Mikhail Bakhtin Questions and Answers

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How is the concept of "Language" for Bakhtin similar and different from the "language" concept for Saussure. 

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Debby Lowell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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For Saussure, who was the father of structuralist theory, language is a closed system of differential signs that are disconnected from history, a material that can be studied as a science/system of signs. What matters is the relationship between signifier and signified. Bakhtin differed in his approach, and while he agreed with Saussure that language is material and can be studied and appreciated as a science, he believed that context mattered the most—how language actually operates in the world. He was less interested in what lies inside a work that makes it a work of literature than what lies outside of the work that makes it so.

The problem with Saussure’s approach to language (for Bakhtin) was that it looked at language as if it were a hermetic and self-sufficient whole, a closed system. Instead, Bakhtin proposed that we look at language as an ideological object, a site of struggle where meaning is always transforming. Discourses in a novel contain, by nature,...

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