What Is General Linguistics Course By Ferdinand de Saussure

General Linguistics Course (in French : Cours de linguistique générale ) is a posthumous work by Ferdinand de Saussure published in 1916 .

In it, Saussure brings the famous dichotomies (see below) and chooses language, as opposed to speech, as the central object of Linguistics. Introduces the terms diachrony – study of the history of the language – and synchrony – state of the language. Furthermore, Saussure characterized language as a system of signs.


  • 1History
  • 2The Saussurian dichotomies
  • 3References
  • 4External links

History edit edit source code ]

The General Linguistics Course was not a book written by Ferdinand de Saussure , but, in fact, a work edited after his death by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye , based on notes taken along courses offered by the linguist at the University of Geneva between the years 1906-1907, 1908-1909 and 1910-1911. Bally and Sechehaye relied on the notes of yet another of Saussure’s students, who collaborated in editing the text, Albert Riedlinger . [ 1 ]

The Course was initially published by Payot de Paris [ 2 ] and is an inaugural milestone in the structuralist phase of language studies.

Saussurian dichotomies edit edit source code ]

The Course is based on dichotomies. Are they:

Language X Speech

Saussure also makes, in his theorizing, a separation between language and speech. For him, language is a system of values ​​that oppose each other. It is deposited as a social product in the mind of each speaker of a community and has homogeneity. That is why it is the object of linguistics itself. Unlike speech, which is an individual act and is subject to external factors, many of these are non-linguistic and, therefore, not subject to analysis.

Synchrony vs. diachrony

Ferdinand de Saussure emphasized a synchronic view, a descriptive study of linguistics in contrast to the diachronic view of historical linguistics, which studied the change of signs along the axis of historical successions, a study which was the way in which the study of languages ​​was traditionally carried out in the 19th century. In proposing a synchronic view, Saussure sought to understand the structure of language as a system in operation at a given point in time (synchronic cut).

Syntagma vs. paradigm

The phrase, defined by Saussure as “the combination of minimal forms in a higher linguistic unit”, arises from the linearity of the sign, that is, it excludes the possibility of pronouncing two elements at the same time, as a term only has value from the moment it contrasts with another element. The paradigm, on the other hand, is, as the author himself defines, a “reserve bank” of the language, causing its units to oppose, since one excludes the other.

Significant vs. meaning

The linguistic sign is a combination of signifier and signified, as if they were two sides of a coin. The signifier is an “acoustic image” (chain of sounds) and resides in the plane of form. Meaning is the concept and resides on the content plane.

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