What are the methodological principles put forward by Saussur in terms of / while explaining structuralism in linguistics?  Frankly i havn't undurstood the ques. and i already hav lots of material...

What are the methodological principles put forward by Saussur in terms of / while explaining structuralism in linguistics?

 

Frankly i havn't undurstood the ques. and i already hav lots of material on structuralism in linguistics, but the principles.

plese suggest how to go about it.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Saussure's basic methodology was to shift the study of linguistics from historical (diachronic) to a systematic study that exists at some particular given time: for instance, 'now' (synchronic): to shift from speech to the more abstract system of signs - this he called semiology.

He saw the concept of the sign as arbitrary. You have the word itself "tree" and the thing it symbolizes (the actual tree). The word "tree" is the Signifier (SR) and the tree itself - or the idea of tree - is the Signified (SD). The combination of the SR and SD is the Sign. Saussure believed the relationship between the two (SR and SD) was arbitrary or meaningless. Tree is represented by "tree" in one language and by "arbor" in another. He concluded that there is no inherent relationship between a word (SR) and its referent (SD). So, instead he intended to focus on the abstract structure of language itself - this he called la langue. He thought la langue was more important to study because it got to the real underlying structure of what makes language work and how it affects people (subjectivities). He chose la langue over parole because parole is the concrete speech itself. Since speech, the actual words, is arbitrary in the grand scheme of linguistics, it is only worthwhile to study within the context of a particular language (phonology) and its own history (diachronic). But Saussure wanted to study the deeper mechanisms, so he focused on structure common to all language: and the basic idea here is difference.

A sign cannot be communicated if you lose one or the other (SR or SD). And a sign only has meaning in relation to other signs. Here, difference means the sign's similarity, dissimilarity, relativity, metonymy, synechdoche, etc. to other signs. To communicate what "tree" means is to say it is a "plant" that uses "sunlight" and is "tall."

Relations and Differences of Signs

Words can be grouped together (sentences, phrases) but this is particular to the tradition of a certain language. Still, within the overall structure of language as a system, this linear grouping (syntagmatic) helps words acquire relationships.

Words can also be grouped abstractly in the brain/memory. For example, you might associate "teacher" with "teach" "student" "classroom' "chalk board" and so on. These are associative relations. Metonymy and synechdoche are good tools to illustrate associative relations.

The ways words are grouped in speech is particular to each language (i.e. English) and its history (diachronic). Saussure was more interested in the underlying structure and interdependency between signs in general, not the arbitrary relationship between one particular word "tree" (SR) and its concept tree (SD).

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