Structuralist Approach To Language

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At the beginning of the 20th century, a period which is regarded as the dawn of modern linguistics, Saussure considered that the scope of the subject should be, among other things, “to determine the forces that are permanently and universally at work in all languages, and to deduce the general laws to which all specific historical phenomena can be reduced” (SAUSSURE, 1959, p. 6). The so-called structuralist approach to language, which Saussure developed, was later adopted by other fields in the humanities, such as anthropology/sociology, with Lévi-Strauss (2008; 2013), who believed that the structural analysis in both sociology and linguistics seek “general laws” in languages and societies (LÉVI-STRAUSS, 2008, p. 60-62) and “universal laws that govern the unconscious activity of the spirit” (p. 91-92), because linguistic behavior is unconscious (p.89). In a later work, Lévi-Strauss (2013) states that “both in linguistics and anthropology, the structural method consists in locating invariable forms within different contents” (p. 306). Although many other linguistic fields and approaches have been founded and developed since Saussurean structuralism, the pursuit of general linguistic principles that apply to humankind as a species influenced many subsequent studies both in social science and language – and consequently also in pragmatics, which sought mainly and continuously for the “universals of politeness” and for the “universal maxims of conversation” (WIERZBICKA, 2003,
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