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Saussure's Third Course of Lectures on General Linguistics (1996)
from the notebooks of Emile Constantin (winter semester 1910-11)

Trans: Roy Harris
Languages - The Language

Languages [les langues]

  • "In every individual there is what we may call the faculty of articulated language.  This faculty is available to us in the first instance in the form of organs, and then by the operations we can perform with those organs... A language is necessarily social; language [in itself] is not necessarily so... By distinguishing language from the faculty of language we distinguish what is social from what is individual, what is essential from what is more or less accidental,... [and] we see that the language is what we might call a 'product': it is a social product; we have set it apart from the operation of the vocal apparatus..." (6-7a)
  • Whitney (and S. agrees) said that it makes little difference to language whether the larynx is used or instead hand signs or visual signs.   The means of execution of language is irrelevant
  • "Trombetti has tried to show in a recent publication that all languages in the world are ultimately related... [however] it is above all necessary to bear in mind the great gulf between what may be true and what is demonstrable.  When you look at the way linguistic changes operate, you see that, even if it were true that all the languages in the world are related, it would be mathematically impossible to demonstrate that fact, because of the extent of the changes that have occurred.  It is not plausible to envisage going beyond these absolute limits." (14a)
  • comparison of the "gramatical organism: the comparison of the different possible contracts between thought and the language." is still possible that languages in no way related share the same mechanisms. (15a)
  • there is no distinct point where dialect takes over from language... dialect, given sufficient difference, becomes a separate langauge.
  • Transvaal?  Courland? Livonia?  Prussia?  Prussian province of Poznan?  What the fuck! What happened to these places?
  • "In a natural language, there are only dialects; a language left alone is doomed to endless fragmentation.  But many needs then lead to the selection of one among this plurality of dialects as the vehicle for everything relating to the nation as a whole." (18a)
  • French represents the dialect of Ile-de-France
  • [by and large, the three courses represent the same curriculum, with more or less refinement and different presentations.  One can clearly see how M. Saussure's own thinking had evolved over 4 years.]
  • "The Saxons and the Angles, the day after landing, spoke the same language as they had done the day before ont he continent.  It is a kind of figure of speech which allows us to attribute divergence to geography... The action of time alone is responsible for difference." (21a)
  • "Geographical differentiation must be reduced directly to the difference in time.  Same mistake as saying that a river rises, as if the water rose from the depths to the surface, instead of flowing..."
  • Isogloss lines:  in compiling an atlas of patois across Switzerland Prof. Guachat uses this term.  "Isoglosses means having the same language.  It is a way of indicating some difference in feature of language.  A better term would be glossemes or Isoglossematics". (27A)
  • Two forces:  (33a)
    1. Parochialism [clocher]- the habits which develop in a community of limited size are strong because they are those of the childhood of each individual.  This influence if left to itself, would produce an infinite diversification of customs. promotes linguistic diversity
    2. Intercourse and communication, human affairs - in a given community there will be outsiders passing through,  villiagers will go on holiday, or off to war, bringing people together from different places;  promotes linguistic unity.
  • It is this propagative form of the influence of intercourse that I propose to examine.
  • "swarm theory" refered to as "childish and useless conception" (38a)
  • written word compared to a photograph of "the real thing".
  • "Almost all ideogrammatic systems of writing become partly syllabic; ideograms are used witha phonetic value." (42a)
  • greek; the minimal elements of sound are distinguished.
  • "In English uu (vv) <w> for the consonant w; there was no sign in Latin for the sound w, since at that period v was pronounced as in french."  hmmm...
  • "We should not say 'oi is pronounced wa' as if oi was something given, having some claim to exist.  We should say 'wa  is written oi'." (47a)  The more different writing becomes from speech, the more it is treated as something basic. One looks to writing to resolve contradictions between speech and signs of speech.
  • "Lefevre (the artisan).  For Etymological reasons it was spelt Lefebvre.  Two spellings:  febvre (learned) faber, and fevre.  By chance in writing v and u are confused.  And then it was written Lefebvre or Lefebure.  Hence the creation of Lefebure.  (form arising from a bad writing convention, form which is now actually pronounced)... So if finds its way into linguistics, but these are monstrosities ( teratology) [tératologie].  

    We must not forget that if writing is our means of access to a language, it must be handled with caution.  Without writing we would have nothing at all of the languages of the past, but in order to grasp a language through these written documents an interpretation is necessary.   In each case it is necessary to establish the phonological system of the toungue, which is the reality of which the signs are the image.  The only reality of interest to the linguist is the phonological system." (49a)

    [now substitute the word philosophy for language]

  • English School, German School, French schools of phonetics.
  • Lautphysiology (physiology of speach sounds).
  • the physiology of speach sounds is not linguistics.  He prefers phonology for analysis of speach sounds.
  • "You might suppose that sounds are the first part of linguistics.  A language is a system based on unanalysable acoustic impressions (diff between f and b).  But the phonatory analysis of that is of no interest to the linguist." (53a)
  • <Photocopied remainder of Section on Phonology. Will post Jpgs.>
  • "One must not forget that the written word eventually becomes, through force of habit, an ideographic sign.  The word has a global value independently of the letters of which it is formed.  We read in two ways: spelling out unfamiliar words and reading familiar words at a glance." (64a)

The Language [la langue]

Languages - The Language

    "I do not intend to include in the study of the language everything that concerns language.  I draw a distinction between 'the language' and 'language', the former being an essential, principle part of language, but nevertheless, only a part.

    The language, as far as I'm concerned, is that social product whose existence allows the individual to use the language faculty.   WE must of necessity consider the whole when approaching a restricted question.  Language is a field which is complex, protean (many-sided, versatile), and heterogenous in its various facets. ...It cannot be classified, when taken as a whole, with other human facts.  It straddles various domains, (physical, mental; individual, social).  One is at a loss to find any unity in it.

    The language, although complex, represents a separate whole, an organism in its own right, which, as such, is possible to classify.  [dhamma vs. the dhamma? Abhidhamma as the 'classification of Dhamma'?] The language representing a unit which the mind can grasp.  We can give this unit pride of place among the totality of facts of language. ...<the language will be the center, the rest dependent on it.>" (66a).

  • Articulated language:  1) it may refer to the subdivisions in the succession of sylables. 2) It may also allude to the division of the speech chain into meaningful units [gegliederte Sprache or Rede].
  • What may make people think that the faculty of articulated language is natural is the disposition of our vocal apparatus.  Broca's discovery: the language faculty localized in the third left frontal convolution of the brain;  but this same convolution governs disorders and the normal excersize of the faculty of writing [what are the buddhist faculties? eye-faculty, visible object faculty, eye-consciousness-faculty or something etc...].  So it would seem more generally to be the convolution of signs.  In the end, linguistics may well be just the science of signs."

    In the second place, what is certain, even if this faculty is given to us by nature: we cannot make use of it unless it recieves from some social body what I call the language.  In the language we can see something that introduces a general unity into the phenomenon of language."(67a)

