in the sense of a particular single language such as French or German, as an abstract system of rules, but also on intra- linguistic systems ( phonetic language - sign language );
  • Parole is speaking, so the concrete act of the language user, the special parlance

The term langage refers to the human language as a pre-theoretical domain of phenomena, so as they met the speakers in the speech activity. In contrast, the langue is to be understood as a theoretical concept of language, which brings a knowledge- logical order in the pre-theoretical domain of the phenomenon of human speech, the langage. The langue can thus be understood as a linguistic perspective under which the langage is considered.

Langue has a social and an individual dimension: In its social dimension ( fait social ) is a langue intersubjectively valid social institution, a socially produced and reversed in the minds of speakers, conventional system of linguistic habits. In its individual dimension is mental " depôt " or " magasin " (such as: warehouse ) a subjectively internalized single language ( so to speak, the subjective version of the langue ).

The concept of parole has a social and an individual page. He says once the concrete speech act, ie the individual realization of langue by each individual speaker ( hic et nunc ) bound, spatio-temporal realization of the system. At the same time in their social dimension, the parole is the site of dialogic bringing forth new linguistic meaning, ie the place of Genesis and change the langue.

Langue and parole are therefore in a complex relationship of mutual conditionality: On the one hand, there is nothing in the langue, that would not pass through the parole previously in it. On the other hand, the parole is only because of that social product, ie langue.

The parole can be directly observed, however, not langue. Only in retrospect can be closed to them if you reconstructs the emergence process of linguistic signs, ie the articulation. It is to be understood as theoretical aspect of the human language faculty, the langage.

Characters and character synthesis

Linguistic signs are units with which one associates meanings. Units can be loud, but also be represented differently. In the course of parole, the speakers can compose them together with other linguistic forms understandable to linguistic expressions. The linguistic sign (" signe linguistique ", " sème " ) is thus a complex mental and physiological unit, which is generated in the process of articulation.

While in the Cours de Linguistique Générale nor the concept of signe ('signs ') is used and ( in congruence with the early romantic discussions about this, especially with Novalis ) the mental and phonic side of linguistic signs as signified ( " signifie " = signified, sign content ) be distinguished and signifier ( " signifiant " = signifier, description, external character form ), are ( authentic ) Saussure this terminology on. The term of the signe appears to him biased in theoretical terms, since it is no longer separate from the widespread (about neogrammarian, see Neogrammarians ) conception of a binary condensed character. A binary character concept combines the mental and the phonetic side than ever autonomous, independently of one another conceivable character parts.

From this conception Saussure moves in favor of a synthetic character concept. He impressed for the whole of the character the concept of seme, for the phonetic envelope of the Seme of Aposème as well as the Parasème for the mental aspect of character. The concept of seme always here means the "whole of the sign, sign and meaning in a kind personality united " and to the predominance of either of the sound ( as in the neogrammarians ) or the mental side (cf. the later theory of Chomsky ) eliminate. Also, the terms Parasème and Aposème not describe the parts of a seme, but the same issues. These aspects are not the Seme logically lying ahead, distinguishable units, which are then simply assembled during speech. That there are not only already linked mentally with existing meanings are also present sounds. Language does not reflect thoughts. It creates rather: Only in the act of speaking, which articulation, the compound (synthesis) takes a pre-linguistic, and therefore chaotic and as it pass without withdrawing thinking with the phonetic substance. This process takes place in time, ie linear: words are uttered in sequence. The process of articulation ( decomposed ) so divided the stream of thoughts and creates such high priority on the expression as an expression of a thought, and thus the idea as an identifiable unit to which language can be referenced. Only the act of articulation, the alienation gives way to the idea that identity and distinctness, which allows to accept him as a process of synthesis character supposedly situated ahead Affairs.

Phonetic and conceptual aspect of the character can be so always, differ only in retrospect of their creation, the character synthesis. The whole generated there of the character that Seme is a necessary condition of its two sides. Aposème and Parasème are not autonomous components of the seme, but only aspects in which this can be considered by linguists. They are similar to a sheet of paper for Saussure: the thinking is the front side, the sound the back. As little as you can cut the front without at the same time to cut up the back, so little can the idea be separated from the sound.

Sign and meaning

Importance - as shown above - for Saussure nothing of the characters advance Continuous synthesis logical, but is generated in specific social exchange in which characters synthesis. What significance does a character, it owes not about a whatever kind of inner connection between signifier and signified. There is no quality which is in the characters themselves, which could justify a specific meaning. This so-called principle of Saussure the arbitrariness of linguistic signs is in German translated unhappy with arbitrariness or caprice. But that just means Arbitraritätsprinzip not a free choice of the sign in relation to a particular characteristic function. This refers to the freedom of the character that is bound by no lying in itself and the characters synthesis lying ahead property on a certain meaning. This can be seen both on the fact that different languages ​​use different symbols for the same meanings, as well as the fact that changed the meaning of signs over time.

