Saussure's Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology
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Saussure's Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology

The Course in General Linguistics after a Century

Beata Stawarska

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Saussure's Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology

The Course in General Linguistics after a Century

Beata Stawarska

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About This Book

This is the first English-language guidebook geared at an interdisciplinary audience that reflects relevant scholarly developments related to the legacy and legitimacy ofFerdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (1916) today. It critically assesses the relation between materials fromthe Course and from the linguist's Nachlass (works unpublished or even unknown at Saussure's death, some of them recently discovered). This book pays close attention to the set of oppositional pairings: the signifier and the signified, la langue (language system) and la parole (speech), and synchrony and diachrony, that became the hallmark of structuralism across the humanities. Sometimes referred to as the "Saussurean doctrine, " this hierarchical conceptual apparatus becomes revised in favor of a horizontal set of relations, which co-involves speaking subjects and linguistic structures. This book documents the continued relevance of Saussure's linguistics in the 21 st Century, and it sheds light on its legacy within structuralism and phenomenology.The reader can consult the book on its own, or in tandem with the 1916 Course.

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Year
2020
ISBN
9783030430979
Ā© The Author(s) 2020
B. StawarskaSaussureā€™s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenologyhttps://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-43097-9_1
Begin Abstract

1. Introduction

Beata Stawarska1
(1)
Department of Philosophy, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
Beata Stawarska