  • 'individual act' consists of 'speach circuit'
  • Hearing produces verbal image, speach presents verbal concept.  Ear recieves verbal concept, mouth communicates thru Phonation verbal concept.
  • written word is a repository of accoustic images.  "a system of signs based on accoustic images." (71a)
  • First principle/primary truth:  The linguistic sign is arbitrary.
  • Second princple/truth: The linguistic sign is  extended in one dimention only.  If we can segment phrases into words, it is a consequence of this rule. 
  • syllables are units of speach and not linguistic units. (79a)
  • Identity of the linguistic unit requires a subjective, undefinable element.  auditorily identical words may in fact evoke different meanings, and this meaning is essential to identity.
  • "Now for some quibbles about this word 'abstract'." (84a)
  • "You can quickly assess, when studying any language, even without going deeply into it, the place it assigns to the motivated element [those words which are based on other words] and the indestructible [arbitrary] mass of the unmotivated. " (88a)
  • English gives the unmotivated a much more prominent place than does German.
  • Languages relying on unmotivated words are more lexicological, while those where they're at the minimum are more grammatical.  Chinese is the ultra-lexicological.
  • "The global whole formed by language is unclassifiable because of no homogeneous unity." (92a) 
  • Phonation is the study of speech, is individual, outside of linguistics.
  • Study of language  is based in social convention, is beyond the will of the individual.
  • "When we consider a system of signs from the inside, it is advisable to set up in contrast the signifying and signified elements, which places them opposite each other leaving aside opposition of image and concept.  The signifying (auditory) and the signified (conceptual) elements are the two elements that make up the sign.  So I shall say 1) In the language, the connexion between the signifying and the signified elements is a radically arbitrary connexion. and 2) In the language, the signifying element, being auditory in nature, extends in time only, has the character it borrows from time of being extended, and of being extended in a way which can be repesented only as one-dimentional.  (Previously I used simply the word sign, which left things unclear.)" (93a)
  • mental concept/accoustic image = signified/signifying = concept / image
  • Any term we use to designate this concept is slippery: sign, term, word, etc.
  • Outside temporality there is arbitrariness of the sign, hence freedom.
  • En vertu de la donnée temps [temporality] there is non-freedom, immutability, and change (mutability to a certain extent.
  • Grammar is concerned with laying down normative laws.  Linguistics is concerned with recording the facts that exist (historical linguistics, specifically deals with the change over time).
  • The contrast between static grammar and evolutionary linguistics ought to be fully realized, not acknowleged and dismissed.   The contrast is where its at, dude.
  • synchronic and diachronic compare to Statics (forces in equilibrium) and Kinematics [cinématique] (forces in motion), Dynamics
  • [outflanked!... suddenly realized the complete works of Bertrand Russel were RIGHT BEHIND ME.  Including the Three volume Principia Mathmatica!   I love this library!]
  • "A synchronic fact is always a meaningful fact.  It requires the presence of at least two terms" (112a)
  • "The language is like a machine that keeps going regardless of the damage inflicted upon it" (113a)
  • Langue = Language
  • Parole = Speech
  • signifie' = signified
  • signifiant = signifying
  • Static linguistics: the coexisting logical and psychological relations between terms as they are perceived by the same collective consciousness (any individual's) and forming a system.  Can only deal with relations and values.
  • Evolutionary linguistics: relations between successive terms, which replace one another, not subjected to a single consciousness and not forming any system among themselves.  (historical linguistics) Studies the relationships between the series of transformations
  • "what I call a state (i.e. static) is any period in which no significant change has altered the physiognomy of the language." (126a)
  • Words as terms of systems:
    1. syntagmatic co-ordination: and the domain of syntagmatic relations.  Combinations of two or more units in sequence giving rise to certain relations, called syntagma.
    2. associative co-ordination:  mental association with other terms in the language.
      • signified relationships based on the meaning of the word
      • signifying relationship based on the structure of the word.
      • also, an association in only the auditory image (sounds alike)
      • i.e. similarities in the word (form) or in its meaning or its sound
  • "terms" are implicit of value
  • value [valeur] tends toward sense [sens] or meaning [signification]
  • "It is perhaps one of the most subtle points there is in linguistics to see how sense depends on but nevertheless remains distinct from value." (134a)
  • "Value is determined  by a dissimilar thing that can be exchanged, and by similar things that can be compared.  These two elements are essential for value.  For example, a 20-franc coin.   Its value is a matter of a dissimilar thing that I can exchange (pounds of bread), the comparision between the 20-franc, 1-franc, and 2-franc coins, or coins of similar value (guinea).  The value is at the same time the counterpart of the one and the other." (135a)
  • "If you take a simple lexical fact, such as 'mouton - mutton', it doesn't have the same value as 'sheep' in English.  For if you speak of the animal on the hoof and not on the table, you say sheep.  It is the pressence in language of a second term that limits the value attributable to sheep.  So the two dimensions of comparison are necessary... The system leads to the term and the term to the value.   Then you will see that the meaning is determined by what surrounds it." (136-7a)
  • "We should probably be unable (according to philosophers and linguists) to distinguish two ideas clearly without the help of a language (internal language, naturally). Consequently, in itself, the purely conceptual mass of our ideas, the mass separated from the language, is like a kind of shapeless nebula, in which it is impossible to distinguish anything initially.  The same goes, then, for language: the different ideas represent nothing pre-existing.  There are no ideas already established and quite distinct from one another or signs for these ideas.  But there is nothing at all distinct in thought before the linguistic sign.  This is the main thing.  (It is worth asking also if the realm of sound offers in advance quite distinct ideas)." (138a)
  • !"If ideas were predetermined in the human mind before being linguistic values, one thing that would necessarily happen is that terms would correspond exactly as between one language and another." (139a)
  • hebrew has no tenses. (nor vowels).  [the freaks].  Thus, tense is a value added in some languages and not others.
  • Sanskrit has a special sense four doubles as well as plurals.  So the pluralization of words is variable from language to language.
  • Old German has no future (I like the sound of that)
  • Slavic verbs are aspected:  action outside of any time or in the process of accomplishment...
  • "Difference implies to our mind two positive terms, between which the difference is established.  But the paradox is that in the language, there are only differences, without positive terms.  At least there are only differences if you are speaking of either meanings , or of signified or signifying elements.  When you come to the terms themselves, resulting from relations between signified and signifying elements you can speak of oppositions.  Strictly speaking, there are no signs but differences between signs." [I n'y a pas à proprement parler des signes mais des différences entre les signes]
  • ex: Aller functions because it is different from allant and allons.  anything could be in the place of Aller...
  • "There are no positive ideas given, and there are no determinate acoustic signs that are independent of ideas.  Thanks to the fact that the differences are mutually dependent, we shall get something resembling positive terms through the matching of a certain difference of ideas with a certain difference of signs.  We shall then be able to speak of the opposition of terms and so not claim that there are only differences (because of this positive element in the combination)." (142a)
  • "...It is only through the differences between signs that it will be possible to give them a function, a value."
  • "...If the sign were not arbitrary one would not be able to say that in the language there are only differences."
  • "The interconnection between terms can be considered a limitation on arbitrariness, whether through syntagmatic interconnexion or associative interconnexion."

"In this course only the external part is more or less complete.  In the internal part, evolutionary linguistics has been neglected in favour of synchronic linguistics and I have dealt only with a few general principles of linguistics.  These general principles provide the basis for a productive approach to the details of a static state or the law of static states." (143a)

The End

(Go Bears)



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