Meaning is not ( ontological ) property of signs, but an effect of their use by the speech community, in that the slogan of the exclusive place is the production linguistic meaning. At the same time it is owed to the fact that linguistic signs part of a system ( langue ) within which each character is distinct from all the other characters. The linguistic form only acquires meaning thereby that it is a systematic correlation to other forms. A character is thus not determined in its meaning from itself and thus positive, but by its difference from other signs. Meaning comes with Saussure " always from the side ", ie by the opposition to other characters. He therefore speaks of the worthlessness of - meaningless in itself - the character itself ( " nullité you sème en soi "). This systemic aspect of the logical difference determination of significance Saussure referred to as valeur, as systemic value of the character.

Premise of this character determination is next to the principle of arbitrariness the already mentioned linearity of sound substance, or the articulation. Only the time- differential Successively, the dissection of thought in the articulation sets the stage for the delineation and differentiation of linguistic units. And therefore also the condition for its identifiability.

Continuity and transformation

The equally individual and social character of langue as a subjective vocabulary on the one hand and individual system of linguistic habits on the other side and its anchorage in the parole as a place of dialogical sense genesis are the ones from which certain of Saussure principles of life of language in the time result. These principles seem contradictory at first at: Character property of language that is is so much continuity in time, as their continued transformation.

While the continuity of the language, its actual condition known as specific language stage at a particular time as synchronic level, the diachronic level takes the change of language in the time in the look. Methodologically, these two levels are strictly separated from each other in the linguistic practice. In fact, both are woven tightly into each other: The issue of continuity of language addressed to a language as a social and historical fact. The - in philosophy often asked - question of the origin of language, ie, after a process of original naming of the world, arises for Saussure not, because the idea of an original negotiation of terms is a conceptually -developed world and thus the existence of language always advance.

Second, the continuity of the language condition of possibility of understanding at all, always on - biased in synchrony - Speaker consciousnesses, is linked to at any given time intersubjectively shared horizons of meaning and attributions of meaning. The continuity of language is thus the basis of their social character. That very social character, ie the fact that speakers avoid continually and together with language but is it, which also owes the permanent transformation of the language. The movement of the language - systemically speaking, the continuous readjustment of the relational system langue - is insatiable and incessant. However, it is not perceived as a rule by the speakers. The essence of language, therefore, is - in a word, the linguist Christian Stetter - that the Fluktuanz: that of a "non- existent but constantly becoming and thus continuously changing substance. "

De Saussure as Indo-Europeanist

Ferdinand de Saussure studied as a young man from 1876 to 1880 at the University of Leipzig at the neogrammarians. Only two years after Karl Brugmann publication to the syllabic nasals wrote the then 21 - year-old Swiss in 1878 a seminal paper. Due to this specification of the Leipzig students go today, most Indo-Europeanists believe that the späturindogermanischen sounds * a, * ā, * o and * ō in many - * a and * ā in the opinion of some researchers even in all - cases of a * e are developed in combination with a so-called Laryngals. Laryngeals are consonants, there is no unanimity about their further phonetic realization; sometimes they are characterized as laryngeal sounds.

De Saussure had laryngeals "invented" to explain certain phenomena in the Old Indian in a uniform grid can. However, few researchers initially pursued his ideas further. The interest in de Saussure's findings increased only when you are in the present-day Turkey about 100 years ago, 150 kilometers east of Ankara near the Turkish village Bogazköy (today Boğazkale ) clay tablets discovered, the deciphering of Bedřich Hrozný 1917, four years after Saussure's death, succeeded. The preserved on clay tablets this language is Hittite.

A sensation were these clay tablets for two reasons: Firstly, they testified to the oldest documented to date ( and until today ) Indo-European language; the oldest texts date from around 1700 before Christ. On the other hand, the second and more important sensation was that Hittite was a confirmation of the theory de Saussure. For the Polish linguist Jerzy Kurylowicz (1895-1978) discovered in the Indo-European Hittite words which today have a transcribed with ḫ According to exactly where it postulated de Saussure. Today accepted in one form or another, the majority of Indo-Europeanists the laryngeal theory.

After receiving his doctorate in Leipzig in 1880, it drew de Saussure first to Paris and from 1891 to Geneva. In Geneva, de Saussure, he focused on modern linguistics and linguistics, as its founder, he is.

There are de Saussure Parisian student Antoine Meillet (1866-1936) and his numerous pupils that took place finally Leipzig, four years de Saussure's scientific home, rank as the world's most important Indo-European teaching and research institution.