Abstract

The Course in General Linguistics (1916) has had over a one-hundred-year-long legacy, and it became an indispensable ā€œGreat Bookā€ in the contemporary canon of ideas. This canonical text laid out an innovative research program in modern linguistics, and it led to the development of structuralist methods in the humanities. While the Course is justifiably enshrined within the canon, recent developments in Saussurean linguistics offer multiple venues for developing a critical perspective on this foundational text. This groundbreaking research has been largely confined to specialized French-language academic venues, and it is therefore not as popular and widely accessible as the Course itself. This book seeks to fill a part of the gap in Saussurean scholarship for English-speaking readers. The first part is concerned with the legitimacy of the Course in light of discrepancies between Saussureā€™s personal manuscripts and the posthumous redaction of the Course itself. Part II examines the contemporary legacy of the Course in the reception of Saussureā€™s work by Lacan, Derrida, and Merleau-Ponty.
Keywords
Saussureā€™s NachlassCourse in General Linguistics PhenomenologyPost-structuralism
End Abstract
The Course in General Linguistics (2013 [1916]) has had over a one-hundred-year-long legacy, and it became an indispensable ā€œGreat Bookā€ in the contemporary canon of ideas. This canonical text laid out an innovative research program in modern linguistics, and it led to the development of structuralist methods in the humanities. It therefore occupies an important role in contemporary academic scholarship and college-level pedagogy. While the Course is justifiably enshrined within the canon, recent developments in Saussurean linguistics offer multiple venues for developing a critical perspective on this foundational text. This groundbreaking research has been largely confined to specialized French-language academic venues, and it is therefore not nearly as popular and widely accessible as the Course itself.
This is the first English-language handbook addressed at a wide, interdisciplinary audience that reflects relevant scholarly developments related to the legacy and legitimacy of the Course today. It is designed as a self-standing assessment of where the materials from the Course and from the linguistā€™s Nachlass (works unpublished or unexhibited at Saussureā€™s death, some of which were recently discovered) agree and disagree on key aspects of cultural signification. This handbook may be consulted on its own as an accessible overview of Saussurean linguistics in the twenty-first century. It may also be read in tandem with the 1916 Course following the plan provided toward the end of this Introduction.
This book examines the production, reception, and replication of the Course as an official statement of Saussureā€™s linguistics within its social and institutional context. It also considers the role played by social relations of power within academic institutions. It surveys the normative process of establishing true knowledge in emerging scientific disciplines such as general linguistics. It pays close attention especially to the set of oppositional pairingsā€”the signifier and the signified; la langue and la parole ; synchrony and diachronyā€”which became the hallmark of structuralism across the humanities. Sometimes referred to as the ā€œSaussurean doctrine,ā€ this hierarchical and oppositional conceptual apparatus undergoes a critical revision in favor of a horizontal and relational setup that resonates with the phenomenological tradition in philosophy. Ultimately, this handbook highlights the intellectual complexity of Saussureā€™s linguistics. Furthermore, it documents the relevance of Saussureā€™s linguistics to the two, oft antagonized, contemporary philosophical traditions: structuralism and phenomenology, suggesting a rapprochement.
Part I is composed of nine chapters dealing broadly with the legitimacy of the Course in General Linguistics . The second chapter outlines recent developments in Saussurean linguistics. It shows that scholars have critiqued and complicated the received structuralist interpretation of Saussurean linguistics and challenged the legitimacy of the Course (1916) itself. Scholars exposed multiple discrepancies between the 1916 posthumous edition and the source materials from the linguistā€™s Nachlass . Thanks to access to some recently discovered autograph writings, it is now possible to glean additional insight into general linguistics. The third chapter sheds light on the process of writing and reviewing the Course as official doctrine. The two editors and ghostwriters, Albert Sechehaye and Charles Bally, usurped the role of Saussureā€™s disciples after the masterā€™s death, and thereby assumed the right to write a book of their own design in his name. Sechehaye also authored three extensive book reviews of the Course where he cemented the validity of the ā€œSaussurean doctrineā€ crafted in collaboration with Bally.
The fourth chapter narrows the focus on one editorial strategy that imposed the understanding of language (la langue) as a single and simple object of linguistic study. The editors inserted an apocryphal statement to that effect into the conclusion of the Course, and they subsequently cited it in dedicated book reviews and specialized essays in linguistics. This so-called famous formula became a structuralist motto. It created an impression of a seamless transition from Saussureanism to structuralism. The remainder of the chapter documents that the editorial presentation tends to overstate the distinction between la langue and la parole such that la langue alone is deemed an object worthy of scientific interest.
The fifth and sixth chapters tackle the influential account of arbitrary linguistic signification. This account became an integral element of the ā€œSaussurean doctrine,ā€ but it is based on an initial, provisional understanding of the linguistic sign that was ultimately revised in the course of Saussureā€™s lectures. Whereas the sign is a formal entity inscribed within a semiological system in the structuralist interpretation, the sign is motivated ā€œfrom withinā€ by the language system and ā€œfrom withoutā€ by social conventions as they evolve over time in the Saussurean view. Ultimately, contrary to the structuralist view, cultural signification is subject to social forces, social critique, and social change.
The seventh chapter expands a critical study of the Course to include Derridaā€™s influential interpretation of this canonical text. It offers a critique of the philosopherā€™s own critical reading of Saussureā€™s linguistics, and it reveals a profound rapprochement between their respective views in light of the linguistā€™s Nachlass . For both Derrida and Saussure, cultural signification is mediated by the plexus of differences within the language system, and it is shaped by the so-called extralinguistic world.
The eighth chapter completes the overview of the ā€œSaussurean doctrineā€ by tackling the interrelation between synchrony and diachrony. While this interrelation is construed as a hierarchical dualism in the Course, it is cast as an essential horizontal duality in the linguistā€™s Nachlass . In the latter, language study is characterized by self-reflexivity and conceptual complexityā€”traits that are overshadowed by the reductive scientific program developed in the Course. The ninth chapter renders the essential duality of la langue and la parole and synchrony and diachrony more concrete by considering linguistic creativity, that is, the production of innovative expressions on the basis of the established ones. Called ā€œanalogical innovation,ā€ this process is an intrinsic feature of language (la langue ) itself and illustrates how the speakersā€™ expressions (la parole) affect and alter the language system (la langue ) from within. The dual essence of languageā€”the intersection of stability and changeā€”becomes grounded in speech practices that receive and revise the language code over time.
The tenth chapter establishes that the editorial organization of the Courseā€™s contents contributed to establishing the primacy of the language system (la langue) by situating it above the empirical plurality of existing languages (les ...

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Citation styles for Saussure's Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology
APA 6 Citation
Stawarska, B. (2020). Saussureā€™s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology ([edition unavailable]). Springer International Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/3480717/saussures-linguistics-structuralism-and-phenomenology-the-course-in-general-linguistics-after-a-century-pdf (Original work published 2020)
Chicago Citation
Stawarska, Beata. (2020) 2020. Saussureā€™s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology. [Edition unavailable]. Springer International Publishing. https://www.perlego.com/book/3480717/saussures-linguistics-structuralism-and-phenomenology-the-course-in-general-linguistics-after-a-century-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Stawarska, B. (2020) Saussureā€™s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology. [edition unavailable]. Springer International Publishing. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/3480717/saussures-linguistics-structuralism-and-phenomenology-the-course-in-general-linguistics-after-a-century-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Stawarska, Beata. Saussureā€™s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology. [edition unavailable]. Springer International Publishing, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.