The Object of Study by Ferdinand de Saussure Summary

Saussure is known as the father of modern linguistics. He is a structuralist. He gave the theory of signs. Through this work, he tries to search for the underline scientific objective and structure of a phenomenon.

In order to understand his work, I have included informative images and divided the topic into the following categories.

Table of Contents

Langage, Langue, and Parole

  • According to Saussure Langage is the system of all the languages that exist in the world. It includes languages like English Hindi Urdu French German Russian etc.
  • Langue, on the other hand, refers to a particular language that is spoken in a particular region by a particular group of people. A particular langue has its own signs, diction, and rules. E.g. Hindi is a langue that is spoken specifically by the people belonging to India.
  • Parole refers to the specific way of speaking by an individual i.e. An individual can use langue in his own way to express his ideas.

Saussure tries to explain the concept of Langue and Parol by taking the example of chess. The rules of chess can be considered as Langue and their use by a particular player will be Parole.

Saussure held that language has a diachronic and synchronic system. The diachronic system happens over a period of time while the synchronic system happens at a point of time.

Every utterance happens at a point of time. This utterance or speaking consists of three parts-sound waves (physical), hearing (physiological) and concepts (psychological). The words can be understood because of the psychological part.

Our mind has such a system of sound that corresponds system of ideas. The diachronic system is proof that a particular language has a life. It changes in accordance with the needs and with the time.

Saussure’s Idea of Signifier and Signified

The language is the system of signs. It has two components- the signifier and signified.

  • The signifier refers to the specific sound pattern of a specific langue that points towards the image of a particular object in our mind. E.g. Sea, Tree, Notebook, Mi A1 etc.
  • On the other hand, the signified refers to the acoustic image of the specific object which a specific word or signified points to. E.g. the sea or tree that exist.

Both the signifier and signified collectively make up a sign. This sign refers to the object of which the image is formed in the mind. Thus the language is a system of signs.

According to Saussure, there is no fundamental relationship between the signifier and signified as it was believed before him. He believed that the relationship between the signifier and signified is arbitrary but conventional and thus cannot be used willingly. The system of signs works on the basis of the difference between the objects.

E.g. The sea differs from the tree because the sea is in liquid form, large, blue and has no shape etc while on the other hand tree is solid, green, has branches and standing etc.

The moment there is a sound pattern, it signifies something which says that there is a direct correspondence between a signifier and signified.

Features of the Language

  1. Language is a structured system.
  2. It is a well-defined entity.
  3. It is a part of social institutions and such should be studied in an in-depth approach.
  4. It is homogeneous in nature.
  5. It can be studied independently.
  6. The linguistic structure of a language system is not less real than a speech.
  7. Language is a structured system is a self-contained whole.
  8. Language is an instrument of cognizance. It is used to make sense of objects by name.

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