Ferdinand De Saussure Analysis

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While the allocated course reading on Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics explored the fundamental nature of the linguistic sign and the inherent arbitrary relations between its elements, much is left unexplained. As I was reading through Saussure’s work, several questions cropped up: What was the background context that prompted Saussure to herald a new and revolutionary era of structural linguistics? How was the study of linguistic like before Saussure ushered a new approach? Were Saussure’s key methods undisputed among reputed linguists? How relevant are the points in Course in General Linguistics in contemporary theory? These questions could not be found in the reading, so I cross-referred to two external pieces of interpretation…show more content…
In the nineteenth century, linguistic studies were dominated by comparative and historical studies. The comparative method involved systematically comparing languages in relation to their sound systems, grammar structure and vocabulary to show historical relatedness (Lyons et. al, 2017). Although Saussure acknowledged that the empirical aims of the comparative linguists have rendered them a legitimate field of study, he later came to the conclusion that work produced by comparative linguists are methodologically confused as they were not able to inquire the meaning behind their comparisons and the significance of connections between languages (Holdcroft, 1991). Therefore, majority of the Course in General Linguistics was a critique against the nineteenth century tradition. Saussure argued against the this view of a language as a natural object that evolves by observing definite laws and described language as a social product (Holdcroft, 1991) — beyond the power of the individual to modify and existing only as a result of social convention. However, when the Course in General Linguistics was published, it was largely ignored by the public and its popularity only came about…show more content…
These disciplines that study human behaviour, with Durkheim’s and Saussure’s ideas of social fact and structure, had a renewed emphasis on studying the meaning behaviour holds on individuals — to not dismiss them as subjective and to treat them as part of a larger system of conventions and values (Culler, 1986). This was highly relevant to our group presentation about all-white paintings. A mediocre sociologist would look at the two dominant reactions towards all-white paintings: aversion and appreciation, and say these subjective reactions can be attributed to differentials in the amount of art education received. A sociologist who appreciates the functional investigative techniques of Durkheim and Saussure would look into the underlying system of conventions and values that enable the art critics and praisers to have the reactions that they
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