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Ferdinand de Saussure – approach to language

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According to Saussure, language is a system of signs that develops over time. However, embedded words only carry meaning if people agree on a mutual understanding, which is provoked by a certain sound. This mutual idea then transforms into a common sign for the given idea. Further, Saussure puts forward the idea of langue and parole, in which langue does not carry social meaning but only names, whereas parole is simply the pronouncement or display of an idea.

Saussure`s approach to lingustics and grammarSaussure, one of the founders of modern linguistics, established the structural study of language, namely Structuralism. In this regard, the connection between the linguistic sign and what it signifies are considered arbitrary. Signs consist of two parts: the signifier, the sound or look in a vocal or graphic form, and the signifier’s object, the signified. Due to the arbitrary relationship the connection between these two is likely to alter over time. Further, signs only can designate something if they collude. For example ´a` cannot designate something without the help of other letters so that letters are only valuable if they collude.

Structural grammar is used to describe the formal structural units in any spoken language. Saussure, structuralist himself, states that each particular language underlies a specific system, which is considered grammatically correct by the hearer and speaker of that language.

Identify one of Saussure`s concepts which is still valid.

Langue and parole is integrated in Saussure’s theory called “structuralism”. He suggests that meaning is not primarily based on a certain object, but on its structure. To put it slightly different, meaning occurs when a word is chosen by the speaker, although he could have chosen another expression. Due to this difference from other words, meaning gets created.

Which role does meaning, form and use play in Saussure`s approach?Meaning is produced within a certain person or culture, which then activates actions of individuals. Through practices and activities, such as food preparation or religious rites, meaning is produced and reproduced within a culture.

According to Saussure, language is form, more precisely a system of sound images directly linked to ideas.

The use of language, in other words the actual act of speaking, is described as “parole”. Saussure talks about “parole” as putting the language into practice.

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