Ferdinand de Saussure

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What are the concepts of "langue" and "parole"?

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Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure developed the terms "langue" and "parole." "Langue" refers to the abstractions and rules of a language that are independent of the way speakers use that language every day. These are the overarching concepts of the language that provide languages with universal structures and patterns. "Langue" is not concerned with the everyday use of the language, but instead refers to the signs that make up a language. Each sign connotes both an idea or notion and a sound pattern. "Parole," on the other hand, refers to the way in which an individual speaks a language and the concrete use of the spoken and written language in everyday life. Saussure used the metaphor of a chess game to understand these concepts. "Langue" refers to the general rules or norms for playing the game, while "parole" refers to the moves an individual player makes in the course of a chess game. 

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The concepts were elaborated by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure during his courses on general linguistics at the University of Geneva from 1907 to 1911. Saussure died in 1912, but the notes of his course were published posthumously in 1916 as Cours de Linguistique Générale. The concepts of "langue" and "parole" are part of his effort to shift the study of linguistics from a predominantly diachronic to a synchronic paradigm. The diachronic approach had focused mainly on historical changes in languages, while Saussure tried to understand how a linguistic system works. The "langue" is the social dimension of language and is formed by the general linguistic conventions (grammar rules, syntax) that we all share in a given language. The "parole" represents the single utterances that individuals create.

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