Ferdinand de Saussure

Start Your Free Trial

What are the main features of sign theory as propounded by Ferdinand de Saussure?

Expert Answers info

thanatassa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write6,746 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

The first important feature of Saussure's linguistic theory is his participation in a shift from the primarily diachronic studies of earlier comparative philologists to synchronic studies. Second, a feature that was enormously influential on subsequent literary theorists was his interest in the primacy of spoken rather than written language, something facilitated by the technological innovation of recording the human voice (phonographs, tapes) which made it possible for linguists to freeze and examine speech. Next, in his analysis of speech he rejected earlier concepts of a narrowly referential account of meaning and translatability, instead emphasizing the nature of sign as langue and parole existing as a system of differences within a complete linguistic system. He also emphasizes the arbitrary nature of the relationship between signifier and signified with a sign.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial