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Saussure's Second Course of Lectures on General Linguistics (1996)
from the notebooks of Albert Riedlinger and Patois

Trans: George Wolfe

  • Second course of lectures 5 Nov. 1908 -- 24 June 1909 to eleven students.
  • "Thus in a language there are many contradictory aspects.  There is nowhere where the language can be classified, there is no object like it." (1a)
  • "If therefore we consider the sphere in which the language lives, there will always be the individual language and the social language.  Forms, grammars exist only socially, but changes start with an individual.  We cannot abandon one of the sides except by abstraction, and that always carries a danger: that of attributing to a single side what belongs just as much to the other, still within the same duality."(3a)
  • Whitney, an american 1827-1894 who was an indianist/orientalist and linguist; said language primarily is an institution.
  • La Langue: "The Language is: a set of necessary conventions adopted by the social body so as to permit the usage of the faculty of language among individuals.  The faculty of language is a fact distinct from the language but which cannot be excersized without it.
    By speech we designate the act of the individual putting his faculty into practice by means of the social convention which is the language.  In speech there is an idea of the realization of what is permitted by the social convention" (4a)
  • again reiterates the spoken language alone is the object of linguistics.
  • Semiology; a system of signs, prinicple characteristics:
    1. the arbitrary nature of the sign (no connection between sign and thing designated
    2. the purely negative and differential value of the sign
    3. The values of writing operate only as quantities opposed in a defined system; the are oppositive, are only values through opposition.  There is a limit to the number of values.
    4. Complete indifference of the means of production of the sign.
  • signs, not symbols; symbols represent a connection between sign and idea.
  • "All forms, all rites, all customs have a semiological character.  In the possible case in which the meaning of a custom has become completely lost, we are in the same situation as that in which the words of a language become unintelligible to speakers." (10)
  • "If you add a sign to the language you so far subtract from the meaning of other signs" (12a)
  • therefore, the essential aspect:
    1. signs passively recieved from preceding generations
    2. signs will have as a characteristic to be transmitted in conditions which have nothing to do with those which created it.
    3. The system of signs is materially altered in transmission, which alters the relationship of sign to thought.
    4. The relationship of sign to thought is precisely what the sign is: a double entity constituted by a succession of syllables to the extent that a determinate meaning is attached to them; the sign is double. (12a)
  • "What is in the language escapes the individual or social will..." (13a)
  • "Language fundimentally has the character of a system founded on oppositions, like a game of chess with the various combinations of forces attributed to the different pieces, [and where the relative position of the pieces, and not their intrinsic value is at stake] (19a)
  • "Seen from its internal side, the language thus strikes us as not offering a concrete unit and yet we are not able to abandon the notion that there is one, and it is the play of such units that makes the language." (20a)
  • Phonic matter will always be in the same direction (one dimentional) and does not admit the simultaneity of two signs.   When we speak of signs we immediately think of visual signs and we fall into the misconception that the separation of signs is quite simple and does not require an operation of the mind." (21a)
  • The material side of the sign is amorphous, which has no form in itself.
  • Image of a body of water and air above.  As the airpressure changes, it creates a wave.  The wave is the unit, though nothing in itself, but the interrelationship of water and air.  Likewise, thought and speech, thought the air, speech the water; both amorphous qualities, together form language.
  • he's getting philosophical now:  what is the nature of identity?  If I say messieurs and messieurs, what makes them identical; in fact it is not, as the words are successive in time, seperate speech acts, yet linguistically we wish to define them as identical.  If we repave a street, its the same street, or what about the 12:30 and 5 oclock express trains to Naples.   Are they identical?    Where is the link linking messieurs said twice?
  • "There could be no identity if certain tacit conditions are not agreed on in advance" (22a)
  • the two streets have an oppositive, or purely negative identity.
  • "The idea of unit would perhaps be clearer for some if we spoke of meaningful units.  But we must insist on the term 'unit': otherwise we are liable to misconception and to believing that there are words existing as units to which a meaning becomes attached.  It is on the contrary meaning which delimits words in thought." (24a)
  • In speech we here sound; thought defines words from sentences, and sentenses from eachother.  In themselves there is no logical break between words or so forth.

