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Saussure's Philosophy of Language as PhenomenologyUndoing the Doctrine of the Course in General Linguistics$
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Beata Stawarska

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190213022

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190213022.001.0001

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The signifier and the signified

The signifier and the signified

(p.23) 1 The signifier and the signified
Saussure's Philosophy of Language as Phenomenology

Beata Stawarska

Oxford University Press

This chapter takes on the classic signifier/signified distinction, which supports the structuralist view of language as a closed and autonomous system of signs. It considers the presentation of linguistic arbitrariness in relation to an individual sign in the Course in light of materials from the Nachlass, to suggest a possible editorial confusion between Saussure’s critique of the received view of language with its focus on individual names and his own conception of language as a relational system. It then explains that the view of language as a sign system is made more concrete when Saussure defines it as a set of historically sedimented conventions shared by a speaking community. Contrary to the structuralist view, language is shaped by reality: the reality of social conventions as they are transmitted, sedimented, and revised over time. Linguistic arbitrariness is a counterpart of this sociohistorical understanding.

Keywords:   the signifier, the signified, linguistic arbitrariness, sign system, social conventions, time, Saussure’s Nachlass

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