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What does the linguistic turn in history mean? I have looked it up but none of it makes sense to me.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This simple question draws into focus several complex conversations that began in linguistics (with Saussure and Structuralism) and philosophy and, from there, reached out and altered the perception of the discipline of historical study. One of the effects of the impingement of this linguistic debate was the development of the sub-field of intellectual history that is tied closely to textual theory: "For textually oriented studies of premodernity, the lament for "the end of history" is groundless" (Elizabeth A. Clark. Introduction. History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn).

Saussure's definition of language is that language is signified plus signifier equaling sign (signified + signifier = sign) for which meaning is defined by what the signified is not according to arbitrariness and difference. As this concept permeated the twentieth century and scholarly disciplines and as it was expanded upon by such as Foucault and Derrida--who gave Saussure's system of signs "play" and...

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