Internal division of linguistic matters

  • external study of linguistics:  history and external description:  Anything which concerns language without entering into its system.
  • internal study: touches on many "non-linguistic topics" thus definition becomes negative.:  what is capable of changing values.
  • "The word is the most strongly delimited unit.  The linguist who wishes to delimit the word unit should try to figure out what this separation is based on; which could provide the subject of a year's course.  There are writing systems which do not recognize word separation.  The illiterate (cook's letters) have no idea of the exact separation of words.  Such separation always comes back to value and to identity through value; the unit is non-existent in advance, outside of value." (30a)
  • Two types of identities in language
    • Diachronic:  identity (moving) through time.
    • Synchronic: those which constitute a state. [dhamma is often translated 'state'].  What belongs to a determinate instant of language.
  • idiosynchronic: for determinate instances of determinate languages
  • diachronic identity may fall across several languages
  • In phonetic change it is the sum of sounds which change [in this example of oreos kata (coming from mountain down)] whereas here it is the unit, the idea which has changed....
  • Diachronic order = displacement of values / ...meaningful units
  • Idiosynchronic order = determinate equilibrium of values as it is established from moment to moment
  • opposed like cinematic and static.
  • "All phenomena are relationships among relationships.  Or let us talk rather of differences: everything is only a difference used as an opposition and the opposition yields the value." (43a)
  • It is only the sychronic which forms the system.  The effect of diachronic facts is to modify this system at every moment, but they are not linked to each other, do not form a system among themselves,  are only a sum of isolated facts.
  • "Only that thing is meaningful which has a synchronic difference or synchronic facts to express it.  It is difference which makes something meaningful and it is meaning which also creates differences.  (50a)
  • "What is spatial must of course be translated by an idea of time..."
  • "We need a sychronic fact in order to produce an analogy..." (58a)
  • "For me there is no historical grammar; the terms clash: there is no system which can straddle a succession of periods.  What is synchronically in one language is an equilibrium which is realized from one moment to the next.  By historical grammar what is meant is diachronic linguistics, which is something else and is doomed never to be grammatical." (62a)
  • "In the language there are only differences and no positive qualities." (62a)
  • "I have only wished to make the classification of everything synchronic and I have divided it into a syntagmatic classification and an associative classification..." (63a) "
  • "...we are in two domains; one extends into a state of things, is synchronic; the other extends in time."
  • "The foundation of linguistics is dated from the first work of F. Bopp, On the Sanskrit Conjugational System compared to that of Latin, Greek, Persian, and Germanic, 1816." (72a)
    • Father Coeurdoux (1767, Pondicherry) to Abbot Barthelemy, "How comes it that in the Sanskrit language there is a large number of words common with Greek and especially with Latin?"
    • "The word Sanskrit: the samskrta language = ornate, ceremonial, cultivated language, as opposed to the Prakrit language, the base, natural idiom, is a dead language which has to be learned by study, is in the same situation with respect to the popular dialects (Pali, prakrit, etc.) as Latin with respect to the Romance Languages."
  • W. Jones noted the similarity in 1786, calling Sanskrit in structure "more perfect" than Greek or Latin.
  • Bopp was the first to concieve of using one language to shed light on another, to use one to analyse another.
  • August Schleicher attempted to codify the science founded by Bopp.
  • "We cannot say these [schleicher's] views satisfy us today; at least we must not his tendency toward the general, the systematic.  A system, even if we have to abandon it later, is worth more than a host of confused notions." (78a)
  • Sanskrit in the mid 1800's was (erroneously) considered the SOURCE of Latin-Greek-Celtic-Slavic (Indo-European) languages.   THe idea was that there was a primative indo-european original language which was Sanskrit.
  • "Simple reasoning indicates to everyone that all languages are equally old...: since the dawn of time there has never been a language which was not the continuation of what was spoken the day before..." (80a)
  • "Aryas (old Vedic) opposes Indo-European race to every population in India which was not Indo-European (an-aryas).  Only the three highest castes were designated Aryan (in the fourth, soudras. the blood is not European)." (95a) [So is Buddhism racist?  What is the significance of the use of 'Ariya' in Pali???  What was signified?]
  • more interesting still... Ariya ~ Eran ~ Iran [airyanam]
  •  We could say Aryan instead of Indo-European, but that designation is better left to Indo-Iranian...
  • [Early linguists adhered to the dubious notion of the primacy of geographic transport of language] "We could designate this the Theory of Swarms.  As many languages as there are peoples, as many peoples as there are swarms; these swarms separated from a primative center.  These swarms take us back to a primative hearth and so it was necessary to resolve directly the question of point of departure.  No one denied that it was from Asia that this spreading out of peoples began (plateau of Pamir!) There was also one of those mystical ideas, that migrations had to go from east to west, that they advance toward the setting sun.  Why, no one knows." (97a)
  • the fatal flaw here is that it doesn't take into consideration diversification on the spot into dialects.
  • Dutch (Hollandais), Dutch in the 10th century was a german dialect.
  • "Hindu -- Aryans -- according to the Rig-Veda are still in Punjab.  The name of the Ganges occurs a single time in book 10, which is recent." (106a).
  • Celts sacked the temple of Delphi, wandered about the Danube, into Italy in the 5th cent BC.  [crazy, man!]
  • 3rd cent BC Germans were in the Black sea area, far from the Rhine... they were still moving too...

Fin M. Riedlinger's notebooks on the second course...

Begin M. Patois, searching for difference:

  • "Grammar is concerned with the functions of forms whereas morphology determines the state of these forms.  This distinction is basically illusory.  Units cannot be separated except by meaning, and vice versa." (142a)
  • "In a language state there is only a play of differences; but it is always a question of differences which operate within a relative unity (this is what coordinates them)." (ibid)
  1. Internal treasury (storehouse) = Associative units or groups in the sense of families
  2. Discourse = Discursive units which are produced in discourse; groups in the sense of syntagmas
  • "Syntagma groups: The idea of a spatial limitation is immediately evoked.  THe condition of this order is extention and this is a simple condition;  language only has one dimention.  There is only one way to make a syntagma: by linear succession. (space, spacial should be understood in time because we are dealing with spoken language). (144a)"
  • 'desireux' is a syntagma becuase we can distinguish desir-eux.  Similarly, 'que vous dit-il' is a syntagma for the same reason.
  • syntagmatic relates to what is spoken, as opposed to associations, which relate to what is thought.
  • "This word Indo-European is not well chosen.  We should say Arya-European because 'aryas' among the Hindus is said of those who speak Hindu related to our language" (161).
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