A Saussurean Linguistics Glossary

arbitrariness – the relationship of the signifier and signified is said to be unrelated (arbitrary).

Cours de linguistique générale (A Course in General Linguistics) – published posthumously in 1916 from notes gathered by Saussure‘s students of his lectures given between 1907 and 1911.

descriptive linguistics – the understanding that language should be described as it is used, not be forced to conform to predetermined rules.

diachronic – to look at the changes of a language over time.

difference, system of – since things do not have a value in themselves their value is only through its difference to all other things.

langue – the actual “rules” of language.

linguistics – the scientific study of language.

paradigmatic – the system of difference played out within a sentence by examining the possible words in the same position. The relation is vertical.

parole – language as it is actually used.

philology – the term for the study of language before the advent of modern linguistics. Traditionally, to study language had meant to see grammar as prescriptive. Historical Philology and Comparative Philology were both about what is right rather than about how language works.

prescriptive linguistics – the belief that language should conform to predetermined rules.

Saussure, Ferdinand de (1857-1913) – Swiss linguist and semiotician. Founder of modern linguistics. Known for his posthumously published Cours de linguistique générale (A Course in General Linguistics).

sign – a linguistic unit created from the combination of signifier and signified. A sign only has value through the system of difference of a language (langue).

signified – the meaning or concept of a sign.

signifier – the form of a sign.

structuralism – the study of language with emphasis on the structures of language. It is equated to Saussurean Linguistics.

synchronic – to look at a language at a particular point in time.

syntagmatic – the system of difference played out within a sentence by examining the possible shift of words across the sentence. The relation is horizontal.

value – of a sign, the value is made through the system of differences to all other signs within the language.

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