Version: v1, Published online: 1998
Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/saussure-ferdinand-de-1857-1913/v-1
Though he made a major contribution to the comparative and historical studies which dominated nineteenth-century linguistics, Saussure is best known today for the development of a radically different conception of language and of the methodology of linguistics which became central to twentieth-century structural linguistics. According to this conception a language is a system of signs which are radically arbitrary, so that their significations are determined only by the historically constituted systems of conventions to which they belong – such a system Saussure called ‘la langue‘. It follows, therefore, that a linguistic study is first and foremost one of la langue, that is, of the conventional relations obtaining at a given time between signs belonging to the same system, rather than one of the development of linguistic forms over time, as the comparativists had maintained.
Holdcroft, David. Saussure, Ferdinand de (1857–1913), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-U049-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/saussure-ferdinand-de-1857-1913/v-1.
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