Ferdinand de Saussure, Swiss linguist: biography, works on linguistics

The Swiss scientist Ferdinand de Saussure is considered to be the founder of structuralism. He is also called the father of discipline like semiology. Twentieth-century linguistics would be unthinkable without this man. The influence of the scientist is very diverse. He not only laid the foundation of the Geneva School of Linguistics, but also influenced the philosophical perception of language, speech and their impact on our consciousness. He was also the first to discover the synchronic approach. That is, the scientist proposed to consider the structure of each language in a certain time period, and not only in historical development. Synchrony played the role of revolution in linguistics. This approach was used by linguists throughout the twentieth century.

Ferdinand de Sausure

Ferdinand de Saussure: biography

Born the famous linguist in Geneva, in November 1857. His parents were migrants from France.When the youth was eighteen, he entered the University of Leipzig (Germany). As a student, he published his first work on the system of vowels in Indo-European languages. It was the first and only book published during his lifetime. In 1880, Ferdinand de Saussure already had a doctoral degree and moved to work in France, because the Berlin scientists began to clash with him, not accepting innovation. He began teaching Sanskrit in high schools, and then became secretary of the Linguistic Society in Paris. The last years of his life a scientist lectured at the University of Geneva. He died on February 22, 1913 in the Swiss canton of Vaud (Wufland).language and speech

"The course of general linguistics"

This work of Ferdinand de Saussure is considered the main and most significant in his work. In fact, it is a course of lectures given by scientists at the university. There is still a discussion about whether this work can be considered completely belonging to the linguist himself, because it was published by two followers of Saussure - Charles Bally and Albert Seshe. The author himself seemed to have no intention of publishing his lectures. In this work, Ferdinand de Saussure defines semiology.He calls it the science of how signs affect the life of a society and according to what laws the relationship between society and symbols is realized. The scientist shares semiology on a functional basis. One part of it is psychological. The other - linguistic - is designed to find out what the language has in the system of society. After all, it also consists of signs. With the same question, Saussure connects the place of linguistics in the system of sciences.Ferdinand de Sosisur semiotics

Difference between language and speech

The problem of such a division is one of the main ones in the work of Ferdinand de Saussure. Language is associated with the concept of social and essential. Speech is related to the individual and the casual. The language is given to the subject, as it were, from the outside; it is in itself of a collective character. Speech also implies the presence of reflection, will, and proper understanding. It is an individual communication tool for each person. Language and speech are also distinguished by the fact that the first is a homogeneous phenomenon. This is a sign system where the meaning and the image expressed in sounds are combined. Speech has a physical function (the reporting of acoustic waves), it forces the organs with which we speak to move.In addition, it carries the ideas and concepts associated with sounds. Language and speech, of course, are interconnected and cannot exist without each other. But the latter is the basis for the first. After all, speech is only the specific statements of a native speaker, and science must be engaged in the study of the system of elements.

general linguistics course

Basics of linguistics Saussure

Based on the theory of separation, the scientist proposed to consider the language as the main one in the study of all phenomena of speech, including psychological and social ones. It is he who is the basis of linguistics as a science. The language system of signs consists of sound images and concepts. The former are instruments, and the latter carry meaning. The connection between them is often devoid of internal or natural logic, it is arbitrary, or rather associative. Nevertheless, acoustic images and semantic concepts are an inseparable whole, like the front and back side of a sheet of paper. This unity is called the linguistic essence. They are delimited by time. Each of them, taken separately, is a language unit corresponding to the concept.

Values, relationships, relationships

The linguistic concepts of Ferdinand de Saussure represent language as a system of signs with a clear structure. But it has its own characteristics. Language is, first of all, a system of values ​​or significance. So the Swiss linguist called the relationship of one entity or unit to another, which interact like a few sheets of one book. But the structure of a language cannot be defined positively, but only differentially, that is, by differences in meanings and sounds. That is, each sign is what makes it different from the other. Relationships and differences between units and meanings are of two kinds. First of all, these are syntagmatic connections. So Saussure called the temporal relationship between language units, when during the statements concepts follow each other. Associative links are similarities in meaning or sound.Ferdinand de Sosisur Linguistics Works

Synchronic approach

Even in his early work, Saussure suggested that in early Indo-European language, which was the ancestor of Sanskrit, ancient Greek and Latin, there were phonemes that then disappeared. He called them laringals and, with the help of these lost links, tried to explain the evolution of languages.His hypothesis was largely true. For example, when deciphering the Hittite language, they found many of the disappeared phonemes (vowels) about which Saussure spoke. This was proof of the later thesis that historical and comparative linguistic studies, from the point of view of a scientist, do not make sense without a synchronous approach. In order to understand what changes have taken place in a language, it is necessary to analyze its state at several specific points in its development. Only then can conclusions be drawn. The combination of both methods of analysis - diachronic and synchronic, that is, comparative and descriptive - is ideal for linguistics.ferdinand de saucisur biography


The term itself appeared in the XIX century in the study of chemistry. It means a set of stable relationships that retain their properties during internal and external changes. Saussure, as we saw above, began to use this term in language learning. In research on synchronicity and diachronicity, he insisted on complementing, if not replacing, the evolutionary method with structural analysis. He proposed to study linguistic and sociological phenomena in a way similar to a slice in the pit of the mine, when it is possible to single out such symbolic constructions that would remain unchanged.The followers of Saussure deduced from this the rule that for science the relations between the elements of such a system are more important than the components themselves. The linguist for the first time clearly articulated the specifics of the language convincingly, clearly and mathematically accurate. And also justified its consistency.linguistic concepts of Ferdinand de Saussure

Sociological approach

But Ferdinand de Saussure contributed not only to linguistics. The works on the linguistics of this scientist had an impact on sociology and philosophy. And his linguistic theory itself was also based on the methodology of its predecessors - Durkheim and Comte. Saussure is considered the founder of the French sociological school, since his theories went far beyond the bounds of linguistics. He thought about the meaning of signs in society and its management. Language with this approach plays a major role, primarily as a means of communication. And the characters are communication codes.


Saussure, his students and followers created an entire school of scientific views not only about languages, but also sign systems. It became the foundation of structural linguistics, which was very common in the 20th century. Ferdinand de Saussure himself called it semiology.Semiotics - this term was suggested by a colleague of the scientist, the father of the philosophy of pragmatism, Charles Pearce. It was his name that caught on more in the past and in our century. But Saussure was able to bring linguistics out of the crisis in which it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. This man, who was considered one of the brightest minds in linguistics, influenced all the humanities of our time. And even if some of his theories are a little outdated, the basic concepts of Ferdinand de Saussure still underlie the research of the 21st century, including the art of foresight.

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